More than 5,000 people in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district have written to authorities asking for permission to die, as a state power company was taking away their land “forcibly”.

“A total of 5,259 people – farmers and their family members from 12 affected villages – have asked for icchha mrityu, or the right to die, as the land we cultivate is being forcibly snatched by the state government and Gujarat Power Corporation Limited,” Narendrasinh Gohil, a farmer and a member of local farmers’ rights group Gujarat Khedut Samaj, told PTI.

He said the letters were also sent to the president, prime minister and the Gujarat chief minister.

District Collector Harshad Patel confirmed that the farmers had dropped these letters at the registry branch, which sends and receives the letters of the collectorate.

The problem, according to the farmers, is that the state and Gujarat Power Corporation Limited, were trying to possess land more than 20 years after the power firm acquired it. Gohil said this was illegal under the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, and that the firm would have to start a fresh process if they wanted the land.

In their letters, the farmers accused the police of using force to get them to vacate the land. “GPCL [Gujarat Power Corporation Limited] and Gujarat government want to usurp our land,” the letter read. “If we do not have cultivable land, we shall be as good as dead.”

The farmers’ letters come a few weeks after at least 50 of them were detained during a protest against the company.