Thursday, June 11, 2015

Another attempt to "suppress" non-political dissent in Gujarat: Lakhan Musafir put on house arrest off Narmada

At Indravarna village, off Narmada river, a "prototype"
to acquire tribal farmers' land
By Our Representative
In a fresh attempt to "suppress" dissent, the Gujarat government has put under house arrest well-known South Gujarat activist Lakhan Musafir, who is leading adivasis' struggle for preserving their land, sought to be acquired for the Statue of Liberty project off Narmada dam. This is the second time has been put under house arrest ahead of Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel's visit to Narmada in less than two months' time.
Work for the statue, which is proposed to be of 182 metres, highest in the world, has begun on Sadhu Bet, an island situated 3.2 kilometres from the Narmada dam. The project includes developing the whole area, which includes land belonging to tens of villages, as a tourism spot along the river Narmada, and is slated to cost at least Rs 3,000 crore.
The house arrest of Musafir has happened in about a week after the district court in Vyara sharply criticized the state government for "illegally" arresting of young tribal farmer activist of South Gujarat, Romel Sutariya, on the apprehensions of creating law and order problem ahead of Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel for Gujarat Day celebrations on May 1.
Similar arrests and detentions have been happening all over Gujarat recently. In February this year, another tribal farmer activist Jayram Gamit was arrested and kept behind bars for several weeks under the Prevention of Anti-Social Act (PASA) for proposing to organize a tribal farmers' rally in protest against sand mafia seeking to destroy the alluvial destroy. The rally was banned, declaring there was a "terrorist plot".
In January 2015, veteran Gandhian Indukumar Jani, one of the senior-most economists, Prof Rohit Shukla, and Gautam Thaker, general secretary, People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), were detained for the whole day in Ahmedabad.They were going about 20 km away to participate in a farmers' rally, called to protest against the Vibrant Gujarat business summit (January 11-12).
In a strongly-worded protest letter to the state authorities against such arrests, as also the latest move to put Musafir under house arrest, Gujarat Khedut Samaj leader Sagar Rabari, Gujarat Social Watch's Mahesh Pandya, and PUCL's Gautam Thaker have said this is part of the harassment meted out to Gujarat activists "by the police on a regular basis".
Pointing out that "whenever the Chief Minister plans to visit the area, they are detained or kept under house arrest", the letter said, earlier, on April 25, 2015 the police had "resorted to detentions, house arrest-like conditions or preventive arrests of non-political grassroots activists and workers in the area in view of the CM’s programme and visit to the area."
The letter said, "It was the fifth or sixth such detention of activists. No reasons were given for the ‘arrests’. Yet again, today, June 11, 2015, the police has done the same thing with the same people. In view of the CM’s programme in the area, the police have put Musafir, the leader of the successful movement of the people of the area, under house arrest."
"If the police is taking them into custody to safeguard them from any threats, then the police should let them know who is a threat to their life and security. No explanations or clarifications are ever given", the letter insisted, adding, "This modus operandi to thwart dissent is not acceptable to us. In a democracy, every citizen has a right to express his/her dissent."
"How can the administration snatch away this right from the people?", the letter asks, adding, "We do not know under whose instructions they are doing so." It asks the district collector to take "prompt action" against those responsible for this violation of democratic rights.

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