Bhatta Parsaul (UP): Though Rahul Gandhi didn’t get very far when he attempted to visit Hathras Thursday, the Congress leader’s attempt, blocked by Uttar Pradesh Police, helped catapult him into the spotlight. Gandhi’s walk towards Hathras was in many ways reminiscent of a similar visit he took back in 2011 — when he rode pillion into the twin villages of Bhatta and Parsaul in Western UP.
Back then, Gandhi’s visit was a mark of solidarity for the farmers protesting against the land acquisitions taking place under the then Mayawati government in the state.
That visit remains to be regarded one of Rahul Gandhi’s standout moments in his political career; it had eventually resulted in the 2013 Land Acquisition Act being brought in by the Congress-led UPA government.
ThePrint visited Bhatta Parsaul Friday, over nine years after Gandhi, to see how much has changed, and how much continues to remain the same.
Also read: Before Hathras, there was Bhatta Parsaul — when UP Police tried to stop a Rahul Gandhi protest
‘Remember Gandhi’s visit like it was yesterday’
Bhatta Parsaul, two adjacent villages near Greater Noida, saw widespread farmers’ protests in May 2011 against the land acquisitions. While farmers across several places of Western UP were agitating against the acquisitions, Bhatta Parsaul gained special prominence for two important reasons.
First, two farmers had died in the police firing that took place following an altercation between protesters and police. Second, the then 40-year-old Gandhi decided to ride into the village just four days after the violence, and spent an entire day with the farmers in agitation.
The people of Bhatta Parsaul still vividly remember the day like it was yesterday.
“His first stop was right in front of my shop,” said Vinod Sharma, a 45-year-old resident of Bhatta.
“I offered him cold drinks and water. But he refused. He said he just wants some curd. It was extremely hot that day,” Sharma recalled.
Gandhi went on to sit with the farmers agitating against the land acquisitions. “I feel ashamed to call myself Indian after seeing what has happened here. The (state) government here has unleashed atrocities on its own people,” Gandhi had said.
He was arrested late that night by the UP Police but ̇was released in a few hours.
Death, arrests, trauma dog farmers
Today, residents of Bhatta Parsaul are brimming with a mix of frustration, regret and anger at the mention of the farmers’ agitation and the subsequent response from the UP administration.
For 62-year-old Dhan Singh, memories of the agitation are overshadowed by the two years he spent thereafter in Dasna jail. Singh was one of the several farmers who were arrested after violence broke out in the village.
“We were just trying to save our land, but were made into criminals. The time I spent in jail was miserable, and I will never forget that,” Singh said.
Just a few days after Singh was arrested, his son Kapil was shot during the violence.
“My husband got arrested and was sent to jail. But our family left behind had to bear the brunt of violence. Things got really bad after my son was shot. I can never forget the horror and the trauma of those days,” Singh’s wife, Krishna said.
For the 12 thousand-odd villagers of Bhatta and Parsaul, the violence has been etched in their memories now. Villagers keep the videos of the violence handy on their phones, quickly whipping it out on mention of the agitation. “It is part of our history now,” they say.
“It felt good to see that Rahul Gandhi came to visit the villagers. We did not really expect much, but just to see a leader come to see us felt good … we felt like this will finally get our cause some attention,” Singh said.
Barely 500 metres from Singh’s home lives the family of Rajpal Tewatia, one of the two farmers who were killed in the firing.
The family says they are still awaiting compensation from the government.
“Our father was not even leading the protests, he had just gone there to see what the situation is like since the entire village was there. But he became a victim of the violence,” his son Deepak said.
Unlike Singh and his family, the Tewatias who lost their father in the violence, are not as pleased with Gandhi and his visit.
“It was all political … we wish he had come back or tried to help us in a more real way,” Deepak said, adding that he still does not have a job since his father died in 2011. The portrait of his father says ‘Shaheed’ before the name; Deepak considers him no less than a martyr.
What happened with farmers’ land
One of the major demands of the farmers’ protests was that their land not be taken away for commercial purposes, and if at all it must, then they should be given what they deem as worthy compensation.
