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Karnataka: Devanahalli Farmers Protest Against ‘Forcible’ Land Acquisition

About 700 farmers are likely to get affected by the acquisition of 1,777 acres of agricultural land spread across 13 villages by KIADB.
Farmers protest at freedom park

Devanahalli Farmers protest against land acquisition. Pic Credit: Saurav Kumar

Bengaluru: Farmers are staging a protest at Bengaluru’s Freedom Park against ‘forcible’ land acquisition by the Karnataka government.

A corner of the Freedom Park resonated with farmers sloganeering i.e. Raitha Virodhi Sarkara, Dhikkara Dhikkara (Down Down Anti-Farmer Government), as the protest entered its 165th day on Wednesday.

Farmers from Devanahalli taluk in Bengaluru Rural district have locked horns with the Karnataka government over the acquisition of 1,777 acres of agricultural land spread across 13 villages. 

The state government is acquiring land in Devanahalli under the Karnataka Land Reforms (Second Amendment) Act, 2020 which is expected  to affect nearly 700 farmers of the region. 

The 13 villages identified by Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) for land acquisition are Channarayapatna, Nallappanahalli, Muddenahalli, Cheemachanahalli, Haraluru, Polanahalli, Palya, Nalluru, Mattabarlu, Mallepura, Hyadala, Gokare Bacchenahalli and Thellohalli. 

Land is Life

Narayanappa Raju (60) a farmer of Channarayapatna Hobli village was one of the protesting farmers at the site.

Narayanappa, a farmer at protest; Credit: Saurav Kumar

Narayanappa, a farmer at protest; Credit: Saurav Kumar

He owns three acres that has been notified to be acquired by the state government industrial organ, Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB).

"Agriculture has been running our livelihood for generations and land is our life. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government is hell-bent to snatch away that source of life from thousands of farmers," he told NewsClick.

"We are committed to fighting against forcible land acquisition till the government takes back the decision," he added.

Ramesh Chimachanahalli, 40, who owns five acres has also  been a vehement opponent of the land acquisition.

According to Ramesh, the resistance is because the government has planned to acquire agricultural land without the consent of farmers, which would sound the death knell for farmers.

Ramesh also claimed that the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) has planned to rope in the aerospace industry and defence sector-related industrial units and that too by acquiring fertile agricultural land. 

Mahesh Gowda (55), another farmer at the protest, slammed the BJP governments both at the Centre and state and termed them “anti-farmer.” 

He said “the Modi government in the recent past brought in anti-farmer laws and with a similar attitude the BS Bommai-led state government is treating the farmers in Karnataka. Forcible land acquisition won’t be tolerated in Devanahalli.”

“The government and KIADB undertook the preliminary phase of notification and sent us the intimation in January 2022,” added Gowda.

The protest started at Channarayapatna Hobli village in Devanahalli taluk of Bengaluru Rural district on April 4, 2022. 

Due to the ongoing Karnataka Assembly session, the farmers decided to shift the protest to Bengaluru and give the message to the government to take back the decision. 

Reacting to the ongoing protest of farmers, C.N Chandrakumar, a KIADB official, told NewsClick that “land acquisition has not started yet due to official paperwork but initial decision-making was conveyed to farmers through a notification early this year.”

No Word on Consent and Compensation

Amid the ongoing movement, the government’s haste in implementing the anti-farmer decision got exposed when KIADB did not consult the rural local body i.e. gram sabha, neither for consent nor on compensation.

KIADB “conveniently” bypassed the four gram sabhas that cover 13 villages which were notified for land acquisition, the farmers said.

These four gram sabhas are - Chennahalli, Channarayapatna, Nalluru and Yelliluru.

Srinivasa K, a member of Channarayapatna Gram Sabha, said that without holding any talk with farmers KIADB conveyed the decision on acquisition. 

Moreover, no information on compensation was conveyed to the farmers, neither on jobs nor on money, he said.

Ramesh told NewsClick: “Till today, we do not know the exact details and nature of compensation to be given by the government. During the first phase of acquisition in 2018, farmers were promised Rs 1.1 crore per acre as compensatory amount but did not receive the complete compensation. This time even that was not offered.” 

Support for Farmers

Farmers have received support across the political spectrum.

The All India Students Association (AISA) has extended solidarity to the ongoing movement. Sharath, a member of AISA told NewsClick: “The intent behind the land acquisition has remained nasty and KIADB has been a habitual offender of the farmer's rights.”

“As Devanahalli is in close proximity to the flourishing city of Bengaluru, it is a strategic point for both the government and the real estate mafias. Therefore, land acquisition is aimed to benefit vested interests of the powerful lobby and is thus anti-farmer,” he added.

GC Bayya Reddy, vice-president of the Karnataka Parantha Raitha Sangha (KPRS) extended his support to the protesting farmers..

According to Reddy, the intentions of the state government toward farmers of Devanahalli were questionable since the first phase of land acquisition in Haraluru in 2018. “We will remain with the cause of farmers till the end,” he said.

Support for farmers also came from Nisarga Narayanaswamy LN, Devanahalli MLA from the Janata Dal (Secular), who lamented the decision of land acquisition. 

“Land acquisition without the consent of farmers is being done to blindly benefit the real estate sector. It started under the BJP government headed by B.S Yediyurappa when the government amended the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961.”

The JD(S) legislator was referring to the decision of the Yediyurappa government taken in July 2020 that eased restrictions on the purchase of agricultural land. 

The amendments made by the BJP government gave a free hand to non-agriculturists to buy agricultural land in the state. 

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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