India: 4,500 anti-nuclear farmers walk out of public hearing

Villagers shout slogans after boycotting a public hearing for a proposed nuclear plant, near Bhavnagar, Gujarat, on Tuesday. Photo: AP Photo/Ajit Solanki

Villagers shout slogans after boycotting a public hearing for a proposed nuclear plant, near Bhavnagar, Gujarat, on Tuesday. Photo: AP Photo/Ajit Solanki

[The proposed nuclear power plant is slated to be constructed by Westinghouse Corporation of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, by contract with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India.  To prevent yet another Bhopal and another Chernobyl and Fukishima, farmers whose lands are in the path of the proposed nuclear plant are acting to stop the project, its nuclear poison and its mass displacement. -- Frontlines ed.]

The Times of India, March 5, 2013

RAJKOT: Thousands of farmers walked out from a public hearing in Nana Navagam organized by Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) for the proposed 6000 MW nuclear power plant at Mithi Virdi in Bhavnagar district.  The hearing was held on behalf of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) that will build the plant. The public hearing was held to discuss the environment impact assessment of the proposed plant prepared by Engineers India Limited (EIL).  The nuclear plant is expected to have six light-water reactors. The public hearing was attended by Bhavnagar collector V P Patel along with officials of GPCB and NPCIL.As soon as the NPCIL officials started their project presentation, about 4,500 farmers from around 28 villages started protesting and demanded they be heard first. “When they refused to address our queries first, all the farmers walked out in protest,” a resident of Jasapara village Khengarsinh Gohil said. The farmers said they will not allow the nuclear power plant to come up here in the area.Environment activist Krishnakant said the hearing was conducted in an illegal manner and the issues raised by farmers were not heard. Continue reading

GM Workers in India on Strike: Appeal for Solidarity

Nearly 1,600 workers at the General Motors Halol plant in India have been on strike for the last three weeks.  Workers manufacturing the popular GM Cruze and Aveo vehicles are paid just 47 to 92 cents an hour.  There is no collective contract.  Management is unilaterally demanding a 20 percent increase in daily production goals.  Over 269 auto workers at the GM Halol plant are suffering permanent spinal cord injuries due to constant heavy lifting without ergonomic health and safety standards.  Management is suspending and relocating striking workers while hiring non-union “scabs.”

The workers are striking the GM Halol plant:

General Motors India Pvt. Limited
Halol, District Panchmahal
Gujurat State, India

The strike is being led by the progressive Gujurat Kamdar Mandal union:

Mr. Nihil Mehta, General Secretary
Gujurat Kamdar Mandal
(Affiliated to the Indian Trade Union Congress, ITUC)

The workers are struggling to improve health and safety conditions at the factory and guarantee respect for worker rights.

Strike Demands

  1. Immediately stop the hiring of non-union replacement workers, while well over 1,000 GM Halol workers are on strike.
  2. Stop management’s unilateral across-the-board demand to increase daily production goals by 20 percent.
  3. Improve health and safety conditions, especially adopting adequate ergonomic standards to prevent further spinal cord injuries to the workers.
  4. Immediately cease the suspension and relocation of striking workers.
  5. All overtime premiums must be paid according to Indian law.
  6. The Halol GM workers want to negotiate a collective contract, so that the workers’ voice is heard.
  7. There are 800 regular full-time workers at the Halol plant and 800 temporary workers-who do the exact same jobs, but have no rights and are paid just 47 cents an hour, which is half of what the full-time workers receive.  The union wants the 800 temps to be hired as regular full-time workers, able to join the union and paid fairly. Continue reading

Gujarat, India: Arrest of Dalit leader and wife as ‘Naxalites’ condemned


Srinivas Kurapati was arrested at Ghodasar on 30 May 2010

AHMEDABAD, June 6, 2010

Manas Dasgupta

Several voluntary organisations and “concerned citizens” fighting for human rights have condemned the “indiscriminate” detention of some human right activists and trade union leaders, branding them as “Naxalites.”

“It has become an obsession with the Gujarat government and its police to brand human right activists as Naxalites to stifle the voice of protest by the poor and the downtrodden. The civil society need to stand up against such undemocratic methods of the police to curb dissensions against the government administration,” Mr. Hiren Gandhi, director of “Darshan,” a voluntary organisation, noted human right activist and advocate Girish Patel, and several others said here on Tuesday.

