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Farmer leaders detained in "combing operation" ahead of Maruti-Suzuki stone laying ceremony in Gujarat

By Our Representative
Ahead of Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel’s stone-laying ceremony of the Maruti-Suzuki plant at Hansalpur in North Gujarat on Wednesday, the state police swooped on a dozen-odd farmer leaders apprehending that they would stage a protest. While one of them, Laljibhai Desai, was put under house arrest, others were detained. According to sources of the Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG), which a year ago spearheaded an agitation against land acquisition at Hansalpur (click HERE to read), the police told farmer activists that the arrests were “precautionary.”
JAAG sources said, cops approached Desai on Tuesday night at his farmhouse, situated about three kilometers from Hansalpur, telling him that he would have to be detained. “However, when Desai protested and sought reason, the cops became apprehensive, felt it might become a politically sensitive issue. When Desai gave in writing that there was no farmers’ protest, the cops left, only to return early on Wednesday, telling him that he was under house arrest”, said the sources.
“When Desai again protested and said he would go out to attend besna (condolence meeting) of a relative”, the sources said, “The police accompanied him for the time he went out, and returned with him. As for others, they were kept in detention for virtually the whole day, without providing any reason. One of them was picked up from his house, situated about 20 kilometers from Hansalpur, the spot where the car plant has been proposed.”
Previously in JAAG, ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Desai joined the Congress, but even today he is known more as a farmer activist. When contacted, a farmers’ leader, Sagar Rabari of the Gujarat Khedut Samaj leader, who is close to Desai, told Counterview, “This is not for the first time that the cops swooped on suspicion of protest, without citing any reason. There appears to be a clear sense unease in the establishment.”
Giving one example after another, Rabari said, “Every time the chief minister goes to the Narmada dam or the nearly areas, Lakhan Musafir is detained without citing a reason. Musafir is one of the farmer leaders who had led protests against the Gujarat government’s move to construct a weir across the river Narmada and the proposed Statue of Liberty, tallest in the world, in the memory of Sardar Patel, on the ground that farmers’ consent had not been obtained.”
Lalji Desai
In another instance, Rabari said, he was detained on January 8 apprehending a farmers’ protest rally against the Vibrant Gujarat summit. “As many as five police vans, with four senior cops, had come to catch me early in the morning, and without citing a reason I was taken away, though we had planned our protest on January 11 morning, and not on January 8, against the Vibrant Gujarat summit”, he added.
Then, Rabari pointed out, there was the infamous incident in which Indukumar Jani, a veteran Gandhian, was detained along with two other veterans – economist Prof Rohit Shukla and People’s Union for Civil Liberties general secretary Gautam Thaker, on January 11 morning, when they were driving on their way to the proposed farmers’ agitation at Adalaj, about six kilometers from the Vibrant Gujarat summit venue. They were going there as mere observers (click HERE to read).
According to Rabari, “It has become a norm over the last several months not to give any permission to protests in Gujarat under one pretext or the other. If Vibrant Gujarat was the reason why permission was not granted recently, earlier, construction workers were not allowed to protest against the Adani township saying the state assembly session was on, hence there wasn’t enough police force to control the protesters.”
“Even on apprehensions of protests, activists are treated as criminals, picked up without citing reason”, said Rabari, adding, “In fact, one is reminded of the way in which, ahead of religious processions like Rath Yatra, anti-social elements are picked up in combing operations to ensure that there is no disturbance. All this suggests the type of model that Gujarat is seeking to project itself before the country.”

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