Demand For Land
Sonepat farmers mull approaching Queen Elizabeth for justice
Some Jat families in Sonepat (Haryana) are debating whether they should appeal for justice to the British Queen as they claim that they have “failed to get justice in free India”. The “new tenant” in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, President Ram Nath Kovind, may not be aware that the prime 320-acre property where he lives is a matter of litigation, the roots of which goes back to the British Raj. Rashtrapati Bhavan and adjoining government bhavans and other offices sit on land acquired by the British from farmers to relocate their capital from Kolkata. Land was acquired in seven villages—Raisina, Malcha, Kushak, Pelanjee, Dasgarah, Talkatora and Moti Bagh. The British Raj had offered a paltry compensation of Rs 35 per acre for agricultural land and Rs 15 per acre for non-agricultural patches. About 35 families did not take the compensation, complaining that it was too low.
On 10 October 1912, Government of India issued an order endorsing the Punjab government, thus paving the way for the formal acquisition of the land. The tracts of land were acquired using the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. The Act was in force till 2013, when the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, took effect on 1 January 2014.
In a violent protest, many farmers were reportedly killed in the police firing. Later, the farmers were forcibly relocated to Sonepat, where their new place was named as “Malcha village”, like their old Malcha Gaon in Chanakyapuri.
Some farmers are seeking legal opinion on whether they can make a “guhar” to the Queen who continues “to head the Commonwealth”. One view is that it was the moral duty of the British to settle the matter as they had acquired 1,792 acres of land to build their new capital. The area later came to be known as the Lutyens Zone, as New Delhi was designed by a British architect Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens. The second opinion is that, if the farmers do make an appeal to the Queen, the government of independent India may slap sedition charges against them, as had happened once in a case of undivided Bihar.
In April 2015 and December 2016, two descendants of the farmers, Mahavir from the Raisina village and Sajjan Singh from Malcha village (farmers thinking of approaching the Queen are different) filed petitions in the Delhi High court to claim the compensation under the Land Acquisition Act 2013. “Either the full compensation (over Rs 2,000 crore) should be provided on the current market rates or the land in the Raisina Hill be returned to us,” they have demanded. Mahavir says his ancestor Kaalu owned 100 acres of land in Raisina village. Kaalu’s son Nathu was the co-owner. Compensation was announced for both but was not paid.
While admitting this petition, a Bench of Justices B.D. Ahmed and Ashutosh Kumar, had commented that “if over 100 acres of land is returned, the Rashtrapati Bhavan and even the High Court would go.”
Mahavir’s counsel Surat Singh relied on the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. As per this Act, where an award has been made five years or prior to the commencement of the Act itself, but physical possession of the land has not been taken by the government, or the compensation has not been paid, the acquisition proceedings shall be deemed to have been lapsed.
The High Court Justices had wondered whether there was a time limit for such cases against the government and whether over a century old records were available.
Many farmers in Malcha village in Sonepat do not celebrate Independence Day as they say that over a century ago they were wronged by the erstwhile British empire. After Independence, the new governments of “free India” did “nothing to rectify our wrongs”.
Just another gangster?
Three .32 pistol shots rang out and a gangster was dead. This happened recently in the small Rasoolra village in Khanna, near Ludhiana, Punjab. The dead man was a former sarpanch, Manvinder Singh Mindi alias Gandhi (42), a Sikh. A gangster, Gurjot Garcha in a Facebook post has claimed responsibility for the point-blank assassination.
Mindi’s younger brother, Rupinder Gandhi, a gangster, was killed in 2003 by the Garcha gang. On Rupinder’s life, 12 years after his brutal murder, a Punjabi film titled Rupinder Gandhi, the Gangster? was made by Tarn Mann, a young Canadian director. After Rupinder’s death, Mindi took control of the “Gandhi gang” as the police describes its members. Rupinder was named Rupinder Gandhi as he was born on 2 October. At 22, he was the sarpanch of his village, a national-level football player, a student at Panjab University and a local “youth icon”. Rupinder had established a full-fledged students’ union—Gandhi Group of Students’ Union (GGSU) —with more than three lakh membership across universities and colleges of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh. A “Haryana Gandhi Group” has paid rich tributes to Mindi.
