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The industrial cluster around Tata Motors' Nano plant witnessed a major clash on Tuesday when a rally of farmers protesting against allocation of water to industries from a Narmada dam canal was dispersed by police using force.
Police cane-charged the farmers and burst some 40 teargas shells to disperse the rally as well as roughed up some media persons covering the event following pelting of stones by a section of participants in the rally. At least seven men in uniform sustained injuries in the stone pelting.
The incident occurred near Sanand on the outskirts of Ahmedabad when some 5,000 farmers from 38 villages in Viramgam, Bavla and Sanand talukas, under the banner of Khedut Adhikar Manch, took out the procession and headed state capital Gandhinagar to present a memorandum to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani demanding water for irrigation.
They pointed out that while the industrial cluster around Sanand, including Tata Motors' Nano plant and units of other automobile giants, had been allowed to draw water from the Narmada canal, no irrigation facility had been provided to the agricultural fields close to the Narmada canal that takes water to the Saurashtra region.
Police claimed that farmers were denied permission for the rally and were first politely informed. "But when they did not budge, we had to use force to disperse them," Ahmedabad Rural District Superintendent of Police R V Asari said.
According to him, seven policemen, including him, sustained injuries in stone pelting by the farmers.
"Police had denied them permission and so when the rally reached Sanand, we tried to convince their leaders not to go ahead. Even as talks were on, some persons started pelting stones. Several of my men, including me, were injured and we had to resort to mild lathicharge and fire teargas shells to disperse the mob," Asari said.
Some media persons covering the event were beaten up by cops and camera chips and other photography equipment of two local television news channels were snatched by the police. About 50 farmers were also arrested on charges of attacking government officials on duty.
The lathi charge on unarmed farmers and media persons was widely condemned by the Congress and other political parties.
State Congress President Bharatsinh Solanki said the issue would be taken up in the assembly beginning its budget session from February 20.
"The BJP is not accustomed to face any opposition. Instead of giving justice to the farmers, they ordered lathi charge on them. I condemn the action," Leader of the Opposition in state assembly Shankersinh Vaghela said.
"It is unfortunate that the farmers were beaten up for raising a legitimate demand. Such atrocities prove that this government is anti-farmer. It is their known method of remaining in power by terrorising people and suppressing every voice of dissent," Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) convenor Hardik Patel asserted.
Other Backward Classes Manch Convenor Alpesh Thakore said the OBCs would not allow the BJP leaders to move freely in Ahmedabad district if they continue with their high-handed attitude instead of meeting legitimate demand of the farmers.
The Manch, with the support of PAAS, has given a call for "Sanand Bandh" on Wednesday to protest against the police action on farmers.