India: Uttar Pradesh farmers protest spreads

Farmers protest against land acquisition in Uttar Pradesh The farmers want better compensation for their land

A protest by thousands of farmers against alleged forced acquisition of land has spread to parts of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Two policemen and a farmer were killed in weekend clashes, during protests in the Greater Noida region against the acquisition of land by the government for a new motorway.

The government denies that the land has been forcibly acquired from farmers.

The use of land for industrial purposes is hugely controversial in India.

Protests have stalled similar projects elsewhere in the country.

On Friday, farmers in the Bhatta-Parsaul village in Greater Noida abducted three employees of a state-run bus company during a protest.

Police tried to rescue the hostages on Saturday, and gunfire was exchanged on both sides, officials said.

Three people, including two policemen were killed, while the senior most official of the district, and a senior police official were injured.

The hostages escaped during the clashes and were later rescued by police.

Police at Bhatta-Parsaul village after the clash Reports say many men have fled the village after the violence

On Sunday, the protests spread to Agra and Aligarh areas. Farmers set fire to an office of the motorway builder, and there were clashes with police.

A spokesman for the Uttar Pradesh government denied the farmers' protests were linked to acquisition of land, which he said had ended last July.

He said the farmers had accepted the compensation for the land, and blamed "anti-social" elements for fomenting violence.

The farmers say they are unhappy with the compensation, and have asked for a sizeable increase.

More than 2,000 policemen were deployed in Bhatta-Parsaul after the incident.

Locals complained that the police had "misbehaved" and taken away many men from the village. The police denied the allegations.

The government in Uttar Pradesh has bought the farmers' land to build an eight-lane highway and business zone between Delhi and Agra - an important industrial centre that is also home to the Taj Mahal and other popular tourist sites.

Tension has been simmering over the construction of the motorway for the past year.

Last August, three farmers were killed when police fired at protesters demanding more compensation.

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