They were particularly protesting against the detention earlier this week of a Dalit leader, Ambubhai Vaghela Srinivas Sattayya Kurapati alias Kishore, who hails from Andhra Pradesh, but has made Gujarat his work place for the last eight years or so, and his young wife, Hansaben. Continue reading

India: Heightened Repression against Opponents of Operation Green Hunt

26 April 2010. A World to Win News Service.

As part of Operation Green Hunt, the Indian government is trying to instil fear among Indians inside and outside the areas where they intend to clear out the Maoists. Progressive forces of a variety of political opinions who have expressed opposition to this operation face threats, intimidation and arrests. Among them is the well-known author and activist Arundhati Roy, who created a major stir with her article “Walking with the Comrades” published online at Dawn.com.

Launched late last year, Operation Green Hunt is an unprecedented military offensive against the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and the masses hungry for radical change who make up the army they lead. This war is being waged in the jungles and forests that are home to the tribal peoples known as Adivasis in central and eastern India (Chhattisgarh, Jharkand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal). For generations the Adivasis have had to fight to maintain use of this land, even though the Indian Constitution supposedly guarantees their rights to it. Laden with mineral resources, the land is coveted by national and international corporate exploiters.

In Dangs, Gujarat, several people have been arrested recently based on information from police in the state of Orissa. Among them was Avinash Kulkarni, a prominent follower of Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy and forest rights activist taken into custody 26 March. He was preparing for a People’s Tribunal, a long-standing method for the basic masses who have no recourse to the legal system to expose government crimes against them. Kulkarni has been charged with “waging war against the state”,  and organising and participating in “unlawful” assemblies of people in Dangs and Surat.

Associates say Kulkarni has been arrested to “create a possibility of dividing” the Adivasi Maha Sabha (AMS) that he leads, an alliance of 40 tribal rights organisations comprising some 30,000 tribal people, part of a robust movement in Gujarat’s tribal areas seeking the implementation of the Forest Rights Act. The police say that Kulkarni was involved in organising a Maoist rebellion in the south of Gujarat. Continue reading

New Attacks on Legal Tribal Rights Movement in Gujarat

Gujarat is in northwestern india

Tehelka, April 24, 2010

DANGS is the smallest and perhaps the most scenic Adivasi district of Gujarat. As you soak in the beauty and breathe the fresh air, Ashish Pawar, a young Adivasi activist acting as a guide, struggles to explain why his “god”, activist Avinash Kulkarni, who has been branded a Maoist by police, was arrested. Fearing a similar fate for himself, he adds, “I don’t even understand what Naxalism or Maoism means.”

In south Gujarat, police arrested at least nine “Maoists” in February and March claiming they received information from the Orissa government that Naxals were preparing for a violent movement in the state. But so far, Gujarat Police have not produced any evidence — except alleged confessions by those arrested — that they were involved in any armed, violent or anti- State activity. Before this, police have not registered any Maoist activity in the region since 1998.

In what appears to be a two-pronged strategy, activists like Kulkarni who are working with tribals to ensure they get ownership of their forest land are dubbed Maoist and arrested. At the same time, tribals are themselves being divided along Hindu vs tribal lines and turned into Hindutva acolytes.

The recent arrests come at a time when the Adivasis of Dangs thought they had learned to deal with the “tyranny” of forest authorities through legal instruments like the Forest Rights Act (FRA). Continue reading

India: Two Weeks of Brutal Attacks on People’s Rights

Campaign for Survival and Dignity - 01 April 2010

Clashes have erupted across the country as the forest authorities and other agencies move to crush those who are trying to uphold democracy, people’s control over resources, and the law. In Gujarat, Assam, UP, and Orissa, people are being falsely arrested, police opening fire and houses being burned (on March 21st, March 30th, March 16th and March 30th respectively).

They have asked for nothing except their legal rights over their resources, and they have been shot at, beaten up, jailed and killed. Is the government’s favorite phrase – the “rule of law” – to mean that the police should act as hired gunmen for the Forest Department and companies?

