In 73 tribal villages, families go without food in protest as PM unveils Statue of Unity
The reason they gave was that many people displaced for development of the Sardar Sarovar Dam had allegedly not been given a proper rehabilitation package.Updated: Nov 01, 2018 00:08 IST
Some burnt tyres, others released black balloons and many protesting tribal families from 73 villages near Kevadiya in Gujarat did not cook on Wednesday as Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the Statue of Unity.
The reason they gave was that many people displaced for development of the Sardar Sarovar Dam had allegedly not been given a proper rehabilitation package. Besides, for development of areas surrounding the statue, about 3 km from the dam, many trees had been cut, causing environmental damage in tribal areas, they claimed.
“A ~3000-crore statue in one of the most backward districts of Gujarat is a farce. We are not against Sardar Patel, but we want schools and hospitals,” said Praful Vasava, a tribal leader who was arrested along with his aides before they could take out a rally to the inauguration ceremony venue.
Villages in Bharuch, Songadh and Rajpipla are reported to have observed a bandh, with markets remaining closed. Some protesters held placards written in blood, criticising Modi and asking him to go back. At least 17 Congress MLAs and independent MLA, Jignesh Mewani, backed the bandh.
“We do not cook while mourning a death in the family. Today is an equivalent day. Though we were provided food at Songadh police station, we did not eat as our community is fasting today,” said Raj Vasava, an activist who was taken into custody.
The tribals have been protesting since at least 200 families from Kevadiya village were recently shifted to Kaba village for development of the areas surrounding the dam and leading up to the statue. “They have offered land in exchange or cash compensation. But nobody wants to leave their ancestral homes,” said Sanjay Tadvi, whose family had to shift out of Kevadiya.
Narmada collector, R Ninama, said, “On paper, land in Kevadiya was taken over in 1992. But some families were shifted out only recently. The cash compensation in the rehabilitation package has been increased to ~7.5 lakh per hectare from ~3.5 lakh, in case the tribals do not want land in exchange.”
The BJP termed the tribal bandh a Congress-sponsored protest. “Development schemes like Vanbandhu Yojana have established a connect between the tribals and the government. The statue will help develop the tourism industry and the local people are happy. The protests are Congress-sponsored,” claimed BJP spokesman, Bharat Pandya.
Congress spokesman, Manish Doshi, alleged, “The BJP, which has failed all communities, has been blaming the Congress for all its setbacks. The fact is be it tribals or patidars, they are unhappy with the BJP.”