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Young Ambedkarite leader attacked in South Gujarat govt office: Documents on "illegal" mining snatched

By Our Representative
In a gruesome incident, young Ambedkarite social activist, working among South Gujarat tribal farmers, Romel Sutariya, was attacked by unidentified persons in the Tapi district collector’s premises on Feruary 2, injuring him. He had to hospitalized, and his leg was plastered as it suffered a fracture.
The attack took place, Sutariya, 25, said in an email to www.counterview.net, as he was going for a hearing in the district collector’s office regarding illegal sand mining, rampant in the district. “The papers in my possession regarding illegal mining, which we had obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, and on the basis of which were considering to talk to officials, were snatched”, he said.
Leading Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Morcha (AKSM), Sutariya said, this was not “an isolated incident.” Earlier, he and other AKSM activists, who campaigned against the sand mafia, were attacked in separate incidents in Tapi and Chhotaudepur districts. Things went so far as to declare Sutariya a “Naxalite”.
Exactly a year ago, the Gujarat government has imposed curfew under Section 144, prohibiting assembly of more than ten people in Chhotaudepur district for a fortnight. An order, dated January 31, 2015, said that it has been “imposed in order to prevent terrorist activities in Chhotaudepur town and all the talukas of the district”.
Around the same time, Jayram Gamit, an AKSM activist, was mysteriously picked up by cops from Tapi district under the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act (PASA Act) ahead of a major protest the organization were to lead against sand mafia. Sent as far away as Rajkot, he was released two months later.
In yet another incident, seven Adivasis, including three women, of Manekpur village of Bardoli taluka, were brutally attacked in April 2015. All of them were members of the AKSM. Following the attack, the Adivasis had to admitted in hospital. It took place ahead of Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel’s visit to Vyara, Tapi district headquarters, for Gujarat foundation day function on May 1.
The latest attack follows information gathered by Romel Sutariya under RTI about illegal activities sand mining and stone crushing on common village and government land in talukas of Tapi district -- Valod, Vyara and Songadh. Of the total of 62 leases, in as many as 15 cases, “illegal” activities were allowed.
Sutariya termed this as a violation of the Supreme Court direction of 2011, which asks all state governments to “restore” common grazing and government lands -- handed over in the past for activities other than what it they are meant -- to the villages to which they actually belonged.
Strongly taking objection such activities, Sutariya wrote a letter to Gujarat chief secretary GR Aloria, which said that, while AKSM has for long been fighting against the adverse environmental impact on vegetation because of such activities, the latest revelation through an RTI plea clearly suggests a lot of such "illegal" activity has been going on, on government and common village land.
The letter sought the chief secretary’s “immediate intervention” for stopping these illegal activities on not just on government or grazing land, but also on private land, as it is causing “immense harm to the health and agriculture of the tribal farmers.”

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