Narmada District, Gujarat: Around 90 activists from around Gujarat are reported to have been arrested by Narmada district police in Rajpipla and other places. A whole Government -the executive, administration, regular police, Reserve Police Force, Home Guards- from across the State has descended on Kevadia for the 31st October ‘tamasha’ being conducted in the name of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
Sardar Patel, who fought for the farmers, the poor, and the nation as a whole, would have been deeply pained at the kind of wanton destruction of natural, human and financial resources seen there. Tens of thousands of trees have been chopped off for road widening, houses pulled down, people summarily thrown out.
But why is the Government that rode such a wave of popularity and a Parliament majority so paranoid? Why does it have to fear a handful of activists while it has deployed its might of thousands of policemen and other security forces? What is the source of its jitters?
The answer is not far to seek. There are a thousand ‘national’ reasons why it is getting sleepless nights. Every institution that it tried to put under its thumb, the Supreme Court, then CBI, now RBI has pushed back for its autonomy.
And, there are a thousand local reasons why it is showing the jitters just before the Statue is inaugurated tomorrow, 31st October ’18.
The first 6 villages acquired for Sardar Sarovar staff colonies were never recognized as project-affected. They are fighting back.
The 19 villages that were, in fact, recognized as Project-affected are fighting because promises made to them again and again were not kept.
The 7 villages that would be affected by Garudeshwar weir are fighting for their rights.
The 28 villages on the right bank of Main Canal, under whose noses the water flows, are not allowed a drop of water for their parched farms in this rain-scarce year have resolved to fight.
And, why have the promises not been kept?
Because these people were believed to be docile, voiceless, ‘uneducated’ Adivasis who could be pushed around. Because Sardar Sarovar funds that should have been used for canal-network completion for thirsty and dying farmers were being quietly diverted to the Prime Minister’s vanity projects such as golf course, 5-Star Hotel, boating lake, Tent City for the rich and mighty. All this in the name of Sardar’s Statue!
The myriad project-affected -those that were displaced, those that were promised rehabilitation, those that were promised water- are all coming together. They are boycotting tomorrow’s programme. Their cooking stoves shall remain cold tomorrow. The Adivasi is in mourning. They understand it is not just their livelihood, lifestyle, life under threat but their culture being destroyed.
That is why all these activists are in Police lock up. When a power-drunk Government sees itself in the mirror it deludes itself into believing that it can survive by rounding up those who speak truth to power. Good Luck to them, and all power to the fighting, struggling daughters and sons of the soil.
Anand Mazgaonkar, Swati Desai, Michael, Ghanshyam Patel, Shaukat Indori, Deepali Ghelani, Kamal Thakar, Daniel M