Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani "organizes" rail roko at Ahmedabad railway station to highlight land rights issue

By Our Representative
A day after he was stopped from protesting against the Vibrant Gujarat world business meet – which began in Gandhinagar's Mahatma Mandir on Tuesday – by detaining him for the whole day along with his supporters (click HERE), Gujarat's top Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, with tens of his mainly rural Dalit supporters, reached Ahmedabad railway station to carry out “rail roko” (stop train) agitation.
Mevani was forced to withdraw his much publicized “rail roko” agitation, which was to be held at on October 1 at Maninagar railway station in former state assembly constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he had done this because of security concerns (click HERE).
He was to hold the rail roko in protest against the state government's alleged failure to look into his demand to provide physical possession of the land to the Dalits. Thousands of acres of land had been distributed to rural Dalits across Gujarat only on paper, though the actual possession remained in the hands of the rural ruling groups.
“We hope that the government will positively look into our just and reasonable demands”, he had said, adding, Gujarat home minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja, following talks with him, had “showed his readiness to hold talks regarding the demand”, hence he was “canceling the rail roko.”
Reviving his “rail roko” plan after a gap of three-and-a-half months, Mevani on Wednesday evening stopped Rajdhani Express. While Mevani and some of his supporters climbed up in front of the train's engine, others sat on the rail track to ensure that the train does not move. About 20 of them, including Mevani, were detained by the railway police. A case has been registered against them.
Appreciating the move, senior farmers' activist Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Samaj Gujarat (KSG), who was also detained on Tuesday for seeking to organize anti-Vibrant Gujarat summit protest, justified “rail roko”, saying that Mevani was forced to take the route because “numerous representations to the government” for land distribution to landless, especially Dalits, had failed.
Rabari, making a statement, said, “All democratic means of protest are being stymied by the government. In these circumstances, the landless persons, under the leadership of convener of the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch Jignesh Mevani, reached the Kalupur railway station and carried out rail roko.”
Rabari added, “The consistent disregard of people’s demands has resulted in them losing patience. The Gujarat government ought to pay serious attention to the issues of the farmers and should take concrete steps to hand over possession of the santhni land to the landless people of Gujarat.”
Demanding that the Gujarat government should take back its “anti-farm and anti-farmer amendments” to several progressive laws, such as Land Acquisition Act, 2013, Rabari said, “The consistent and shameless disregard of the demands of the landless people of Gujarat to hand over possession of land to them is now testing the patience of the people.”
Rabari said, “The KSG appeals the government to immediately hand over the possession of the land to the beneficiaries. Also, it appeals to respect people’s democratic right to demonstrate and express grievances, instead of suppressing the dissent voice. ”
”Landless people in Gujarat have not been handed possession of the land which was allotted to them in the last 10 years”, he said, adding, “Hence they have not been able to carry out agriculture operations on it. Their demands are being consistently ignored by the government.”

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