Friday, September 15, 2017

Gujarat farmers' leader writes to Japanese PM Abe on human rights "violations" in state amidst local protests

Dholera SIR farmers on fast
By Our Representative
Even as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe left Ahmedabad after agreeing to fund the Rs 1 lakh crore bullet train and promising huge Japanese investments in the Delhi-Mumbai Investment Region (DMIC), farmers across Gujarat protested against the move, saying the Japanese money would take away their land.
While farmers at some places represented before the district and taluka officials, in the high-profile Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR), to encompass around 900 sq km of area south of Ahmedabad, about 250 farmers' representatives sat on one-day fast in village Bavaliyari. As part of the SIR project, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pet, has proposed a Japanese township around industries and offices.
The demonstrations at most of the places were led by the Khudut Samaj Gujarat (KSG), whose president Jayesh Patel wrote a letter to Abe, saying he would like to "take this opportunity to vent farmers' anger and utmost opposition to the relentless onslaught of ‘developmental projects’ that you and your government are subjecting us and our livelihoods to".
"We wish to apprise you of the fact that there are innumerable ongoing resistances to most of these projects being funded by Japan – the Metro rail, the DMIC, the SIRs, the Expressway, the bullet train etc.", Patel said, insisting, "These are wreaking a deadly impact on the people – rural/urban, farming/non-farm – in short, it is relentless and all-encompassing in its destructive sweep which is why people here are resisting these projects."
Farmers' protest in Kalol
Pointing out that the Government of India in general and the Gujarat government in particular "are hell bent on taking forward these projects at the cost of our livelihood, civil and human rights", Patel said, "The state does its best to suppress our democratic rights; we are not allowed to take out protest marches, organize demonstrations or allowed to submit our memoranda to the authorities."
He added, "Many a times we have been put under 'preventive custody’ whenever a foreign dignitary like you visits our city – Ahmedabad, Gujarat. We can cite examples where people had to approach the Gujarat High Court just to exercise their democratic right, to express their dissent."
Urging him to "ensure that no human rights violations take place" wherever Japanese investments take place, "whether bullet train or DMIC or industrial townships", the letter hoped that he would set up "a mechanism where timely review is carried out" to look into people's concerns, especially their civil and human rights.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra tribals staged protests at Dahanu, Palghar and Talasari tehsils against DMIC, its freight corridor, bullet train and the expressway. Vinod Dumada, an activist with Maharashtra’s Adivasi Ekta Parishad, said, “The local tribal population will lose its land, livelihood to roads and industries. This area might progress with big buildings, malls and factories, but the original resident tribals will be driven out."
In a related development, farmers in Kalol, about 20 kilometres off Gandhinagar, Gujarat capital, stopped the state-sponsored Narmada rath, carried out across the state to create support for Modi's birthday bash, scheduled for September 17 at the Narmada dam to dedicate the "completed" dam to the nation. The farmers were angry over government refusal to allow them to take tractor rally to Gandhinagar to press for their demands.

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