Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pressure from Gujarat powerdom forces JAAG to hold consultations on whether to continue anti-SIR stir

By Our Representative
Two senior leader of of Jameen Adhikar Aandolan Gujarat (JAAG), which is behind the campaign against the Mandal-Bhechraji special investment region (SIR), Lalji Desai and Sagar Rabari, have finally admitted that the movement they were leading today stands divided in the face of the powerful offensive launched by the Gandhinagar rulers. In a statement, they have explained how this happened starting with July 9.
The statement says, on July 9, some “selected individuals” started receiving phone calls from the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) in Gandhinagar, as also some present and past members of legislative assembly (MLAs). The MLAs particularly began showing signs of activity. It was made known that selected individuals involved in the movement were being called to meet the chief minister. Apparently, these individuals had specific interests in keeping the SIR, where hundreds of hectares of land are proposed to be acquired from farmers.
Even then, the farmers collectively decided, though only a few selected leaders were invited to meet the chief minister, the issue was a collective one. Therefore, all sections of the leadership would go to Gandhinagar and meet him. In case the chief minister refused to meet all of them, no one would meet the CM. A meeting with the chief minister took place on July 10, where farmers’ leaders participated.
At the meeting, the chief minister tried to “satisfy” the leaders by saying that no area of the Narmada command would be disturbed, but refused to give any assurance of taking back the SIR Act, 2009, which was their main demand. He also promised he would announce something major on August 15.
On July 12, at a meeting in village Vasna, a few enthusiastic individuals wanted to write a letter to the chief minister expressing their displeasure, but they were advised by others to wait for some time. This was followed two days later with local TV channels flashing news that the JAAG had called off the agitation. Though the news channels were contacted and the headlines were discontinued, the divisions had already become obvious.
On July 15, a section of those who claimed to represent the region went to Gandhinagar demanding that the SIR plan should not be dropped at any cost. It is suspected, this was done at the instance of the Gandhinagar rulers. When those who are part of the Azad Vikas Sangathan, one of the organizations which is part of JAAG, came to this, they, together with Lalji Desai, went to Gandhinagar. With two sides opposing each other, the number of policemen posted in the state Capital suddenly shot up. Thankfully, there was no showdown, because of the presence of a section of some intellectuals. Both the he sides later went their own way.
“At present the women and the youth are continuing their mobilization efforts”, the JAAG statement says, adding, “The women especially have shown tremendous resolve in fighting to the finish and not parting with their land.”
Meanwhile, JAAG has decided to hold consultations on July 20 at Gujarat Vidyapeeth on what should they do in order to go ahead its proposed programme of action against the SIR for the August 9, 2013, which was announced earlier. Its statement said, “We have two options before us: (1) To go ahead with our plans for August 9, and (2) to wait for the CM’s assurance of result till August 15, the date when he has promised to announce something major on the SIR.

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