Villagers, activists detained during Modi's programme

Bharuch (Gujarat), Oct 31 : Hundreds of villagers and activists claimed they were placed under house arrest and warned against "speaking up" while Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and senior BJP leader L.K. Advani laid the foundation stone for a gigantic statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in south Gujarat Thursday.

The activists, under the banner of 'Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti' are fighting to save 70 villages in and around the vicinity of the proposed 182-metre-tall statue coming up in Kevadia, near the Sardar Sarovar Dam, in the state's Narmada district.

The villages, with a total population of around 70,000, are protesting the state government's forcible takeover and participation in a tourism development programme.

The villagers said they want to save their lives, animals, forests, lands and river for which they have been struggling against the state government which, they claimed, was attempting to take over these villages for the developmental plans.

"Since last night, police cracked down on the activists and villagers, denied us our right to freedom of expression and prohibited our movements to ensure that Modi's function goes off uninterrupted," said an activist Trupti Shah.

She said that in a post-midnight swoop, police entered over two dozen villages and warned the villagers against "speaking up" when the chief minister is around or threatened to throw them in jail.

Shah, and three other activists Rohit Prajapati, Amrish Brahmbhatta and Sudhir Biniwale were placed under house arrest by the Rajpipla police since Wednesday, before they reached the protest venue.

"We were trailed by police from Devalia Chokhadi when we were enroute from Vadodara to Rajpipla. At Rajpipla, we were detained and nobody told us anything about the charges against us," Shah said.

Similarly, scores of 'Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti' activists, villagers and tribals were being dragged out of their homes and detained by police without assigning any reasons in an attempt to create terror, she alleged.

Shah said the activists and villagers had announced a symbolic protest in their homes in the form of a day's hunger strike, but even that was not allowed as the state administration wanted to "clear the scene" for the CM's function for the world's largest statue coming up in Kevadia.

"The State of Unity comes at what cost and whose cost? Would Sardar Patel in whose image Narendra Modi is trying to sell himself would have approved of these high-handed and undemocratic actions," asked Prajapati.

--IANS (Posted on 31-10-2013)

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