Indian protesters jailed

>NEW DELHI (AP) – Some 27,000 landless people gathered in New Delhi, hoping to march to Parliament with a single demand – give us land. But police locked them up Monday, chaining the gates to the vast Ramlila fairgrounds and barricading the demonstrators inside.

Monday had been planned as the culmination of a monthlong, 185-mile march north from the city of Gwalior to the national capital with this message: The masses have been largely untouched by India’s economic boom.

“People here are asking only for the basics. There is no greed. They don’t want clothes or electricity, just land so they can feed themselves,” he said.

After police barricaded the protesters inside the dusty fairgrounds Monday, they settled in, saying they would stay as long as it takes – at least they were getting one meal a day from the organizers. At home, they have nothing.

The march brought together India’s traditionally landless people – the “untouchables” and tribals at the bottom of the country’s complex social ladder – and the newly landless, forced from their fields by new economic projects.

India is trying to attract foreign investment to spur its economy and help develop its largely backward infrastructure. In part, it has chosen to do this by setting up Special Economic Zones, where companies get tax breaks to open businesses and factories.

Priya Bishnu’s family has fished eastern India’s massive Chilika Lake for prawns for centuries. But they left the area recently after large companies were granted the right to set up huge prawn farms in the lake.

“When the government gives the multinational companies land, where does it come from? That’s our land,” the 33-year-old said.

Their protest has been peaceful, in keeping with the passive resistance set out by Gandhi, but the fears and frustrations of others have overflowed into violence.