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Gujarat farmers' leaders arrested ahead of rally to mark high-profile business summit in Gandhinagar

By Our Representative
One day ahead of the high-profile Vibrant Gujarat investors’ summit, the Gujarat government has cracked down on the farmers’ leaders attached a non-political organization, planning to stage a symbolic protest rally in the outskirts of Gandhinagar. Their main demands a sharp increase in the minimum support price for cotton. Cotton prices have become a major cause of contention between the Gujarat government and the farmers, who, according to these leaders, are being forced to sell their price which is Rs 500 less than the input cost per 20 kg.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Sagar Rabari, leader of the Sanyukt Khedut Sangharsh Samiti, the joint action committee of three farmers’ organizations, formed for the organizing the protest rally, said, the “Gujarat government today held two of Saurashtra’s prominent farmer leaders – Shivlalbhai Vekaria and Chandubhai Shingala – along with many other farmers, into preventive detention.”
According to a spot-survey carried out by representative of the farmers’ organizations attached with the Sanyukt Khedut Sangharsh Samiti, as against the minimum support price of Rs 800, fixed by the Government of India for a 20-kg cotton bundle, the farmers are being forced to sell their produce in the open market for just Rs 650 or even less. The survey found that the input cost, on the other hand, for producing the cotton is more than Rs 1,150 (click HERE to read).
The state government, apparently, is not taking any chances on the opening day of the summit, which will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the presence of United Nations secretary-general Ban K-moon, who will be delivering the keynote address. Among others, US secretary of state John Kerry will be present on the occasion, with a likely a defence deal offer with Modi.
Condemning the arrests as “unconstitutional” and “undemocratic”, Rabari said, “Ever since the announcement of the programme of organizing a rally by farmers the central intelligence bureau (IB) and local intelligence bureau (LIB) cops, as also police teams, began constantly tailing leaders of the Sanyukt Khedut Sangharsh Samiti. It was clearly evident that the state government would take all kinds of undemocratic and repressive measures to stop the farmers from carrying out their programme.”
Asking the “democratically-elected government to repose faith in democracy to let the farmers exercise their democratic right to voice their demands”, and “refrain from creating an environment of fear”, it said, apparently, the state government’s intentions appear different. “Rather than listening to the farmers’ agony and distress”, the statement alleged, the state government is “creating an environment of fear and terror, which cannot take the government very far.”
The statement wondered, “If people cannot take their woes to the government, then where will they go?” It added, “The government must come forward to forge a dialogue with the distressed farmers, otherwise the farmers know how to answer even this repression through democratic means.” It characterized the arrests as an “undemocratic, fascist step”.
The statement warned, “The farmers’ movement is not afraid of the repression. This is a farmers’ movement and not of the politicians. Farmers will reach the venue despite their leaders’ arrest”, suggesting, preparations are in full swing to reach the destination, Adalaj, where the rally is to take place, following which the farmers propose to march towards the place where the Vibrant Gujarat summit is being held – Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar.

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