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Gujarat government cites swine flu, cancels tribal farmers' rally in Vyara

Jayram Gamit (centre),  arrested ahead of AKSM rally in January-end,
released by Gujarat High Court on March 12
By Our Representative
The Gujarat government has cancelled a tribal farmers’ rally, proposed to be led by the Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Morcha (AKSM) for March 20 at Vyara, district headquarters of Tapi district. Imposing section 144, which disallows gathering of more than four persons in a public place except in exceptional circumstances, the reason cited by the state government for cancelling the rally is: The “danger” of swine flu being spread among the proposed rallyists.
The rally was to be taken out against the Shri Ukai Pradesh Khand Udyog Mandli, the powerful cooperative of sugar mills, which AKSM says is controlled by political interests, and has not paid dues worth Rs 90 crore to the tribal farmers against sugarcane sold to them. AKSM termed the non-payment of the dues as a major instance of misappropriation by siphoning off tribal farmers’ money for amassing huge profits.
This was the second time that the state government has decided to cancel AKSM rally. Earlier, it cancelled a similar rally proposed on February 2 at Chhotaudepur, another tribal town in South Gujarat, citing possible terrorist activities (click HERE to read). It imposed prohibitory orders for about a fortnight in order to stop any protest activities.
Worse, the state government arrested one of the popular tribal leaders, Jayram Gamit, under Prevention of Anti-Social Activities (PASA), and kept him under detention in Rajkot for nearly 45 days. The release was allowed a little over a week ago following protests by civil rights leaders and a well-attended rally in Vyara on February 20 protesting the use of PASA to detain Gamit.
Meanwhile, in a statement, AKSM leader Romel Sutariya has said, “Swine flu does not come in the way of the state government organizing different types of fetes for propagating government programmes. How does it come in the way of a rally of tribal farmers, who are protesting against non-payment of their dues?”
The AKSM has written a letter to the district collector, Tapi, for an appointment on March 20, in which it has demanded that the state government should take "complete control" of the sugar cooperative by appointing a liquidator. “We have also demanded that the state government release Rs 200 crore to revive the sugar cooperative and payback the tribal farmers’ dues.
The AKSM has declared that in case the demands are not met, it would “go ahead” with a protest sit-in in front of the district collector’s office in Tapi, courting arrest. “We will be sending a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and begin a fast unto death”, it said.

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