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Preparing to protest land acquisition for Maruti Suzuki, maldharis of Mandal-Becharaji SIR lathicharged

By Our Representative
The cattle rearing population of Hansalpur village and surnding areas of North Gujarat region, where the state government has handed over 699 acres of land to the Maruti-Suzuki Ltd to set up a new auto manufacturing unit, was restrained from taking out a protest rally from Hansalpur to state capital Gandhinagar. A statement issued by Jamin Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG) said, when at around 10.00 am, with 500 cows, the maldharis were about to begin their march, “the police resorted to unprovoked and sudden lathicharge”.
“The cows were unsettled with this sudden blow of lathis and they started running helter-skelter. Taking advantage of this, the police intensified the blows. The people were taken into custody and driven to Viramgam police station”, the JAAG statement, signed by Lalji Desai and Sagar Rabari, reads, adding, “The maldharis who were in custody and who had received lathi blows demanded medical checkup but the police refused to allow even that, rather they resorted to even more efforts to suppress them.”
The statement said, “The police, bowing to its political masters, resorted to severe lathicharge. They took around 62 persons into custody and registered cases under sections 143, 188, 289, 336 and more.” It wondered, “Do people need police permission to voice their issues, dissent, opinion? If police permission is inevitable for voicing of dissent and the police adamantly refuses permission, how are people to register their protest?”
Alleging oppression, JAAG said, it will remain “steadfast” till “democracy in the real sense is restored in Gujarat”, and two “anti-farmer” laws -- the Special Investment Region (SIR) Act, 2009 is abolished and the Gujarat Irrigation and Drainage Act, 2013 -- are abolished. Demanding that “the police officers responsible for this reprehensible act are suspended with immediate effect”, JAAG asked for the institution of “judicial inquiry into this incident”.
This was the first major attempt of JAAG to protest following its victory in forcing the state government to downsize the Mandal-Becharaji SIR from 44 villages to just eight in August 2013. Maruti Suzuki’s proposed plant is to take shape in the newly constituted SIR. While rich farmers in the squeezed SIR have reportedly gained because of a higher land price, the poor farmers, who depend solely on land for livelihood, are starting to feel the pinch.
The land given to Maruti Suzuki was handed over to Maldharis, Dalits and Thakores of the village who were landless way back in mid-1950s. Said JAAG, “The land was given away by the government to Maruti Suzuki Co without taking the affected families into confidence or initiating any talks with them.”
Worse, JAAG added, “The village wasteland was been given away to Maruti Suzuki, leaving very little grazing land for the maldharis of the village, raising a serious issue of their livelihood and sustenance. Cattle-rearing was rendered extremely difficult. Hence, under the leadership of JAAG and Azad Vikas Sangathan, maldharis decided to undertake a cattle rally from village Hansalpur to Gandhinagar.”
“The police, bowing to the political masters, denied permission for the rally. The district collector, Mehsana, was given a resolution and demands, and he assured the people of positive outcome and demanded some time”, JAAG said, adding, “With no solution in sight, the maldharis chalked out their own programme for cattle march. The police simply refused to take the letter seeking permission for the cattle march. Since early morning on January 19, heavy police deployment was seen on all approach roads to Hansalpur and in the village.”

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