Days before the Republic Day farmers' tractor rally protest that dissolved into mayhem in Delhi, farmers in an Uttar Pradesh district received notices asking for personal bonds worth Rs 50,000 to Rs 10 lakh, on the "apprehension that they would violate law and order". The state government has been asked by the Allahabad High Court to explain by February 2 how poor farmers were issued these "breach of peace" notices.
The notices were issued on January 19 to tractor-owning farmers in Sitapur district, around 80 km from capital Lucknow. The notices asked the farmers to submit personal bonds ranging from Rs 50,000 to an exorbitant Rs 10 lakh and sureties of the same amount on the "apprehension that he/she would violate the law and order in the light of the ensuing farmers protest in the district".
The High Court on Monday heard a petition filed by social activist Arundhati Dhuru, who said the notices were issued to hundreds of farmers in Sitapur.
A two-judge bench was told that the "notices issued by the State authorities are not only baseless but also take away the fundamental rights of a person as farmers are not allowed to come out from their houses as the police have surrounded their houses".
The petitioner also said the cost of the personal bond and sureties was exorbitant and could not be sought from poor farmers, that too merely on the basis of the report of local police personnel and without giving the farmers any chance to respond.
NDTV reviewed one such notice issued to farmers by the local SDM or Sub Divisional Magistrate. The notice said: "It has been brought to notice that the following people have an internal conflict over protests against the farm bills. Because of this, there is tension. Due to this, there may be a breach of peace. So, it is necessary to keep both sides bound down through notices."
This notice was issued to 10 farmers, who were asked to appear before the local magistrate within two days and explain why they should not sign the personal bonds.