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Does Gujarat govt believe working for tribal land rights is communal mindset?

Lakhan Musafir
By Sagar Rabari* 
Sarvodaya worker Lakhan Musafir has been served a notice by Rajpipla Sub-Divisional Magistrate barring his entry in five Gujarat districts (Narmada, Bharuch, Vadodara, Chhota Udepur and Tapi) for two years. Citing a police report, KD Bhagat, sub-divisional magistrate, Rajpipla in the notice states that:
“… We know Lakhanbhai Megjibhai Musafir very well and he is not into any ‘honest business or profession’ and along with his companions is always involved in anti-social and illegal organizing of people in the Kevadia area against the Statue of Unity and other projects of tourism being undertaken by the Narmada Nigam and is misleading the people into anti-government activity and indulges in anti-government slogan shouting in public, creates obstacles in government’s work and disturbs the law and order of the area.
"If he is stopped in doing so he and his companions into illegal groups and organize violent attacks and they argue and get into altercations with the staff of Narmada Nigam on trivial matters and creates an atmosphere of terror. He displays a communal mindset and often targets the Statue of Unity by getting together antisocial elements, gives refuge to anti-government elements from outside the state and organizes meetings in the neighbouring villages and disturbs the peace of the area….” 
The description is unnecessarily long-winded and verbose, yet a ‘few’ words about Lakhan Musafir’s public engagements and contributions is in place.
  1. He is the one who heard of Vinoba Bhave’s Gauraksha Satyagraha against abettoirs at Deonar (Mumbai) in 1982 and decided to follow Gandhi’s footsteps;
  2. He worked for five months in Vinoba Bhave’s Pavnar ashram (Wardha, Maharashtra) in 1985 and worked in the gaushala there; 
  3. He spent one and a half years with Dr Dwarkadas Joshi (a successful eye specialist in Mumbai, who left his medical practice to join freedom movement, later he settled near Vadnagar, started a TB patient’s care centre there, a noted Gandhian) during his gau-gram padyatra in North Gujarat, Kutch and contributed in the youth camps, organic farming and other rural development initiatives. (This is the same Dr Dwarkadas Joshi who the current Prime Minister and the former Chief Minister of Gujarat had acknowledged as owing his public life to the inspiration provided by Dr Joshi and who presided over the function to felicitate the then CM in a public function in Visnagar soon after the 2002 progrom!) In the language of the ancient gurukuls, Modi and Lakhanbhai are “guru bhai” (student-brothers of the same master). 
  4. From 1986 to 1989 he stayed in Rajpipla on a friend’s farm and practiced organic farming along with helping to build public toilets and bathrooms and bio-gas plants in the neighbouring Adivasi villages. 
  5. From 1989 to 1992 he stayed in Dheduki area of Rajkot district where he continued his engagement on promoting toilet-bathroom construction and organic farming and also initiated educational activities like balwadi and aanganwadi. 
  6. Then again from 1992 to 1998 he remained in Kantindra village of Rajpipla where he continued his focus on organic farming and also organized the production of chemical-free organic jaggery so that farmers may realize a good price and consumers can get chemical-free jaggery. 
  7. From 1998 to 2004 he continued his efforts to promote organic farming and turn farmers towards it. 
  8. 2004 onwards he worked relentlessly to get farmers to start value-addition to their produce in order to augment their incomes and reap the benefit of their hard work. He also worked to get the Adivasi children admitted in the Navodaya Vidyalaya there so that the education level and the prospects of Adivasi children could improve drastically. Alongside, he kept up his engagement with the local farmers so that they could independently work to resolve their local issues. 
  9. 2013 onwards he stood alongside the small Adivasi landowners/farmers in their (yet more state-sponsored) crises – Garudeshwar Wier and Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA). He not only provided legal guidance but also approached the National Green Tribunal and the High Court of Gujarat with petitions. 
In the anti-KADA agitation the then Revenue Minister Anandiben Patel and the then Finance Minister Nitinbhai Patel held meetings with him and ultimately the government canceled its decision to declare an area development authority there.