The land in question was being purchased by the government to build urban clusters along the Yamuna expressway connecting Greater Noida to Agra.
The acquisitions were being conducted according to the colonial Land Acquisition Act of 1894.
The agitation led to the reformed Land Acquisition Act of 2013 that promised compensation at four times the market value in case the land is in a rural area, and two times the market value for an urban area.
“After the Act was brought about, we were hopeful that since the government is taking away our lands, we will be compensated fairly now. But unfortunately, many of the clauses of that Act are not implemented properly in many villages of UP, including ours,” said Prayamvir Kumar, a farmer in Parsaul who was part of the agitation.
Farmers in Bhatta-Parsaul say two things happened with the land they were fighting to keep with them: some of the farmers gave in to the pressure and agreed on the earlier promised compensation while others refused to take any compensation and have held on to the land.
“For now, the farmers have the land. After the entire agitation and the controversy, the government backed off to an extent. But there is this sense of fear that they might come back to take it away again,” Kumar said.
‘Agitation made matters worse’
Many farmers say the protests did “no good”, and made matters worse for them.
“The agitation just resulted in trauma for the village. Moreover, in many ways, we felt like the establishment began seeing us as troublemakers,” Ajay Verma, a villager said.
“We unnecessarily earned the ire of the police. So many of our villagers were hurt, so many were arrested,” Verma added.
Another farmer, Vijay Singh, who gave up his land without much protest, says he is happy he did not participate in the agitation.
“I got Rs 7.42 lakh for my land. And I agreed because I didn’t think protesting would help. I am glad I did not participate in the agitation, as it only led to violence and destruction,” Singh said.
Following the violence and the arrests, many farmers are said to have fled the village.
“Many farmers left for a lot of months. Only their mothers and wives stayed back. It was a very horrific time,” Arvind Chaudhary, another farmer said.
Also read: Rahul Gandhi plans rallies in Punjab as Congress looks to capitalise on farmer agitation
Missing the long game
Gandhi’s visit to the village, and the reception it got, made Congress confident of winning at least the one seat in the following 2012 UP elections.
At the polls, the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party’s candidate won from the Jewar seat, under which fell the twin villages. Congress candidate Dhirendra Singh fell short of the BSP’s Vedram Bhati by 9,500 votes.
Villagers said Gandhi’s sudden visit was not enough to impress the voters.
“It was evident he was doing politics. And while many felt heard and seen because of his visit, others felt like it did not result in any tangible benefits for them,” Chaudhary said.
In July the same year, Gandhi visited Bhatta Parsaul again as the village was one of the stops during his yatra across various other villages of UP.
But neither of these two visits were enough for the Congress to regain momentum in the state.
“An odd visit here or two may look good, but in UP, a lot of things matter — such as the caste politics. Gandhi’s visit was too late, just a few months before the election, and so it was bound to not have much impact,” a villager Pritam Kumar said.
Also read: When Modi govt came to power, farmer protests increased 700% — the 3 bills are its result
It is a huge disgrace to the collective conscience of the the society that politicians feed off fodder like rape now. No wonder why certain cases are highlighted all in the name of social justice. The sad reality remains that every day , thousands of women meet the same fate but the media chooses every case on a merit decided by the colors of caste, religion and creed. No one is actually fighting the social evil of rape. Everyone just wants to thicken their political clout.
Keeping the farmers poor and misleading them has left them vulnerable.
Now next to HATHRAS.
WHENEVER THE 50 years old children get bored with a five star lifestyle they go out .
The duffer can’t even fake that the police “manhandled” him.
It’s obvious to all that he “fell himself down”.
He ‘let himself down’ (gently)
It is true of any visit by any politician. They carry an aura of trouble around them. Trouble for others. Rahul Gandhi may not even remember his visit to these two villages. But, the agitation he promoted has cost dearly to the villagers.
Rahul is an evil bane.
Following him into an agitation is likely to cause great loss.
Condolences to the farmers of Bhatta Parasaul.
Similar condolences were given to the farmers of Singur when they ousted the Tata factory from their lands. Today the Singur farmers are back to living in their own grime. Much like the farmers of Bhatta Parasaul.
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