Skip to main content

JAAG rally warns government against forcible acquisition of land in Bhechraji-Mandal special investment region

Rally at Gandhinagar
By Our Representative
The Jamin Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG) -- which on June 18 led a well-attended farmers’ rally starting in North Gujarat’s Bhechraji region, and ending at the state capital Gandhinagar after passing through Sanand town and Ahmedabad city -- has warned the Gujarat government against any attempt to forcibly acquire 50,885 hectares of land in order to set up special investment region (SIR) in the region. In a memorandum submitted to state revenue minister Anandiben Patel, JAAG has said, “Bhechraji-Mandal SIR notification dated May 14 is in our hand. The map of the notification suggests that more than one lakh people of 44 villages of four talukas will be adversely affected because of SIR. We are not going to take it lying down.”
“It is the same area which is waiting for Narmada waters for long”, the memorandum said, adding, “During elections, we were promised this land would be turned into a green belt. However, what we are now being offered is an industrial empire, with resultant pollution. Prospects of better agriculture have been pushed to the backdrop. There was no consultation with the villagers, yet the maps which we have seen suggests that our only means of livelihood, agriculture, would be taken away.”
The government tried unsuccessfully to stall the rally to Gandhinagar. Unprecedented police arrangements were made since the night of June 17. Leaders were made to go from one office to another, one block to another to secure permission for the rally route. Despite all of this, people assembled by 8 am on June 18 and the rally commenced from village Vithlapur village at 8.30 am. There were 500 tractors, 50-60 motorcycles, 10 mini-trucks and 50 four wheelers. On the entire rally route one could hear slogans like “Tell SIR, no Sir”, “Remove SIR, save agriculture”, “The village land belongs to the village, not to the government” and “We will give up our lives, nor our land”. The government also tried to enforce a change in the rally route but seeing the turnout of the people and their anger, they let the rally pass.
The rally converged in Gandhinagar, and well-known activist Raju Purohit, former BJP leader Kanubhai Kalsariya, former Finance Minister Sanat Mehta, academician Y. K. Alagh, Jayesh Patel of Olpad anti-SIR movement, Lalji Desai and Rajni Dave of Bhumiputra addressed it. Noted Gandhians Narayan Desai and Chunibhai Vaidya sent letters of support.
The region in the eye of storm has attracted a star investment of India’s largest passenger car manufacturer Maruti Suzuki India, parking its car plant at village Hansalpur in Mandal taluka. The view is quite strong among local villagers and the NGOs who are leading the action against SIR that the land allotted to Maruti is revenue land on paper but in reality it is the land under cultivation and grazing land accessed by livestock of neighbouring six villages. Clearly, the SIR may affect the pastoralists adversely.
The root of the problem began when the Gujarat government, through a notification dated September 24, 2012, declared the area of 44 villages of Ahmedabad, Surendranagar and Mehsana districts as the Mandal-Behcharaji SIR. The geographical area of this region measures 50884.8362 hectares (approximately 500 sq km) in total. area.
Suspicion among the villagers about the government plan particularly went deep, as SIR notification was issued despite the fact that it is mandatory for the to inform the Gram Panchayats regarding the implications of SIR and Gram Panchayats should respond to this notification within a stipulated time. However, while the Mandal-Becharaji SIR was put on fast-track, neither the Gram Panchayats nor the residents of the 44 villages of this region were informed about SIR.
In April, one of the local NGOs came to know about the notification. The implications of this notification on the area (44 directly affected and other neighbouring villages) were discussed with local community based organisations (CBOs), other NGOs, activists and like-minded individuals. This made it necessary to start local action immediately.
A meeting was held on May 6-7 at Gopnaad village, near Bechraji, to further deliberate on the situation. Representatives of tribals, farmers, pastoralists, fishermen, women, and children among others participated. The NGOs who took a call were Gujarat Sarvodaya Mandal, Janpath, Working Group on Women Land Ownership, Jamin Bachao Andolan, Meethi Virdi Andolan, Olpad Andolan, Gujarat Khedut Samaaj, Bhumi Bachao Andolan, Machimar Sangharsh Samiti, Maldhari Jan Andolan, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Paryavaran Mitra, and Ekta Parishad. The sarpanches and residents of these villages expressed their willingness to fight against the proposed SIR.
A consensus emerged to continue fight for the rights and to hold the government accountable. It was recognized that such a fight would need a bigger platform and a sustained action. Thus emerged a state level coalition – Jamin Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG).
An intense awareness-creation process was undertaken in each village. Meetings were held with communities and the implications of SIR were discussed. Then came the second notification on May 14. The map of SIR was put up in Vithlapur village, at the SIR office. This added fuel to fire. People started realizing the seriousness of the issue.
All 44 villages have been divided into nine clusters (Vanpedi, Hansalpur, Varmor, Nayakpur, Detroj, Vichhan, Sitapur, Vanod and Valevda). On an average each cluster covers five villages. Meetings have been held in all nine clusters and 36 villages started preparations for a broader movement. Gram Samitis (village committees) were established. One after the other village signed resolutions stating their opposition to giving away their land to the SIR.
Milk cooperative societies and ginning cooperative societies passed resolutions opposing SIR. Efforts were on to ensure that similar resolutions were passed by block and district panchayats. There was a general consensus that the resistance was going to be apolitical; support of different political parties would be sought on the issue, but they would not be given any space in the public platform.
Thousands of families signed affidavits against giving away their Landless families and maldharis (pastoralists) also gave affidavit against giving away their pasture lands, which are common property resource on which they depend and survive. The residents of the villages put up white boards with red ink barring government officials or corporate agencies from entering the villages for any work regarding SIR. Anti-SIR slogans were written on the common walls of the village.
===
Watch a video clip of the JAAG rally by clicking HERE

