Mumbai: Twenty people were injured as protesting farmers clashed with police this morning on a national highway in Maharashtra near Thane. The police had used pellet guns to control the mob, which blocked traffic on the highway and torched a few vehicles. Senior officer of the local police, Parambir Singh, told NDTV that pellet guns were used after the mob attacked a senior officer. A dozen policemen were injured, so were eight farmers.
Farmers from 17 villages were holding protests at 10 spots in the area. The biggest of them was on the Thane-Badlapur highway, where they had blocked traffic. The clashes began when the police tried to disperse the mob.
The protests were over the Navy walling up a 1600 acres of land, which has a British-era aerodrome. The area belongs to the Navy, acquired to build an airstrip in 1942 during the Second World War. The acquisition was made under the powers Emergency Act.
The Navy now wants to build an arms depot and residential housing for its personnel.
But over the years, the area has been encroached upon by the locals. The farmers have repeatedly petitioned the authorities that the land be given to them. They argue that the Navy's ownership ended after the emergency powers were lifted. The protests began six months ago after the authorities refused to hand over the land to them.
The boundary wall, the Defence Ministry said, was being built to "safeguard defence land from further encroachment". "The Maharashtra government is fully aware of the subject case and is providing police protection and support," a statement from the ministry read.