A farmers’ protest against acquisition of their land has intensified with a woman setting herself ablaze and a man swallowing poison earlier this week. Farmers in Madhya Pradesh’s Katni district have been perching on unlit pyres, threatening to immolate themselves, if their land is acquired by the state for an upcoming power project. Police used force to seize her decomposed body when angry villagers refused to part with it. Many protesters, including women, children and elderly people, were injured in the police baton charge. The body was later cremated under police protection with her husband performing the last rites. Sunia Bai’s family had been told by government officials and a representative of Welspun Energy, the power contractor, that there would be dire consequences if they failed to vacate their one hectare smallholding. According to her family members, the land registered in the name of Welspun without their consent.
The 25-year-old who consumed poison as a gesture of protest has been taken to hospital, where his condition is described as critical. In the course of the week-long protest, 50 people have been taken into custody but Makrant Deousker, the district inspector general, said the situation is now peaceful and under control. More than 230 farming families in the area are affected. The company requires 526 hectares of land for the project, of which it has acquired more than 300 hectares. For the remainder, the government has decided to acquire land from existing smallholdings, but the farmers allege that it is doing it without their consent by classifying the land as barren.