Comments

TRENDING

Girl child education: 20 major states 'score' better than Gujarat, says GoI report

By Rajiv Shah
A Government of India report, released last month, has suggested that “model” Gujarat has failed to make any progress vis-à-vis other states in ensuring that girls continue to remain enrolled after they leave primary schools. The report finds that, in the age group 14-17, Gujarat’s 71% girls are enrolled at the secondary and higher secondary level, which is worse than 20 out of 22 major states for which data have been made available.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad "declared support" to two-nation theory in 1937, followed by Jinnah three years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Hindutva founders, not Congress, were actual 'proponents' of two-nation theory

By Shamsul Islam*
No other organization, in the present world, can beat Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in double-speak. In fact, what George Orwell termed as "doublespeak" would be an understatement in the case of RSS. The latest proof of this nasty case was provided by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah, de facto Prime Minister and senior RSS leader in the Lok Sabha (akin to the House of Commons in England) on December 9, 2019.

Congress 'promises' cancellation of Adani power project: Jharkhand elections

Counterview Desk
Pointing out that people's issues take a backseat in Jharkhand's 2019 assembly elections, the state's civil rights organization, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a coalition of activists and people’s organisations, has said that political parties have largely ignored in their electoral manifestos the need to implement the fifth schedule of the Constitution in a predominantly tribal district.

Hindutva founders 'borrowed' Nazi, fascist idea of one flag, one leader, one ideology

By Shamsul Islam*
With the unleashing of the reign of terror by the RSS/BJP rulers against working-class, peasant organizations, women organizations, student movements, intellectuals, writers, poets and progressive social/political activists, India also witnessed a series of resistance programmes organized by the pro-people cultural organizations in different parts of the country. My address in some of these programmes is reproduced here... 
***  Before sharing my views on the tasks of artists-writers-intellectuals in the times of fascism, let me briefly define fascism and how it is different from totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is political concept, a dictatorship of an individual, family or group which prohibits opposition in any form, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is also described as authoritarianism.
Whereas fascism, while retaining all these repressive characteristics, also believes in god-ordained superiority of race, cultur…

Ex-World Bank chief economist doubts spurt in India's ease of doing business rank

By Rajiv Shah
This is in continuation of my previous blog where I had quoted from a commentary which top economist Prof Kaushik Basu had written in the New York Times (NYT) a little less than a month ago, on November 6, to be exact. He recalled this article through a tweet on November 29, soon after it was made known that India's growth rate had slumped (officially!) to 4.5%.

Ships recycling Bill 'allows' India to be turned into a landfill for foreign hazardous waste

Counterview Desk
In a letter to M Venkaiah Naidu, chairman, Rajya Sabha, senior activist Gopal Krishna of the Toxics Watch Alliance has said that the Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019 should be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change to "safeguard country’s maritime environment from harmful and hazardous wastes and materials".

With RSS around, does India need foreign enemy to undo its democratic-secular fabric?

By Shamsul Islam*
Many well-meaning liberal and secular political analysts are highly perturbed by sectarian policy decisions of RSS/BJP rulers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially after starting his second inning. They are vocal in red-flagging lynching incidents, policies of the Modi government on Kashmir, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the demand for 'Bharat Ratna' to Savarkar who submitted 6-7 mercy petitions to the British masters (getting remission of 40 years out of 50 years' sentence), and the murder of constitutional norms in Goa, Karnataka and now in Maharashtra.

Post-Balakot, danger that events might spiral out of control is 'greater, not less'

By Tapan Bose*
The fear of war in South Asia is increasing. Tensions are escalating between India and Pakistan after the Indian defence minister's announcement in August this year that India may revoke its current commitment to only use nuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack, known as ‘no first use’. According to some experts who are watching the situation the risk of a conflict between the two countries has never been greater since they both tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

Worrying signs in BJP: Modi, Shah begin 'cold-shouldering' Gujarat CM, party chief

By RK Misra*
The political developments in neighbouring Maharashtra where a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government assumed office has had a trickle down effect in Gujarat with both the ruling BJP and the Congress opposition going into revamp mode.