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Restricting protests: Gujarat government actions since 2013 'similar to' Taliban diktat

An anti-Taliban protest in Afghanistan
By Rajiv Shah 

Bollywood poet Jawed Akhtar has surely triggered Hornet’s nest. By suggesting that some of RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar’s ways are similar to the Taliban in Afghanistan, he has angered all those have adorned wear the saffron safa, including the Shiv Sena. While the saffron “anger” has been reported well across the media, every effort is also being made to minutely examine every movement, every step of the Taliban. One of them indeed amused me.
The Hindustan Times reported on last Wednesday that the Taliban had “introduced” several 'conditions' to restrict protest in Afghanistan, which, the story predicts, will “raise eyebrows around the world.” In its latest diktat, the Taliban said permission “needs to be taken from the ministry of justice before any protest is organised.” While seeking the permission, the organisers would need to reveal the “purpose, slogans, place, time and all 'other' details of the protest” so that the authorities could take a decision in the matter.
The story came amidst “an increase in the protests against the Taliban in the country”, with “hundreds” taking to streets to “protest against Pakistan's alleged role in the fall of elected government in Afghanistan”. The report said, “Slogans were raised against Pakistani's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)”, adding, protests took place in Faizabad, Kabul, Parwan and Badakhshan province. In one protest, in Balkh province, “a group of women” demanded women's representation in the future government in Afghanistan.
Usually, I don’t share such posts of social media, but this one I did with very restrained comment, stating, I didn’t want to draw a parallel, but it is also a fact that “activists are held/detained” if they seek to protest without permission in Gujarat, home state of the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, pointing out, “In fact, permission is rarely granted.” I insisted, “One hopes the Gujarat government would sound different now and wouldn't like to be compared with the Talibani diktat.”
Though I have a whopping 3,700 plus Facebook friends, as it always happens, the small comment wasn’t taken seriously. Nobody cared to either “like” the comment or react. Meanwhile, a top political scientist Shamsul Islam, who has written several revealing articles in alternate media, including Counterview, shared with me on WhatsApp a “Scroll” story stating that the new Home Minister of Afghanistan is Mullah Hasan Akhund, “who supervised destruction of Buddha statue at Bamiyan in 2001.”
Prof Islam commented, “What a similarity!”, even as the sounding curious, “Do we remember that those RSS-BJP leaders who supervised destruction of Babri mosque at Ayodhya in 1992 became Prime Minister, deputy Prime Minister, Home Minister and Cabinet ministers in India?”
While leaving it to the readers to decide whether to draw a parallel between the destruction of the Buddha statue in Afghanistan and the Babri mosque, I am left to wonder: Shouldn’t one compare the Taliban step to “restrict” protests in Afghanistan with what has been happening in Gujarat ever since the Modi days?
Sagar Rabari
In fact, several reports published in Counterview since 2013 clearly suggest how these restrictions were imposed in Gujarat, which happens to be my home state. Thus, in August 2013 – when Modi was still Gujarat chief minister – two Jamin Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG) leaders, who had launched an agitation against the special investment region (SIR) to be put up on the Mandal-Bhechraji area, where the Maruti-Suzuki project was being planned, were arrested for “violating prohibitory orders by holding a rally on the Independence Day.”
Then, in October 2013, the cops cracked down on activists and villagers around the Narmada dam who were protesting against the state government’s refusal to give any assurance to 70-odd villages that their land would not be acquired for the sake of the tourism project as part of the world’s tallest Statue of Unity being constructed in the downstream of the dam.
Then, just a couple of months before Modi took over as Prime Minister in May 2014, in February 2014, around 100 people under the leadership of JAAG, which included leaders Pradyumansinh Chudasma, Rajbha Chudasma, Indukumar Jani, Sagar Rabari, Lalji Desai, and many others, were detained for organising a protest in which about 1,000 persons from 22 villages, mainly leaders and farmers, to publicly register their opposition to the Dholera special investment region (SIR), reiterating their demand for Narmada water for irrigation.
