LAHORE: Marking the international peasants’ day, farmers pledged to launch a province-wide movement against the Ravi Urban Development Authority (Ruda) for robbing them of their agricultural lands and depriving the Lahorities of fresh air and vegetables.

At a protest gathering organised by the Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee, a network of 28 farmer and peasant organisations, the farmers affected by land grabbing by Ruda to develop multi-kilometers long belt along River Ravi as an urban centre vowed to lay their lives but not leave their lands.

They said their lands provide oxygen to Lahore and fulfil its food needs, while Ruda aims to destroy the city and benefit the land mafia.

Leaders of the anti-Ruda movement and hundreds of farmers participated in the public meeting. It was announced that the movement would be spread to the entire Punjab through organised efforts.

Mustafa Rasheed, prominent anti-Ruda activist, said, “When Parvez Elahi became the chief minister of Punjab, Ruda quickly resumed land grabbing and destroyed agricultural crops.

The police attempted to arrest many farmers and their leaders but because of massive resistance the government had to step back.”

Local farmer leader Chaudhry Sajid Waraich said, “We are giving fresh milk, vegetables and grains to Lahorites. But land mafia, developers and the military are trying to take over our lands. If this continues, Pakistan will face severe food insecurity in the coming days. The project will not only affect the farmers but also cause a huge environmental disaster for Lahore.”

PKRC General Secretary Farooq Tariq said the committee has been celebrating the International Day of Peasants struggle in Pakistan since 2009. “It is important to remember the historical struggle of Okara peasants and farmers on this day. Due to their will and determination, they could not be cowed down and thus the state had to bow down before them, he said.

He said PKRC was standing with the peasants of Okara farms and standing in solidarity with the affected farmers of the notorious Ruda project.

Zaigham Abbas, another PKRC leader, warned, “If the Ruda project is implemented, it will lead to environmental disaster for Lahore and its surrounding areas.

The government and land mafia call it development, but this is a way of taking away lands from farmers.”

Other speakers at the meeting reiterated the demand for abolishing the Ruda project and that the lands taken away from the farmers should be returned at once.

Slogans were also raised to demand food and land sovereignty for the farmers.

Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2023

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