Sunday, February 01, 2015

South Gujarat tribal activist "picked up, detained" under PASA, taken to Rajkot, ahead of planned protest

Jayram Gamit
By Our Representative
Reports from the tribal belt of South Gujarat have said that a senior tribal farmers' leader, Jayram Gamit, has been "mysteriously picked up” by the cops from Tapi district under the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act (PASA Act) ahead of a major protest the organization he and another senior activist, Romel Sutariya, lead were going to launch and the land mafia. Talking with Counterview from Chhotaudepur, Sutariya said, the district collector, Ranjeet Kumar, was under “tremendous pressure” from the local ruling party politicians to arrest Gamit following their campaign against efforts to hand over large tracts of tribal land to land tribals, particularly those who were mining the area surrounding the river.
“Soon after his arrest, Gamit was taken to Rajkot”, Sutariya said, adding, “Gamit was arrested despite the fact that during the last Lok Sabha polls he campaigned for the BJP. Despite his alignment with the ruling party, he kept fighting for the rights of the tribal people, which became the major reason for his detention and arrest under PASA. The arrest has taken place following a forest department's complaint to the police.” There is no word so far from the Gujarat authorities about the arrest.
This is not for the first time that protesting activists in Gujarat are being picked as part of the "preventive" measure to stop any protests. Even those who do not plan protests are "picked up" when senior government functionary such as the chief minister visits an area. They are often put under house arrest or are detained (click HERE to read) ahead of apprehensions of protest. However, this is the first time in the recent past that an arrest has taken place under PASA, considered "draconian" by activists, and meant to be used against anti-social elements seeking to create disturbance.
Calling the arrest “largely political”, Sutariya said, “Gamit was a key factor in Tapi and Chhotaudepur districts for BJP leaders during the campaign in the last Lok Sabha elections. After he stopped working with the party recently and began fighting for tribal rights, the party began to pressure him. After repeated efforts to rope him in failed, this is the tactic they have finally adopted to cow him down. It is difficult to understand why was he was taken to Rajkot.”
In a statement, the Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Morcha (AKSM), which Sutariya heads, called the arrest “anti-constitutional and unprovoked”. The statement said, “Sutariya and Gamit were fighting for the tribal farmers' constitutional rights for the last few years in South and Central Gujarat. The arrest is part of the conspiracy to break the leadership and pressure Gamit to dissociate himself from the struggle. The conspiracy has been going on for quite some time, after he left working for the BJP.”
The arrest, said the statement, follows a notice issued by a Forest Rights Committee to the district collector the district forest officer last week, asking them why legal action should not be initiated against them following diversion of tribal land to non-tribals, which violates the Forest Rights Act. “The arrest of Gamit is in line with putting Sutariya under house arrest during chief minister Anandiben Patel's visit to Chhotaudepur apprehending protest”, it added.
The arrest has taken place ahead of the decision by Sutariya and Gamit to sit on indefinite fast, starting on February 2, in front of the Chotaudepur district headquarters in order to “highlight” the tribals' plight. Believes AKSM, it is in line with Modi government's effort to deprive the tribals of their natural resources. Warning against the arrest, the AKSM said, “We are going to begin a strong protest against the Gujarat government's authoritarian move. Among others, the All-India Forest Workers' Union's Roma Malik and Ashok Da have supported us.”

No comments: