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Leaders "ignoring" tribal, Dalit, other marginal farmers' cause in fight against land acquisition ordinance

Ashok Shrimali with Achyut Yagnik
By Our Representative
A senior activist of Gujarat, Ashok Shrimali, has created a stir in a closed-door Gujarat farmer leaders' consultation in Ahmedabad at Khet Bhawan, next to Gandhi Ashram, saying that tribal, Dalit and other marginalised community farmers' plight was being "summarily ignored" by those seeking to fight against the "retrograde" land acquisition ordinance. Shrimali said, this is happening despite the fact that they know it is these farmers who will suffer the most because of the recent Government of India ordinance, which has done away with social impact assessment and consent clauses.
"This is more true of Gujarat than other states", the senior activist, who is with Setu Centre for Social Action and Knowledge, headed by well-known veteran activist-academic Achyut Yagnik, said. "See how farmers' organizations are taking up the marginalized communities' interests elsewhere. Only recently, in Sundargarh in Odisha, the tribal farmers held a strong agitation blockading Rourkela, which houses the steel plant, after the state government declared its intention to acquire their land for larger urban area."
Shrimali further said, "There are tribal farmers' organizations in Gujarat, who are actually leading a tough fight for their cause. One of them is Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Morcha, led by Romel Sutariya, and another is Adivasi Ekta Parishad led by Ashok Chowdhury. Both are based in South Gujarat. But I don't see any of them here, though they are quite strong in their areas." He added, "Unfortunately, in Gujarat's farmers' fights, only well-to-do farmers' interests are being guarded."
While the senior activist's view was strongly supported by veteran economist Prof Rohit Shukla, called at the consultation as a resource person, it came against the backdrop of Aam Admi Party (AAP) leader and ex-BJP MLA Kanubhai Kalsaria's proposal that farmers across India should celebrate Holi this time by “burning copies of the land acquisition ordinance”. The proposal was immediately accepted as an important step against the Government of India's latest "development" agenda. In all, 50-odd farmer leaders, activists and activists participated at the consultation.
Speaking at the consultation, giving a background of how the ordinance would affect the rural people, farmer leader Sagar Rabari pointing towards the "dangers ahead", saying, “Industrial corridors across India are being thrown open for land acquisition. In Gujarat, according to our calculation, more than 60 per cent of the area would be covered under the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, which would be declared open for land acquisition without people's consent and social impact assessment.”
Aruna Roy

Protest rally in Delhi

Meanwhile, several people's organizations from across India took out what they called a “citizens' march for peace, justice and democracy” in Delhi, “pledging” to struggle against the recent “attack” on Gandhi’s values, even as highlighting how the latest land acquisition ordinance would undermine people's rights. A National Alliance of People's Movement (NAPM) statement, issued after the march, said, it was meant to “remind the present political regime how the actions taken by them in the name of ‘development’ are murdering Gandhi’s ideals of truth, peace, justice and democracy.”
Those who participated included former National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar, and well-known academic and Aam Admi Party leader Yogendra Yadav. The NAPM said, “On one hand, majoritarian politics of hate and intolerance is increasing communal divide in the country, and on the other, the neo-liberal economic agenda and corporate loot are snatching away hard earned laws, rights and precious resources from the people.”
It added, “One after the other, ordinances are being passed without any space for dialogue, debate and dissent, undermining not just Parliament but also the constitutional and democratic spirit of this country.” The march started at the Shaheed Bhagat Singh statue and ended at Rajghat.
Speaking on the occasiion, Aruna Roy said, the real freedom for the poor and the marginalized in this country has been undermined. “On one hand Prime Minister Narendra Modi wears a suit worth Rs 10 lakh, and on the other, there is omission of words ‘socialist’ and ‘secular’ in the Republic Day advertisement.”
Yogendra Yadav said, “The very soul of Gandhi, secularism, is now being attacked and we must resist that.”
Medha Patkar pointed out how Gandhi's dream of an India “where villages and communities would survive and thrive and live together in harmony” was being ignored, adding, instead, "politics of hate and fundamentalism” was being promoted. At the same time, there is “wholesale transfer of land, water, forests and minerals to corporations through a slew of ordinances.”

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