Thursday, March 27, 2014

In a mid-night swoop, Gujarat police arrest JAAG leader ahead of farmers' agitation on Dholera SIR

Dholera farmers discuss strategy
ahead of an agitation
By Our Representative
Ahead of the proposed agitation against the Dholera Special Investment Region (DSIR) on March 29, the Gujarat police in the wee hours of March 26 arrested one of the senior farmer leaders of the area, Rajbha Chudasma. A statement issued by Jamin Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG), which organized the agitation, called arrest as smacking of “political pressure to suppress a non-political movement”. To be implemented in the south of Ahmedabad in 22 villages encompassing 900 sq km, DSIR has been envisaged as a modern industrial township in the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), but has invited farmers’ ire over Gujarat government decision to take away 50 per cent of the farmers’ land in the name of developing infrastructure.
JAAG said in a statement, “Rajbha Chudasma has been a prominent leader of the agitation. In a complete non-issue, the police have acted to arrest him. Since the matter was resolved and he was arrested after this on false charges, we are led to believe that this is being done at the behest of political masters who are threatened by the agitation.” It added, “We are of the firm conviction that this is being done to threaten the movement and the farmers before the sammelan of March 29, proving that the claims of the government are hollow and that a mere gathering of the farmers and dissenters can throw the government off-balance and scared.”
Demanding an independent inquiry into the matter, JAAG leaders Pradhyumansinh Chudasma and Sagar Rabari have written a letter to Chief Electoral Officer, Gujarat State, Anita Karwal demanding “an independent inquiry into the incident to ascertain the truth of the matter”. Calling it a “serious malpractice”, JAAG leaders in the letter said, “Rajbha Chudasma is a farmer-leader spearheading the farmers’ struggle against the DSIR. On March 25, 2014 there was a minor altercation following a misunderstanding between two or three local communities. Chudasma, being a respected leader of the area, intervened in the matter and effected a compromise, and the matter was amicably resolved.”
Despite this, the letter said, “On the morning of March 26, 2014, around 3 am the police arrived at his house and arrested him on false charges and took him to the Dhandhuka Police Station. He has since been kept there. This is a non-political struggle that Chudasma is part of, and we suspect that he has been implicated by the police, which are acting on orders of some political leaders. Otherwise, there was no reason to arrest him at all. We suspect this to be a political ploy to intimidate and threaten Chudasma and the farmers of the area and to suppress the farmers’ movement.”
The letter wants Karwal to “find out where, why and from whom the orders for the arrest were given”. JAAG sources say, this is not for the first time that its leaders were tried to be browbeaten. On several occasions in the past, whenever they wished to go ahead with an agitation, the police swooped on them and arrested them. On February 9 this year, about 100 farmers, including leaders Chudasma, Rajbha Chudasma, Sagar Rabari and Lalji Desai and senior activist Indukumar Jani were detained for starting an agitation at Sandhila village in Dholera SIR.
Dholera is not the only area where JAAG is being targeted. This has happened during its opposition to another special investment region (SIR), being planned in North Gujarat, too. On August 15, 2013, the police cancelled the permission granted for the flag hoisting at the last minute to the protesting villagers in the Mandal-Bechraji SIR area. On October 23, 2013 the permission for the cattle rally from Hansalpur to Gandhinagar was denied to the protesting Maldharis. And on January 18, 2014 the cattle rally by the maldharis was stopped by the police, they were beaten with lathis and had cases registered against them.
If in Dholera farmers want the SIR to be cancelled, even as demanding permanent cancellation of the order which seeks to decommand the Narmada command in 22 villages where the DSIR is being implemented, in Mandal-Bhechraji it is against Maruti, which has deprived poor farmers and cattle breeding maldharis of their land.

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