This article appeared in the Indian Express on February 28, 2010.
Tribal community comes under police watch
Surat: Satipati community members say all natural resources in the region were ‘gifted’ to them by Queen Victoria before Independence. After Gujarat Police filed a comprehensive FIR against banned CPI (Maoist) for its alleged role in spreading its network in tribal region in South Gujarat, the Satipati community of the region has come under the police scrutiny. The move comes after certain pamphlets were distributed at a function held recently in Tapi district by an organisation — Maowadi Satipati Sangathan — calling upon youths to fight for their rights.
Spread in tribal region of South Gujarat, the community is known to have its own ruler and disregard the Indian Constitution or even the govt structures. The community members who lead a distinct lifestyle claim that the forests, ponds, rivers and their homes were gifted by the Queen Victoria to their leader – Kunwar Keshri Singh of Katasva village before the Independenc.
Sources said there are over 60,000 people in Tapi and Valsad districts who follow Satipati Sangathan. A private meet was organised under Satipati banner for the community members at Rohial Talat village in Kaprada taluka of Valsad district from February 16 to 18. Over 2,500 people from Tapi and Valsad districts participated in the function and pamphlets were distributed over there.
The pamphlets calling youths to join the guerrilla fight were distributed at this event. The pamphlets further invited tribal people working in the police force to leave the duty and join the community force with arms.
Kunwar Ravindra Singh who took over the community leadership after his father’s death was present at the meeting and is active in spreading the community base. The Valsad police are now questioning the event organiser Parag Sahare of Kaprada and questioned him.
Kaprada Sub-Inspector V V Vishpute said, “They (community members of Satipati) don’t believe in the Constitution of India. I called and questioned the organiser Parag Sahare for five hours and found many things which had pointed at the suspicious activities. They follow a different ideology. We also don’t know why they have used 100-rupee stamp paper to publish their pamphlet.”
Talking to The Sunday Express, Surat Range IG A K Singh said, “We are quietly investigating into the private function of Satipati community and also trying to find out more details of it. It is difficult to reveal anything at this juncture.”
Gajju Patel, a Satipati follower at Nana Ponda village in Umargam taluka of Valsad district said, “Central or state government rules don’t bind us. All natural and unnatural resources belong to us as these were gifted by Queen Victoria to us and we have evidences of it through a letter. We don’t pay any taxes and don’t give fare to ST buses as all things are ours. The government officers are our servants. The land on which we grow crops is our own.”