NAGPUR, Maharashtra — Residents in 72 tribal villages in Gujarat observed a ‘chulha bandh’ (kitchen closed) to protest the inauguration of Sardar Patel’s Statue of Unity by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, anti-displacement activists said.
Many of those protesting have lost lands and fields to the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party’s vanity project that has cost billions of rupees, activists said, adding that 90 protestors have been arrested so far.
Gujarat Dalit Sanghatan president Jentibhai Mekadia, who is coordinating the protest along with several tribal groups, said protests were underway in 40 tribals blocks in 19 tribals districts of Gujarat.
Anti-displacement activist Sulbha Raghunath wrote on her Facebook wall that women activists were threatened and were told that they will be killed and no one would know about it.
“First resolve the issues of tribals then you construct a White House and we won’t be bothered,” Mekadia told HuffPost India.”They (government) acquired land of 17 villages in this area for this statue. Initially, they promised that the local tribals will be given employment in whatever investment that will be made at this place. But every single contract was given to outsiders and not a single tribal has got employment.”
“The tribals have no other way of income apart from the land,” Mekadia added. “When you take their land, you should provide them with something in return. All their demands have been long pending. The government is yet to resolve rehabilitation issues of Sardar Sarovar dam.”
Another activist from Gujarat, Gawbhai Rathod claimed that almost all of Gujarat saw protests against the inauguration of the statue, but the media was not reporting it.
“Not a single tribal participated in the Prime Minister’s program today. The eastern belt of Gujarat is witnessing protests almost everywhere. The mode of protest is different at different places,” Rathod said. “We released 40,000 black balloons when the PM inaugurated the statue but no media showed that.”
“More than 150 protestors have been detained in south Gujarat,” Rathod claimed. “North Gujarat has a bandh and even Junagadh is witnessing a protest. We have no problem with the statue. But the statue is not bigger than life. Over 72 villages are going to be devastated by this statue.”
Rathod also claimed that many activists wrote banners ‘Narendra Modi Go Back’ with their blood.