72,000 Tribals Protest Against Statue Of Unity; Burn Tyres, Release Black Balloons & Refuse To Cook Food
Eight years after the proposal, Modi on Wednesday unveiled the Statue Of Unity. The world’s tallest statue at 182-meters built to pay tribute to India’s first Home Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. While the Modi-led government was busy in taking pride and full credit for the statue, 73 tribal villages near the Kevadiya district, the closest district to the statue did not cook food in protest. Others protested by burning tyres and releasing black balloons.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 31, 2018
According to the Hindustan Times, the protesters claimed that many families who got displaced because of the development of the Sardar Sarovar Dam near which the statue did not receive a proper rehabilitation package by the government. They have also alleged that many trees have been cut surrounding Sardar’s statue for at least 3 km causing environmental damage in tribal areas.
Tribal area in danger
According to the NDTV, the local organisations claimed that almost 72,000 tribal families have been affected by the statue project. “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 is among the many protestors who got arrested before they could take out the rally in protest of the inauguration.
Markets were shut in Bharuch, Songadh and Rajpipla districts to protest the Statue of Unity. Many protestors came on the streets with placards written in blood. The opposition parties supported the protest; 17 Congress MLAs and Independent MLA Jignesh Mewani backed it.
An Activist, Raj Vasava who was also taken into custody said, “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.”
Earlier on October 31, Monday, headmen of 22 villages situated near the Sardar Sarovar Dam, on the day of inauguration had written a letter to the PM Modi stating that they would not welcome the PM for the inauguration ceremony, as reported by the Outlook.
The villagers claimed that their protest is because the construction of statue has destructed the environment. They also boycotted the event. “These forests, rivers, waterfalls, land and agriculture supported us for generations. We survived on them. But, everything is being destroyed now, and celebrations are also planned…” said the letter.
No proper rehabilitation
Earlier some 200 families from Kevadiya village were rehabilitated to the nearby Kaba village for the development of the areas surrounding the dam and the statue following which the tribals raised their concerns and started their protest. The villagers claim that they were offered compensation for their land. However, they did not want it as it was their ancestral land which they did not want to leave.
The BJP calls the protest Congress-backed. It says that the statue will help in tourism and would also help in the development. The BJP also claimed that the villagers were happy and the protest was just ‘sponsored’. On the other hand, reacting to it, Congress denied all the accusations.
Ironic that a statue of Sardar Patel is being inaugurated, but every institution he helped build is being smashed. The systematic destruction of India's institutions is nothing short of treason. #StatueOfUnity
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) October 31, 2018
According to The Indian Express, on the day of the Statue of Unity Inauguration Sardar Patel’s extended family was present at the event. When asked about their reaction on the unveiling of the tallest statue that costed more than 3,000 crores, the 91-year-old Sardar’s grandnephew said, that the tribute was long overdue but added that Patel himself would have said no for the statue as he understood the value of money.