Monday, May 25, 2015

Gujarat govt withdraws permission to Swaraj Samvad meet, leader Yogendra Yadav calls Modi "authoritarian"

Yogendra Yadav talking with activists outside Mehdi Nawaz Jung Hall
By Our Representative
The Gujarat government has clamped down on Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) splinter group Swaraj Samvad by refusing to "allow" it to hold an activists' meet in Ahmedabad at Mehdi Nawaz Jung Hall, which was booked for the meet. The Gujarat police told Swaraj Samvad activists just an hour ahead of the meet that they could not be allowed inside the hall because its leader Yogendra Yadav, who had come for the purpose, was a "political person", and that there could be "political speeches in the hall."
"Our 200-odd activists converted it into a protest meeting by sitting on the floor", Nachiketa Desai, journalist-turned-political activist of Swaraj Samvaj told Counterview, adding, "It was an illegal move by Gujarat police. It suggested government mindset." Among those who spoke on the occasion included Manishi Jani, leader of the Navnirman movement in mid-1990s, senior environmentalist Rohit Prajapati, and others, criticizing "the dictatorial" style of the Gujarat government.
Already, the hall where the meeting was to be held, has taken been over by the Gujarat governor, who is its trustee, from civil society activists, especially Gautam Thaker of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). It has been handed over the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. The hall had allegedly become an active spot where anti-Modi meetings, including in support of well known human rights activist Teesta Setalvad, were held (click HERE to read).
Yadav was in Ahmedabad on Monday as part of his nationwide "search" for activists, supporters and allies. Earlier in the day, talking with newspersons, Yadav said, building an alternative political platform to the exploitative and corrupt setup that exists in the country is not going to easy, but "a long-drawn-out process." 
"Currently, we are merely trying to explore the space for alternative politics. However, we find that the country as of today does not seem to be ready for it. We still lack ability to move in that direction", he admitted, adding, "We are also not sure whether we will succeed."
Swaraj Samvad, at a meeting of 4,000 "volunteers" and "supporters" in Delhi in mid-April, had decided against forming a political party, with majority favouring continuing in AAP and, in the meantime, developing Swaraj Samvad as a political movement.
Manishi Jani addressing activists
Talking at an interaction of the Gujarat Media Club, Yadav said, "As of today, we are merely seeking to gather the energy that was generated by the AAP movement over the last few years, and we are in Gujarat precisely for this. We know there is a huge energy here."
Refusing to be sharply critical of AAP like he had done earlier (he had compared AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal with Stalin), Yadav said, "We are the AAP spirit. We think that the Modi government's strong arm tactic of imposing its rule on the Delhi government for appointing government officials is against the spirit of democracy. AAP is a democratically elected government."
Defining "alternative politics" as different from "political alternative" of Congress, Socialist Party, Trinamool Congress and others to the current Narendra Modi rule, Yadav said, today it consists of opposing the so-called Gujarat model on India, which consists of three characteristics, authoritarian leader, growth at any cost, and homogeneous social order.
Yadav said, "There are large number of social organizations, civil society groups and non-government organizations, who have been fighting for people's issues for nearly three decades. They are our allies in the fight." He indicated, organizations like Greenpeace India, against whom Modi has clamped down, could be one such ally, saying, the NGO has the support of the grassroots level.
Then there are forces which have been dubbed Naxalite just because they are fighting for people's cause, Yadav suggested, adding, "Just like Indira Gandhi, Modi doesn't seem to realize that clampdown on NGOs will lead to major reactions from the people." 
Others whose support he may take include National Alliance of People's Movements, apex body of tens of people's organizations, and Medha Patkar-led Narmada Bachao Andolan.
Even as seeking help of social organizations, Yadav did not rule out sharing a platform on common issues -- like land acquisition Act and Gujarat's new anti-terrorist Act, currently awaiting Presidential accent -- with different political forces, including Congress. But he added, "Congress' policies on development were as pro-corporate as BJP's."
Later in the day, Yadav addressed an NGOs' meeting in Ahmedabad, "Sacchai Gujarat Ki" (Truth of Gujarat), where Gujarat Congress leader Bharatsinh Solanki had already spoken out against the "anti-people" policies of the Modi government, including the land acquisition Act. The meet was organized by PUCL, Gujarat.

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