A village in Uttar Pradesh that had been adopted by Minister of State for Culture Mahesh Sharma has turned against him, PTI reported on Thursday. A sign board in the village declares that no Bharatiya Janata Party leader is allowed in the area.

For more than six months, residents of the Kachera village have been protesting against a real estate project in the region and Sharma’s alleged inaction on the matter.

Kachera is part of the Gautam Budh Nagar Lok Sabha constituency, which is represented by Sharma, a BJP leader, in Parliament. He won from there in 2014 and is contesting from the seat again for the upcoming General Elections. The constituency will vote in the first phase of the elections on April 11.

The protests began in October 2018, when villagers demanded higher compensation for land that had been acquired from them in 2010 for a real estate project. More than 80 people had been arrested during the protests, The Times of India had reported last year.

The villagers alleged that no one from the BJP leadership had come to their aid. That is when they decided to put up posters that read: “Mahesh Sharma dwara god liye gaon mein BJP walon ka aana sakhta mana hai” (BJP leaders are strictly forbidden in this village adopted by Maesh Sharma). Some slogans have also been coined, including, “Modi tujhse bair nahi, Mahesh Sharma ki khair nahi” (Modi, we are not against you, but Mahesh Sharma will not be spared), PTI reported.

Photo credit: PTI

The anger has simmered since then, with demonstrations breaking out intermittently, PTI reported on Thursday. The locals also blame Sharma for inadequate development in the region. The locals claimed that they had been promised roads, clean water, healthcare, a college and other amenities by the developer when they handed over the land to the developer close to a decade ago. The developer, however, only built some roads in the region and despite Sharma adopting the village, there had been no improvement, they alleged.

One of the locals said the October protests broke out because the real estate developer, with support from the administration, had destroyed the crops on their land, ostensibly to begin construction. When they resisted, they were beaten and arrested, he alleged. Some of the villagers reached out to Sharma, who promised to get them released in a day, but they stayed in prison for 13 days, locals further alleged.

Sharma told the news agency that the anger against him was politically motivated and that development, though slow, had been substantial. When the protests broke out last year, he had told The Indian Express: “I have tried to tell them that work is being done. The ills are a carry forward from the previous governments and being resolved. I know my village very well...I am with the farmers and will resolve all their issues in due time.”

District Magistrate Brajesh Narain Singh said the farmers had sold their land directly to the developer and received the compensation. He said the dispute over compensation would have to be resolved “within the framework of the law” Singh said, adding that the dispute had been taken to the High Court.

A report in The Indian Express said that cases over compensation are pending in the Allahabad High Court and Surajpur District Court.