In Gujarat, Avinash Kulkarni and Bharat Powar are in jail, accused of sedition, conspiring to wage war against the State and membership, support for and funding a terrorist organisation. Kulkarni and Powar are activists of the Dangi Mazdoor Union (DMU), a democratic organisation that for 15 years has engaged in mass struggles for people’s rights. They are members of the Gujarat-wide federation Adivasi Mahasabha (affiliated to the Campaign for Survival and Dignity), which has been engaged in the struggle for the Forest Rights Act and for democratic control over the forests.

But for the Forest Department and those who benefit from their control, the law itself is the problem, so anyone who speaks of the law must be a terrorist. Indeed, the FIR against them does not describe a single incident or criminal offence; it is a rhetorical description of “increasing Naxal activity” in south Gujarat. In normal times it would be thrown out, but today, this is enough to land someone in jail indefinitely. The situation is so outrageous that even the Congress party walked out of the Assembly in protest on March 25th. Continue reading

Gujarat: Maoists Call On Sanipati Youth to Join Armed Struggle

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.”

5500 Gujarati Farmers Detained While Protesting Corporate Land Grab

Gujarati farmer

This article appeared on Prolefeed Dissident.

Farmers protesting Nirma Factory and Limestone Quarry in Mahuva detained; Chunibhai Vaidya, Veteran Gandhian, Kanubhai Kalsaria, MLA and SanatBhai Mehta, ex Finance Minister among those detained

Over five thousand farmers from the Mahuva area in the Bhavnagar district of Gujarat have been detained and prohibited from taking out a peaceful rally protesting the government’s sanction for a Nirma factory and limestone quarry in their area. Chunibhai Vaidya, a veteran Gandhian who founded Gujarat Loksamiti, Kanubhai Kalsaria, MLA of Mahuva, and Sanatbhai Mehta, ex Finance Minister of Gujarat, Ilaben Pathak of AWAG and a senior editor Prakash N Shah are among those detained by the police in this illegal suppression of collective democratic rights.

The farmers were enroute to the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, from where they intended to start a peaceful march to Gandhinagar to submit their petition, signed by 11,111 affected individuals in their own blood, when the buses and other vehicles they were using were stopped by the police. The farmers have been taken to Shahibagh in Ahmedabad and have been detained in police grounds. Several hundred protestors who reached the Sabarmati Ashram directly were also whisked away in police vans and blocked from taking out the march. Continue reading

Dalit Students Protest Manual Scavenging

dalit_pic_071907-c

This article was published on The Times of India, August 13, 2009.

Ahmedabad : A huge number of Dalit students marched through the city roads on Monday. They were protesting against manual scavenging which is still practised in Gujarat. The rally started from Vadaj and ended at Gandhi Ashram, where a public hearing was held. The students, who study in government schools are still being forced to clean toilets in their schools.

Bhagwati Parmar, 13, a resident of Paliyad village in Botad taluka of Bhavnagar said,  “I dropped out of school in 2004 when I was in class III and would go along with my father to dump garbage. But, now I live with my mother after my father died of kidney ailment. We live in utter poor conditions and so I have to go to clean or sweep when someone asks me to do so. I still go to Darbargadh for cleaning work, 2 to 3 times a month and also collect trash from the roads with other girls. For this, I get Rs 5 to Rs 15 with which we buy milk to make tea. It is necessary to make ends meet.”

Gautam Dodiya, 15, who lives in Dhoda village in Umrala taluka of Bhavnagar district said, “I stay with my mother after my father’s death, he was an alcoholic. I studied till class V and then left school because I was asked to clean urinals and toilets there. But, to earn a living I still go once a month to clean soak pit and I get Rs 200.”

Similarly, Bharatkumar Chandubhai, 13, who lives in Aslali village in Matar taluka of Kheda district said,  “I study in a government school in my village. Even I faced the wrath of being a Dalit. I am told to clean up urinals in my school once a week.”

“Manual scavenging is a forced caste-based occupation where more than 1.3 million people in the country are affected by this practice,” said Manjula Pradip trustee of Navsarjan trust.

Dalit children, mainly whose parents are scavengers, are forced to do menial works like cleaning toilets and classrooms and they are also discriminated in schools, she alleged. The students, who took part in the rally accused school authorities of forcing them to clean rubbish.

“Scavenging has been outlawed in the country but it is still practised in a developed state like Gujarat,” said Martin Macwan, a social activist, alleged.