PM inaugurates Statue of Unity amid boycott by adivasis

While PM Narendra Modi unveiled on the banks of the Narmada river the world’s ‘tallest’ statue of Sardar Patel costing ₹2,989 crore, hundreds of Adivasi homes did not light their hearths to protest

PTI photo
PTI photo
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Nachiketa Desai

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, October 31, unveiled on the bank of the Narmada river the world’s ‘tallest’ bronze statue of Sardar Patel costing ₹2,989 crore, hundreds of Adivasi homes did not light their hearths to protest the wasteful extravaganza when people were facing dire scarcity of food and drinking water.

Hundreds of Adivasi hamlets scattered all across the hilly eastern track of Gujarat from Ambaji in the north on the Rajasthan border to Ahwa of Dangs bordering Maharashtra observed a near total bandh even as ‘guests’ invited by the Gujarat government for the inaugural function witnessed a colourful song and dance event and listen to Narendra Modi lambasting the Congress party for having not paid due respect to Sardar Patel.

The venue, ‘Sadhu Bet’, and the nearby Kevadia colony and the district town of Rajpipla wore the looks of a high security fortress with the deployment of police and para military forces. Over 500 Adivasi village leaders were taken into preventive detention a day before and freed only after the inaugural function got over.

The Statue of Unity as it has been officially named is the world’s tallest statue at 182 metres built in honour of India’s first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The statue stands on Sadhu island on the Narmada is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty in the US.

The 28 villages on the right bank of Main Canal, under whose noses the water flows, are not allowed a drop of water for their parched farms in this rain-scarce year

Various social activist groups, including the Narmada Bachao Andolan, in a protest memorandum to the Gujarat government have condemned the arrest of Adivasi leaders. “Sardar Patel, who fought for the farmers, the poor, and the nation as a whole, would have been deeply pained at the kind of wanton destruction of natural, human and financial resources seen here. Tens of thousands of trees have been chopped off for road widening, houses pulled down, people summarily thrown out,” to set up the Statue of Unity complex which houses a park, a museum and tourist resorts,” the activists said.

Justifying the protest by the Adivasis, the activists pointed out that none of the villages acquired by the government for setting up of the Sardar Sarovar project and the Statue of Unity complex have not got benefits promised to them by the government.

The first 6 villages acquired for Sardar Sarovar staff colonies were never recognised as project-affected and so denied compensation. The 19 villages that were, in fact, recognised as Project-affected are fighting because promises made to them again and again were not kept.

The 28 villages on the right bank of Main Canal, under whose noses the water flows, are not allowed a drop of water for their parched farms in this rain-scarce year.

“The government has denied the Adivasis their due because they are believed to be docile, voiceless, 'uneducated' who could be pushed around. Sardar Sarovar funds that should have been used for canal-network completion for thirsty and dying farmers were being diverted to the Prime Minister's vanity projects such as golf course, 5-Star Hotel, boating lake, Tent City for the rich and mighty,” the activists said.

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