Indian Decade

Peepli Live in Bhatta and Parsaul

Rahul Gandhi has created a political storm with claims over police brutality in Uttar Pradesh.

Amir Khan’s last flick, Peepli Live, was a popular satire released last year about how rapacious politicians and TV networks exploit the misery of poor villagers and try to cash in on their suffering.

That was reel life. But a real life show is now taking place in the twin villages of Bhatta and Parsaul in Uttar Pradesh—politically speaking, the most important state that goes to the polls next year. Politicians across the political spectrum are now making a beeline for Bhatta and Parsaul to express their solidarity with farmers who were supposedly conned by the state government of Chief Minister Mayawati into selling their land at throwaway prices a couple of years ago.

On May 22, none other than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh jumped on the bandwagon, underscoring an open political secret: that the Congress route to capturing power in UP travels via Bhatta-Parsaul.

On Sunday, Singh announced financial aid for Greater Noida farmers affected by recent disturbances there. He said Rs 50,000 ($1100) would be offered to farmers and their family members seriously injured, and Rs 10,000 for those who suffered minor injuries, during recent unrest in Greater Noida over the Yamuna Expressway project.

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The Prime Minister’s financial aid pledge was initially kept low-key, with neither the Press Information Bureau nor the Prime Minister’s Office issuing a press release announcing the move.Singh appears to have acted on the intervention of Congress General Secretary and Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi, who met Gandhi on May 16 and alleged that women in Bhatta and Parsaul had been raped and killed by UP police, with their ashes then buried. A stung Mayawati government promptly trashed Rahul’s allegations and released a forensic report that stated that there were no human remains in the ashes found in the twin villages.

In keeping with the Peepli Live feel of all this, the Congress-led UPA government made its political intentions clear as it dispatched Union Communication and IT Minister Sachin Pilot to Bhatta and Parsaul on Sunday. The Mayawati government, chastened by Rahul Gandhi’s surprise visit to the villages on May 11, promptly arrested Sachin Pilot under section 151.

However, a few hours before his arrest, Pilot had apparently visited Dasna Jail to meet farmers in Noida, where he said alleged atrocities suffered by the Bhatta and Parsaul villagers needed to be probed.

‘The NCW (National Commission for Women) report and reports by several other agencies indicate that there have been several issues that need to be addressed. More than the atrocities it is the land grabbing by the state government that needs to be addressed. The state government has made a real estate business out of all this and not just these two, other villages may have had to suffer,’ Pilot is quoted as saying.

Life sometimes imitates art.