Sunday, May 03, 2015

South Gujarat tribal farmer activists detained for five days: "Threat" to commit suicide during CM's Vyara visit

Sutariya, colleagues following their release on May 2
By Our Representative
In a move that has gone controversial among several senior activists, several of the farmer leaders of the Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Morcha (AKSM) led by Romel Sutariya were kept in judicial custody for five days, starting late on April 27, apprehending radical protests on May 1 at the South Gujarat tribal town of Vyara, where Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel celebrated the Gujarat foundation day.
Sutariya and his colleagues of the AKSM, an upcoming tribal farmers' organization in South Gujarat, were picked up by the local police following their "demand of permission" from the Gujarat police to commit suicide over the "failure" of a South Gujarat sugar mills cooperative conglomerate, running with state support, to pay up Rs 17 crore dues to tribal farmers for their supply of sugarcane.
They were release on May 2 on personal bond on orders from the sessions couirt on May 2, said an AKSM statement, calling the arrest "illegal".
Even before Sutariya and his colleagues of the AKSM were arrested, some of his supporter-activists warned him against the "extreme demand" for allowing suicide as a form of protest, citing the instance of Gajendra Singh's suicide at the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi a few days ago, calling it "totally misplaced."
Commenting on Facebook over the plea for suicide, one such activist, Pratibha Shinde of the Lok Sangharsh Morcha, said, she "disagreed" with this form of protest, pointing out that it is against the "democratic and non-violent ways." According to Shinde, the protests by Gandhiji and Bhagat Singh had a wide-scale impact on people but Sutariya's had virtually "none."
Shinde's comment came following Sutariya's statement that Gandhi used to sit on fast unto death, which was "perfectly legitimate, non-violent and democratic form of protest". Sutariya equated his threat of suicide with Gandhi's fast unto death, calling it a form of suicide threat.
In Ahmedabad, his supporters, even as recognizing the arrest as "illegal", said that the "demand for permission for suicide is simply laughable." Some of them told Counterview that his "radical" postures may become a handle with the Gujarat government to clampdown on legitimate democratic fight. A human rights senior activist Sutariya is "totally isolated" for the form of protest he chooses.
Meanwhile, Sutariya has claimed "success" following an announcement by the Gujarat chief minister for setting aside Rs 4.5 crore for paying up sugarcane dues to tribal farmers. He said, "Even if it is 25 per cent of the unpaid dues, this is welcome. We will continue our struggle for full payment to the tribal farmers, who have been left with no option but to commit suicide for failing to pay up dues for the last several years."

JAAG ignores Sutariya, AKSM

Interestingly, Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG), the apex body coordinating farmers' protests in Gujarat, ignored Sutariya's arrest, even as condemning the detention of Lakhan Musafir, fighting against the proposed Statue of Unity and tourism project off Narmada dam, ahead of Gujarat chief minister's visit to Vyara.
JAAG stated "Having turned human rights and democratic norms into rhetoric only, the Government of Gujarat is running scared of people’s voice. There is a new form of suppression of people’s voices which has now been fine tuned by the Gujarat police viz. whenever there is a public programme of the Chief Minister, the police affects detentions, house arrest-like conditions or preventive arrests of non-political grassroots activists and workers till the completion of the CM’s programme."
Pointing out that "no reasons for these are ever given" for such "illegal detentions", JAAG said, "In view of the chief minister’s programme in the area, the police have taken Lakhan Musafir into preventive custody. If the chief minister is so afraid of the people and wants to keep a distance from them, then why have a public programme at all? Do leaders who fear the people have any moral right to remain in public life?"

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