Farmers attack cops, burn police van on Thane-Badlapur highway during protest against new airport

Farmers attack cops, burn police van on Thane-Badlapur highway to protest against new airport
At least 15 policemen and 18 farmers were injured during the clash (Picture: ANI)

Protests against the proposed international airport near Navi Mumbai took a violent turn on Thursday morning as hundreds of angry farmers took to the streets, attacked cops and burnt a police van on the Thane-Badlapur highway.

Local farmers have been vocal about their displeasure ever since the government announced its plan to convert an old and defunct airbase into an international airport at Nevali, less than 50 km away from Mumbai.

Although the 12,600-acre land on which the airport is supposed to come up belongs to the Navy, it had been encroached upon by locals over the last few years.

A Defence spokesperson has claimed that the “land in reference is owned by Ministry of Defence/Indian Navy and the state government land records certify the same.”

The aggrieved farmers had approached the Bombay High Court earlier this month with a bunch of petitions challenging acquisition of over 1,600 acre land by the Ministry of Defence.

The farmers reportedly began protesting earlier today after the Navy started putting up a wall around the old British-era aerodrome. The protests took a violent turn when hundreds of agitating farmers from over a dozen nearby villages clashed with the police.

While the protests were being carried out simultaneously at ten different spots, the biggest agitation took place on the Thane-Badlapur highway, where hundreds of protesters blocked traffic and attacked police officials who intervened.

While one senior official was severely injured, several others also sustained minor injuries.

At least 15 policemen and 18 farmers were injured during the clash.

The farmers even went on rampage, burning tyres and vandalizing multiple vehicles, including a police van. The Kalyan-Haji Malang road was blocked by throwing burning tyres and wooden blocks.

They also torched a police van, three trucks, two bikes and a tempo in the area. Policemen had to resort to firing plastic bullets to disperse protesters.

Following the incident, additional forces, including riot control police, have been called to bring the situation under control. The protests are still underway as of 12:15 pm amid heavy police presence.

Incidentally, there have been multiple instances in the past wherein farmers have cried foul over forced or cheap land acquisition by the state or central governments.

The protest comes days after farmers across the state had gone on strike to coax the government into meeting their demands, the most pivotal of which was a loan waiver. The state government eventually agreed to waive off loans of Rs 30,000 crore.

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Courtesy: Shardul Pawar

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