Lakhimpur-Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh was in the news in September 2021 after farmers were crushed by the speeding jeep driven by the son of BJP leader and Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra Teni. This incident created an uproar across the country and ultimately, the killer son of the Minister was arrested.
This time, another farmers' movement is brewing in the district and against the attempts of the Yogi government to evict farmers from land spread over 975 acre, and on which about 1,700 families depend on for their livelihood. In fact, a notice has been served on these farmers by the Forest Department and the District Administration asking them to vacate the land and preventing them from harvesting the paddy and sugarcane crops which has already been sown in this area by the farmers.
Post independence and until the 1960s, a large number of farmers from Eastern UP and Punjab had migrated to this area and began farming as a form of livelihood, in what was then a barren piece of land. This land has now been converted into one of the most fertile lands in UP and witnesses a great production of sugarcane. Before independence, this land is said to have been owned by the king of Oyal state, to whim the farmers paid rent. Later, the king transferred the land to the Forest Department, without the knowledge of the farmers who were tilling the land. However, in 2018, during Yogi 1.0 regime, thousands of farmers were served with notice of eviction from their lands, which included about 1,700 families in the Mudha Buzurk Gram Panchayat, along with farmers from other villages.
Over the past few months, the officials of the Forest Department had been asking the farmers not to sow paddy on their lands and were even putting pressure on the local sugarcane mill owners not to buy sugarcane from these farmers during the crushing season. This had created a lot of unrest and resentment against the government among the farmers.
The culmination of the present protest of the farmers was the incident on November 6th 2022, when the son of a farmer in the area, who was transporting sugarcane to a crushing unit, was stopped by the officials of the forest department who then confiscated the trolley, threw away the sugarcane and later arrested two boys on fabricated charges of loading timber. This incident further infuriated the farmers, who then began an indefinite fast from November 13th, under the banner of All India Kisan Mahasabha, supported by members of the Bharatiya Kisan Union.
Incidentally, the High Court of Allahabad had granted an order of stay, which is also being violated by the officials of the Forest Department. When the administration took no notice of the indefinite fast, the farmers decided to organise a protest march to the office of the Nighasan Tehsil on November 17th. Thousands of farmers participated in the 15-km long march, carrying red flags. The administration was taken aback by the strength and solidarity of the farmers during the March.
Thereafter, a delegation of leaders met the administration with their demands and the administration assured them that status-quo would be maintained on the land and a meeting with the farmer leaders, forest officials and civil administration would be held in the coming few days. The farmers were also assured that they would not be stopped from selling their sugarcane.
The main demands of the farmers were for the release of confiscated tractor-trolley, unconditional release of the arrested boys, legal action against the policemen who misused their power to arrest the innocent boys, to uphold the rights of the farmers on their lands and to put an end to the harassment faced by farmers.