It is a simple story of a gangster’s family. But some “mischievous” political elements, with the aim to tarnish the image of Punjab’s ruling Congress, have spread the word that the assassinated Gandhi gangster (Mindi), and earlier Rupinder, had enjoyed the patronage of some powerful state party politicians and that they had straight links to the top leadership in New Delhi. Congress leaders are denying this, stating that “gangster Gandhi” had nothing to do with their party. After Rupinder’s killing Mindi was quoted by local media claiming that “our family has remained associated with Congress for long”.
Khanna city’s Senior Superintendent of Police, N.S. Mahal, told The Sunday Guardian that Mindi was the head of the “Gandhi group” which had established its wings in several colleges and schools in Khanna, Ludhiana, Mandi Gobindgarh and other areas. “We will try to disband these cells to prevent the youth going the wrong way.”
The Panchagavya test
An unusual demand was made by a city-based Hindutva outfit, Sanskriti Bachao Manch (SBM). To enter the garba pandal to dance, they wanted Hindu boys to display tilak on their foreheads, drink panchagavya—a concoction of cow milk, urine, dung, curd and ghee—and show their Aadhaar card as identity proof, the SBM chief Chandrashekhar Tiwari demanded.
Tiwari claimed panchgavya cleanses one’s soul but “Muslims would not drink it”. What about Hindu boys? “They would not object to taking panchgavya because they are used to having it during religious events at home.” “Muslim boys infiltrate garba pandals,” complained Tiwari, former local Bajrang Dal head. “Islam does not allow idol worship and yet Muslim boys insist on coming to garba events because they have certain designs.” Now they will need to pass the panchagavya test.
Taste coffee, make a career
If you love drinking coffee, you can make a career out of this hot beverage. Foreign and domestic coffee brands are opening restaurants across the country. But they can’t match a vast national network of popular Indian Coffee Houses. The Coffee Board of India has invited applications for a unique one-year post graduate diploma in Coffee Quality Management, starting in September. The course is designed to equip students with the specific knowledge and skills required to function as “coffee tasters”.
Course content includes coffee cultivation practices, marketing, quality evaluation techniques and quality assurance systems. The course will be conducted in English in three trimesters at the Coffee Board’s venue in Balehonnur, Chikkamagaluru (Karnataka). Admission is open to graduates who must have at least one of these subjects: Botany, Zoology, Biotechnology, Food Technology, Food Science, Environmental Science, and Agricultural Sciences. Preference will be given to candidates sponsored by export firms, curing establishments and coffee plantations. Interested? Visit the Board’s website. The fee is Rs 250,000.
Not Just Nehru
Needed, advisor for new museum on PMs
It seems the Congress is on the verge of losing the legacy of its first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru associated with the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library (NMML) at Teen Murti, where he also lived in the adjoining official PM residence. The library contains works of Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi’s writings and private papers of leaders such as C. Rajagopalachari and Jayaprakash Narayan.
The Narendra Modi government plans “to convert the NMML into a monument for all former Prime Ministers”. On Tuesday, at the NMML’s annual general body meeting, an attempt was made by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh and two other members, historian, Nayanjot Lahiri and academician/author Udayon Misra, to protest. They said that it was an attempt to belittle Nehru’s legacy.
This created confusion as the pro-Nehru group thought that the government might not interfere with the historical legacy of the NMML.
“There are proposals for a memorial for all former PMs, which can be used for future PMs as well. But it will be done not at the cost of Nehru. If finalised, it will be a separate structure,” Shakti Sinha, director of the museum said.
This created confusion as the pro-Nehru group thought that the government might not interfere with the historical legacy of the NMML. “It is a heritage building. There will be no tinkering with the original structure,” said MP Karan Singh, who is also an NMML Society member. But a day after the meeting, an “Express of Interest” advertisement was issued by the NMML director in some newspapers, inviting applications for “Appointment of Professional Advisor for Setting up a New Museum on ‘Prime Ministers of India’”. The last date for submitting applications is 15 September. The advertisement clearly states that the NMML wishes to appoint an “Internal Professional Advisor” from architects/architecture firms having expertise in design to assist the NMML in organising and managing a design competition for construction and setting up of a “New Museum” on “Prime Ministers of India.” So that’s it. Time has come for the Idea of Modi to prevail.
Man Mohan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org