So, the person who has devoted his entire life to preserving constitutional values and who walked tirelessly in Gandhi’s footsteps, who eschewed the path of “earning money” and dedicated his life to public good and public welfare is today being termed by the police as “not doing any acceptable honest work”!
The first question that arises is: Which article of the Constitution or section or sub-section of which Act empowers the police and bureaucracy to determine what work an individual can/must/will do and whether that work is “acceptable honest work”?
Sought to be externed by Gujarat officialdom, Lakhan Musafir was inspired by Vinoba Bhave’s Gauraksha Satyagraha in 1982, and decided to follow in Gandhi’s footsteps
Does the Gujarat government, which appears made after development and money, believe that ‘earning profit’ is the only acceptable and honest work? If so, then the next question is: Would the state government and the Gujarat police care to share these details with the public of how many RSS pracharaks are there in Gujarat and what ‘acceptable honest work’ are they engaged in?
Sagar Rabari
Another serious charge against Lakhan Musafir in the notice is: He has a communal mindset. Who has accused him so? Without any complaint or law suit to the effect, without any proof or examination, how can the police determine his “communal mindset”? Or is it a case of the world appearing yellow to a jaundiced eye?
If working to save the land of Adivasi farmers, providing guidance to them, organizing rallies, demonstrations, court petitions or sloganeering are akin to “organizing illegal groups and disturbing the public peace” then what would they call all that political parties do?
The government’s pro-corporate mindset is all-too evident from the mega festivals held every other month; yet should it go to such lengths as to endanger individual liberty, fundamental rights and of a social worker? Today it is Lakhanbhai, tomorrow it will be someone else. Or is it that this government that came to power on the back of the slogan of “fear-hunger-corruption free Gujarat” is wanting to keep people like Lakhanbhai out of the areas to safeguard the limitless scope for their unchecked corruption via such mega infrastructure projects?
We will have to speak in one voice that…
  • If Lakhan Musafir is organizing illegal groups then every political/social activist does that;
  • If Lakhan Musafir provokes people, then every political/social activist does that; 
  • If Lakhan Musafir halts developmental works, then every political/social activist does that; 
  • If Lakhan Musafir organizes rallies, demonstrations or files court petitions, then every political/social activist does that. 
Perhaps, taking those that have been left behind in the blind race for ‘development’, becoming the voice of the voiceless, and comforting those that are dispossessed may not be considered “acceptable honest work”, but then we do not want to do such “acceptable honest work”. We want to serve the last person. Those dedicated to Gandhi and Vinoba’s message and life work consider this, and only this, as honest service, as against business or profit. Keep your “acceptable honest work”, let us do our service.
We find true national service in our service of the people not in your “acceptable honest work”. That is our life’s purpose. Even if it is not “acceptable honest work”, we are on the right path, our ends and our means are in tune. Becoming blood-sucking leeches is, in our opinion, not “acceptable honest work”, but then ‘service’ is alien to a mercantile/instrumental mind.
More than “acceptable honest work” Gujarat needs service and ‘servants of people’. People like Ravishankar Maharaj, Babalbhai Mehta, Jugatramkaka and Chunikaka (Chunibhai Viadya). More and more Lakhan Musafirs...
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*President, Khedut Ekta Manch, Gujarat, social activist and writer

Comments

Uma said…
Shri Darbari has rightly said that everything appears yellow to the jaundiced eye.

We know Lakhanbhai personally and we know just how fine a person he is. Humility and simplicity, if personified, could take a few lessons from him. Not only does he do his work without any hope of rewards or returns, he also gets children and youngsters from various schools and colleges to spend time in Ghora, which is near Kevadia, and introduces them to the pains and pleasures of village life in India.

Anyone who thinks ill of him cannot even begin to be good.

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