New Delhi: Hundreds of Congress workers today clashed with police during a protest against the BJP Government's Land Acquisition bill, saying it was anti-farmer.
Police resorted to lathi-charge and used water canons, leading to injuries to some including Youth Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Brar, when Congress workers tried to break barricades at Jantar Mantar to proceed towards Parliament.
Senior party leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Jairam Ramesh, Ambika Soni, Ahmed Patel addressed the protesters who gathered at Jantar Mantar. Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who was not present in the protest, expressed her solidarity with the protesters in a message through Patel.
“Soniaji has said that she was always with them and will continue to back and support the movement,” Patel said reading out Gandhi's message.
Promising to block the bill's passage in the Rajya Sabha, Azad termed the ordinance as an attempt to weaken the Food Security law passed by the UPA government.
“You continue protesting outside the Parliament, we will try not let the bill get passed when it is introduced in the Parliament,” the Leader of Congress in the Rajya Sabha said. “We are not talking about changing the shape of the bill. We are not for any amendment of the bill. We want this bill to go lock, stock and barrel,” he said.
The rally was a culmination of Youth Congress' foot march agianst the Land Acquisition Bill launched on Friday from Bhatta-Parsaul village in Uttar Pradesh's Greater Noida district which reached Rajghat here last night.
Taking a jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's “10 lakh suit”, Ramesh, who led the rally from Bhatta-Parsaul, said the agitation was a “sanjeevani” for the party.
Invoking Mahatma Gandhi, Ramesh said, “One was ‘Sabarmati ke Sant' who believed in a frugal lifestyle and today we have ‘Sabarmati ke mahant' who wears suit worth Rs 10 lakh...They talk of ‘ghar vapsi' where as we promise ‘jameen vapsi'.”
Ramesh, who was instrumental in drafting the UPA's land bill, slammed the government for “doing away” with the safeguards, thus, “bringing back” the draconian 1894 law.
“For the first time we put power in the hands of the farmers from the hands of the collectors. Even the land labourers were given bargaining power through the law. It had the provisions of four times compensation. We essentially repealed the century old law,” he said.
A number of other party leaders including Raj Babbar, Oscar Fernandes, Randeep Surjewala, Sachin Pilot, Kumari Selja, Deepinder Hooda and Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken also participated in the protest.
Addressing the gathering, Babbar said government's decision to “do away” with the consent clause in the in the bill was not acceptable.
“In (proposed) law, farmers don't have the right to take decision regarding their own land. Even if I take a pen from you, I will ask you. Then how come you take away land from farmers, for whom it is like his mother, without his consent,” Babbar said.
Surjewala said the agitation launched by Congress along with farmers will “unmask the Modi-led Centre's ‘anti-farmer' stand”.
“This is India Youth Congress's (IYC) rally from Bhatta-Parsaul to Parliament. Modi's black law will disappear. BJP's anti-farmer face will be unmasked. Both the Congress and farmers will win,” he said.
A Youth Congress leader said a number of protesters were injured in lathi-charge by police.