Four farmers were injured on Monday when personnel of the Uttar Pradesh police opened fire on them while they were participating in a sit-in demonstration to demand higher compensation for the acquisition of their land. The farmers were demanding a higher price from the state government, which had acquired their land in Greater Noida to build a fast-track road connecting Delhi and Agra.
The police claimed that the farmers turned violent first, and the policemen had merely retaliated. "The police was compelled to open fire only after the farmers attacked the policemen," said Amitabh Yash, superintendent of police of Gautam Budh Nagar.
Nearly 600 farmers from 17 local villages were demanding parity in monetary compensation with farmers whose land had been acquired in Noida for the purpose.
"We were promised parity, after which we lifted our dharna outside the district magistrate's office in December. But nothing has been done so far by the administration," said Manveer Singh Tewatia, who is leading the demonstration.
To prevent the farmers from making a direct appeal to Chief Minister Mayawati, who had visited the district on Sunday, the police had arrested Tewatia last week. The furious farmers captured the sub-divisional magistrate and the local tehsildar and have since held them hostage.
The protesting farmers made it clear that they would not let the two government officials go free unless Tewatia was released by the policemen.
Though the police released Tewatia on Sunday morning, the local administration did not allow farmers' representatives to meet the chief minister. The local farmers have been holding the dharna since December 17.
The proposed 165-km long Yamuna Expressway between Delhi and Agra is expected to reduce the driving time between the two cities by one hour. It will pass through the districts of Gautam Buddha Nagar, Aligarh, Mahamaya Nagar (Hathras) and Mathura. The project involves the acquisition of 115 villages in these four districts.
A total of 2,500 hectare land will have to be acquired for the development of the expressway -- 500 hectares each in Noida, Aligarh and Agra and 1,000 hectares in Gautam Buddha Nagar.