In January 2015, ahead of Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel’s stone-laying ceremony of the Maruti-Suzuki plant at Hansalpur in North Gujarat, the state police swooped on a dozen-odd farmer leaders, including Laljibhai Desai, who later joined the Congress, apprehending that they would stage a protest.
One of the worst detentions was in January 2015 when three veteran civil rights activists – Gandhian and editor of the periodical “Naya Marg" Indukumar Jani, senior economist Rohit Shukla, and Gautam Thakar, general secretary of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), all in their mid-70s – were detained when they were on their wayto participate in a protest organised against the high profile Vibrant Gujarat Investors' summit in Gandhinagar.
The police ensured that the protest never took place, and told these veterans they were the “brain” behind opposition to the summit; as for the farmers they were likened with “buffaloes” who just followed them!
Lakhan Musafir
In June 2015, in an attempt to suppress dissent, the Gujarat government put under house arrest well-known South Gujarat tribal rights leader Lakhan Musafir, who was leading adivasis' struggle for preserving their land, sought to be acquired for the Statue of Liberty tourism project off Narmada dam. This was the second time has been put under house arrest ahead of Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel's visit to Narmada in less than two months' time.
In October 2015, the Gujarat government imposed prohibitory orders across the entire Ahmedabad district, except for Ahmedabad city. The decision to impose Section 144 in the district’s rural areas came close on the heels of the “permission” sought by the Khedut Samaj Gujarat (KSG), to hold padyatra against the proposed Smart City in Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR), 90 km south of Ahmedabad, along the Gulf of Khambhat.
In September 2016, well-known Dalit rights leader Jignesh Mevani, who became a Congress-backed Independent MLA from Vadgam in the December 2017 Gujarat state assembly polls, was picked up from the airport by the Gujarat police even as Modi arrived in Gandhinagar for his birthday bash. Mevani shot into prominence after he spearheaded protests following the gruesome Una flogging incident of July 11 that year. was "picked up" by the Gujarat police.
In June 2017, activist Lakhan Musafir was detained for three days for organising the Rally for the Valley sponsored by the Narmada Bachao Andolan, dubbing it “anti-national”. In July 2017 Gujarat police detained senior farmer leader Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Samaj Gujarat with some of their colleagues soon after they began a 25-km farmers’ footmarch from Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad to Gandhinagar, the state capital, demanding farm loan waiver.
In a swoop ahead of Modi dedicating the Statue of Unity to the nation, more than 90 activists from around Gujarat were detained in October 2018 by the Narmada district police. The move came amidst a civil society declaration that, as a mark of protest, people of 72 Narmada-dam affected villages have decided not to cook food on October 31. Among those who who were detained were Gandhian activist Nita Mahadev, social activist Mudita Vidrohi, top environmentalist Rohit Prajapati, and anti-Narmada dam campaigner in Narmada Valley Lakhan Musafir.
In October 2019, several Gujarat human rights and tribal activists were detained in across Gujarat ahead of Modi reaching the Kevadia Colony to celebrate one year of the Statue of Unity. These included top environmentalist Rohit Prajapati in Vadodara, Krishankant in Surat, and tribal leaders Dr Praful Vasava from Rajpipla, Shailesh Tadvi from Vagadiya village, Gikubhai Tadvi from Shira village, Nareshbhai Tadvi and Narendrabhai Tadvi from Kevadia village, and Ramkrishna Tadvi from Gora village.
In November 2019, well-known right to information (RTI) activist Pankti Jog wrote in Counterview how visually challenged Ranjanben of Khambhat was “disgracefully” detained after she requested for an appointment with Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani for seeking permission for Janvikas Jumbesh (Campaign for Development). She was compelled to sit in the DySP office and then in a police outpost for at least two-and-a-half hours.
In March 2020 Lakhan Musafir was served a notice 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. It said, Musafir, a Gandhian and a Sarvodayist, "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."

Comments

Uma Sheth said…
I know Lakhanbhai personally. He is a simple, pleasant, and genuine social worker. He would not harm anyone and his whole life is dedicated to the service of the disadvantaged whom he teaches to fight for their rights.

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