New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this evening to highlight the situation of farmers in Greater Noida who claim their land is being illicitly acquired by Mayawati's government in UP.
Mr Gandhi was in fact accompanied by some farmers.
"They wanted to meet the PM, so I facilitated this," the Congress General Secretary told reporters after the meeting. Mr Gandhi said that women have been raped and that there is a pile of ashes 70 feet high in the villages of Parsaul and Bhatta, which have become the epicentre of the farmers' protests. "Severe atrocities are taking place there," Mr Gandhi said.
The Congress General Secretary also released pictures of burnt bodies at the villages, which he said are a result of alleged atrocities by the UP government.
Last week, Mr Gandhi sneaked past an extensive network of UP policemen into Parsaul-Bhatta early in the morning. He spent the day with farmers before being arrested. Late at night, he was released and escorted back across the UP border. The area has been tense since the police and farmers exchanged fire two weekends ago - four people were killed. Villagers claim that policemen and local administration officials have attacked their homes and families since then.
His visit was trashed by Mayawati, who said if Mr Gandhi really cares about farmers, he should petition the central government to update its archaic Land Acquisition Act. Mr Gandhi today retorted that while the union government is committed to an Act that protests farmers, "it is a complex piece of legislation" that will be passed in the next session of Parliament.
Farmers claim that the UP government forced them to sell their land for the Yamuna Expressway - a six-lane highway being constructed between Noida and Agra. However, they say that much of the land surrounding the highway is being sold at astronomical rates to real estate developers who are planning malls and industrial as well as residential projects there. Farmers claim that while the government and the developers will make a significant profit, they have been shortchanged.