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Gujarat activists finally "condemn" arrest of tribal farmer leader under PASA after a lapse of over 10 days

Jayram Gamit (right) with his colleagues at a tribal rally
By Our Representative
After the lapse of 10 days of the arrest of Jayram Gamit, Gujarat's tribal farmer activist, under the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities (PASA) Act, from the South Gujarat district of Tapi, two dozen Gujarat activists finally decided, at a meeting in Ahmedabad, to “condemned” the arrest, calling it “unconstitutional and illegal”. The arrest was made in late January, ahead of the planned protest and sit-in by the Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Manch (AKSM) on February 2 in the neighbouring Chhotaudepgur district against indiscriminate sand mining in the area.
The decision to condemn the arrest was taken following several of the participating activists at the meeting at Khet Bhawan said that the AKSM's concern was “not theirs” and they “did not agree with the ideology and method” of the AKSM, which was trying to “radicalise the tribal farmers” in South Gujarat..
“The issue turned into a hot discussion, after one of the activists, Ashok Shrimali of Setu Centre for Social Knowledge and Action, insisted that the meeting must issue a statement condemning the arrest. While a few of them, including Rohit Prajapati of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, a top environmentalist, supported Shrimali, some others said they were unclear about Gamit's antecedents”, a participant said.
“They even cited the suspicion raised by the Gujarat government over Naxalite activities by him and his colleague, Romel Sutariya among South Gujarat tribals”, the participant pointed out, adding, “The reference apparently was to a Gujarat government order dated January 31 which barred all rallies and protests in Chhotaudepur district, saying a curfew had been imposed in the all the blocks of the district in anticipation of “possible terrorist activities”.
The statement said, quoting unidentified sources, “Some are reportedly illegally detained in the area. By this act Government of Gujarat is trying to terrorise the people in general. The Government of India and Government of Gujarat are speedily traveling from misuse of Section 144 to misuse of Sections 68 and 69 to unconstitutional arrests under PASA. We strongly condemn this act of suppression of freedom of expression and demand the immediate release of Gamit.”
The “consensus statement”, which did not seek to even recall the Gujarat government order deciding to impose curfew in Chhotaudepur on the basis of claimed terrorist activities in Chhotaudepur, was signed, among others, by activists Ashok Shrimali, Anand Mazgaonkar, Jeevika Shiv, Sejal Dave, Pankti Jog, Rohit Prajapati, Swati Desai and Michael Mazgaonkar, journalist Tanushree Ganguly, Gandhian Indukumar Jani, farmers' leaders Sagar Rabari, Persis Ginwala and Lalji Desai, among others.
The meeting was called to discuss a strategy against the “anti-farmer” land acquisition ordinance, where it was decided to celebrate the Holi this season by burning its copies in Gujarat's villages. A press communique on the ordinance said, “The provisions of this Ordinance are certain to imperil the lives of people. Various national organizations are active on this and are planning to organize protests around this”, and Gujarat farmers should also follow suit.
The meeting challed chalked down plans “to issue a notice to the mamlatdar/ collector warning the Central government that anti-farmer ordinance and policies/ steps that endanger the food security of the nation will not be tolerated, and should not be passed in parliament on the strength of brute majority, else the farmers and other citizens will be forced to adopt a more aggressive stance.”
In a separate statement, three Odisha activists Deme Oraon, Letha Tirkey and Pranab Doley called Gamit's arrest as nothing but an act of “utmost contempt” by the state government. “The strangulating of adivasi and marginalised voices has become the norm and we demand that this be reverted as citizens of a free country. Adivasis are being treated like colonial subjects with utter disregard”, they said.
“We here in Sundergarh (Odisha) a fifth schedule district is going through similar fate, with widespread arrest and detention of adivasis”, the statement said, adding, “The peoples' movement under Sundergarh Adiwasi Mulwasi Bachao Manch has been protesting against the unconstitutional conversion of schedule areas into corporation areas and forceful acquisition of adivasi land by the Rourkela steel plant.”
The protests it listed included road blockades, press conferences and public meetings to ask the state government to immediately repeal the notification for acquiring scheduled area land for the Rourkela Municipal Corporation in the district, and call for an indefinite economic blockade starting on January 20. Ahead of the protests, 15 leaders were picked up by police, and on the protest day, the tribals were “mercilessly lathicharged.”

Comments

An Activist said…
Following your report, participants at the meeting received the following email, accusing www.counterview.net of deliberate misrerporting:
"Dear Romel and all,
We have seen your mail of February 10 to Persis and have noted the contents. We regret this mischievious reporting by Rajiv Shah since what has been reported by him in his Counterview report (http://www.counterview.net/2015/02/gujarat-activists-finally-condemn.html) is selective, and second-hand, reporting. He himself was not present to know what was discussed and in what context.
We agree that "this is not the time to discuss our internal difference of ideology or strategy but to act together to challenge the mighty state and its violation of civil rights."
Sagar wanted to attend your meeting held at JSM office but could not since he saw the mail rather late. However he mailed you and expressed his solidarity. Our basics are very clear; whatever the working/functioning styles or strategies may be, violation of rights must be opposed and on that we stand together."
Any comments?
Pankti Jog said…
"Counter-view" has always been a platform to voice the issues, and civil society's stand regarding "Anti-poor" policies and Anti-constitutional" policies of Government, be it Gujarat or National.
I think there is some serious mis-understanding regarding the discussion held other day at Khetbhavan meeting, and what it was perceived.
It was first agenda of that day, where all unanimously condemn the act of the state against Mr. Gamit, and it was decided that the statement will be issued. As time was less, when the issue was against raised by few who joined later, it was explained to them, that the statement will be issued.
There may be difference of opinion between any of activists, but i think there is (was) no question or debate between the group regarding "whether voice to be raised against it or not". If you see people participated in the meeting, there cannot be question regarding their stand on any such incidence.
I personally admire the contribution of Counterview in supporting movements, and people's issues and apologies for all this.
It is high time, that citizens and org fighting for civil liberty, Human Rights, various movement converge and i am sure counterview understands it as "need of hour" and will continue to play its vital role as always.
Once again regret for mis-communication and mis-understanding.
Sagar Rabari said…
Counterview is of great help but some time it creates some misunderstanding due to lack of first hand information. Earlier during report of detention, something like this "farmers' minds are like buffalo ......." was reported, before that, during MBSIR movement, it was reported like "there division in movement"...... such report harms the cause and the movements too.
Editor said…
The "buffalo" reference is made by Gujarat police, not www.counterview.net. It is under quotes. Please read carefully the relevant paragraph in http://www.counterview.net/2015/01/senior-gandhian-two-others-detained-in.html.

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