The Gujarat government has denied permission to the Jameen Adhikar Andolar Gujarat (JAAG) to hold a farmers’ rally on February 9 at village Sandhila in Dholera special investment region (SIR) to protest against the SIR. Close on the heels of the state government decision, JAAG said in a statement said this signifies “Police Raj in Gujarat, portents of an emergency.” JAAG wants the Dholera SIR status, comprising 22 villages over an area spanning nearly 920 sq km in Gandhinagar district, to be cancelled, claiming farmers do not want it.
According to JAAG, farmers of the region “have been protesting against the Gujarat government’s so-called development project for the last three years to save their very fertile land and also to fulfill long pending promise of Naramada water for irrigation.” This is the reason why “they decided to put up a show of strength and combined protest against a project which spells destruction and death for them, not development.”, it added.
Pointing out that “a large number of villages, which fell under the Narmada command area, have now been de-commanded, depriving them of their dream of farming their lands with irrigated water”, JAAG has said, the protest was organized to “register farmers’ protest against the draconian SIR Act and to demand the cancellation of the Dholera SIR project.”
“The fact that the farmers are opposed to the Gujarat chief minister’s pet Dholera SIR project and that they rather want the Narmada water for irrigating their fields was made known at the public hearing held in Dholera on January 3, 2014”, JAAG said, adding, “Wishing to respect the rule of law and the codes of civil behaviour, the farmers had sought police permission for the same and this has been denied.”
JAAG contended, by denying the permission, the state government has “made an unstated yet implicit admission that Gujarat today faces an undeclared emergency, that the civil and political rights of citizens here remain suspended, and that democracy is no longer alive here”, claiming, “Almost throughout the year, in most parts of Gujarat section 144 remains in force.”
Declaring that it will not cow down by the refusal of permission, JAAG said, “At every public gathering of this kind, the police remains present in huge numbers as if the citizens pose a threat to the nation. Despite denial of permission, the farmers are determined to gather, as declared and announced, on 9thFebruary 2014 at 10 am at village Sandhida. They will gather there and, in a peaceful and non-violent manner, will court arrest.”
Pointing out that the “behaviour of the police under the orders of their political masters is unacceptable and should not to be taken lightly”, JAAG said, “Gujarat has bid adieu to democracy and democratic practices. The Gujarat government, busy in tomtoming its (illusory) record of development to the world, is forcing its own version of ‘development’ down the throats of farmers.”
Pointing towards how permission for protests were denied, JAAG said, “On August 15, 2013, the police cancelled the permission granted for the flag hoisting at the last minute to the protesting villagers in the Mandal-Bechraji SIR area. Then, on October 23, 2013 the permission for the cattle rally from Hansalpur to Gandhinagar was denied to the protesting Maldharis.”
Further, “on January 18, 2014 the cattle rally by the maldharis was stopped by the police, they were beaten with lathis and had cases registered against them. Likewise, the protesting adivasis near the Narmada dam were rounded up just prior to the chief minister’s visit and released only after his appearance in the area was over.”
“Again on December 18, 2013, the police again tried to stop villagers who had gathered to share information about the SIR Act. The people assembled despite several attempts by the police to stop them. And then again on December 28, 2013 the police yet again denied permission to the youths for a motor-cycle rally on the issue of the SIR in Dholera”, JAAG said in the statement signed by its leaders Pradyumansinh Chudasma, Rajbha Chudasma and Sagar Rabari.