Adivasis and Slum Dwellers oppose builder-police nexus to claim land rights in Mumbai

19th April 2015, Mumbai : In yet another attempt to snatch away Adivasi and poor people’s land in the name of SRA in Malad East Kokani Pada, powerful builder lobby is misusing police force and surveys to forcibly evacuate the  adivasis who have been staying on the land for generations. If that was not enough, the police is also using brute force and unjust means to openly beat and abuse activists and crush peaceful protests of the people, denying the right to demand land and housing rights.

Maruti Janu Boye owns five acres and 39 guntas at Survey No 280 at Kokani Pada. Builder of Omkar Developers has eyes on this land. Threats and potential use of violence through goons are being used for frighten the adivasis. Despite the threats, a resistance to this exploitation is going on by the Adivasi Punarvasan Andolan. According to Avinash Harishchadra Patil who is leading the movement, police are not taking cognizance of their request to file an FIR under SC /ST atrocities.

On 10th April, with the demand to file criminal complaint against the builder, around 200-250 adivasis sat on a peaceful dharna under the leadership of Bhau Bhuskute at Karur Police Statio. Instead of acting against the corrupt builder, the police manhandled the protesters. Police inspector Anil Pawar and Sanjay Sawant physically abused Bhuskute and Patil. Though people tried saving Bhuskuta, police used force to disperse them and closed the gate, continuing the brutal physical assault of 90 years old activist.  Although no fracture was found in Bhau Bhuskute’s body, he was severely injured and said “Police know how to beat and yet no scar will be seen”.  Attached is the photo which shows how Bhuskute was abused.

It is tragic, to say the least, that Bhau Bhuskute, an expert on land laws and author of many books on the subject and a guide to many people’s movements was meted out this treatment. His father, late Vinayak Rao Bhuskute was also a well known activist who fought for the Mulshi Dam displaced, even amidst the freedom movement. Bhau Bhuskute who is known for principles and working for the interests of adivasis and the working class has spent his whole life fighting for justice and yet, he faced such gross injustice at the hands of police machinery. What is even more condemnable is that the police officials involved in this heinous act did not care about his old age. We are outraged at this behaviour to beat a senior activist who was demanding justice by peaceful ways. This event is against humanity and also against people’s right to ask questions or dissent.

National Alliance of People’s Movements strongly condemns this event and demands suspension of police officials who abused Bhuskute. There must be a serious and immediate check on growing instances of police impunity and misuse of power by the officials, be it the case of abusing peaceful activists and people or the extreme cases of extra-judicial killings and fake encounters. We express our solidarity with Bhau Bhuskute and with Adivasi Punarvasan Andolan and wholeheartedly support their struggle for land and housing rights. We demand that criminal case against the said builder be immediately filed under the SC/ST atrocities and the constitutional rights of adivasis and poor be ensured.

इसके पहले यानि कल की खबर…

Adivasi families forced to live in ‘Open Air Prison’ due to construction of “Shreshtha Bharat Bhavan” as part of the Statue of Unity Project in Gujarat

Matter in the National Green Tribunal (Western Zone) for blatant violations of the EIA Notification, Wetland Rules and other relevant laws

18th April, New Delhi: Since 31 October 2013, at the time of the laying of the Foundational Stone of the Statue of Unity Project, several important important questions about the environmental & social impact of the project on the area and thousands of tribals’ life and livelihood have been raised. Ignoring these questions, the authorities have  gone ahead with the project and gave work order on 27 October 2014 to start the constructing for the project to the Larsen & Toubro Limited.  Further, the Government and associated authorities have gone to great lengths to evade public transparency and crush the people’s democratic opposition to the impugned project. In March 2015 fencing was constructed around the homes of 6 Tribal Families comprising 70 people who live near the site of the proposed “Shreshtha Bharat Bhavan”. Police force stands guard 24 X 7 outside the newly raised gate which the people have to pass through to access their homes and land—they feel as if they live in a veritable “Open Air Prison”. The terrorisation of the people continued on until 28th March 2015 when six peacefully protesting villagers and their three children were illegally arrested and held without proper food and facilities.

A group of concerned citizens (1) Trupti Shah, (2) Girishbhai Patel, (3) Krishnakant, (4) Mahesh Pandya, (5) Ghanshyam Shah, (6) Chinu Srinivasan, (7) Persis Ginwalla, (8) Rohit Prajapati, (9) Saroop Dhruv, and (10) Rajnibhai Dave have filed a case – Application No. (WZ) (Trupti Shah & Ors V/s Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel R.E.T. & Ors.) – against the “Statue of Unity Project” on 23 March 2015 in National Green Tribunal (Western Zone) Pune Bench asking for an immediate halt to all work on the “Statue of Unity Project” at the Kevadia Village of Narmada District, Gujarat. Senior human rights lawyer who practices in the High Court of Mumbai, Gujarat and the Supreme Court of India, Mr. Mihir Desai, Ms. Lara Jesani who practice in the High Court of Mumbai, National Green Tribunal and Mr. Asim Sarode who practice in National Green Tribunal, Pune comprise the legal council for the case.

The first hearing took place at Pune on 9 April 2015 and notice was issued to the (1) The Chairman, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust (SVPRET), (2) The Chairman & Managing Director, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd., (3) The Chief Secretary, Government of Gujarat, (4) The Member Secretary, State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority, (5) The Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, & (6) The Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director, Larsen & Toubro Limited and application was fixed for hearing on 16 April 2015. On 16 April 2015 the Government of Gujarat asked for time to file their reply and court granted 8 May 2015 for the next hearing.

The main demands of the application are:

a.    Pass orders staying any and / or ongoing work with respect to the ‘Statue of Unity Project’, or any component thereof in the Narmada District, Gujarat.
b.    Direct the Respondents to take adequate and necessary measures to ensure stoppage of any further work in the ‘Statue of Unity Project’, or any component thereof.
c.    Direct the Respondents to initiate legal action under Sections 15 and 16 of the Environmental (Protection) Act 1986 against the concerned individuals and companies that have started work or given permission for work of ‘Statue of Unity Project’, or any component thereof.
d.    Direct the Respondents to initiate legal action under Section 17 of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 against the concerned officers who have failed to ensure complete compliance of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 before allowing commencement of the work in respect of Statue of Unity Project.
e.    Pending the hearing and final disposal of this application to restrain the Respondents from carrying out any further work in respect of Statue of Unity Project, or any component thereof.
f.     Direct the Respondent No. 1 and 2 to take all necessary steps for restitution of the project area to its status quo ante.
g.      Pass such other or further order / orders as this Honourable Court may deem fit and proper in the interests of justice.

The Statue of Unity Project, as is abundantly clear from the official website (, is not simply the construction of a “mute monument”. It is an elaborate Tourism Project which includes its principal component, a 182 meter-tall iron statue of Shri Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel built over a project area of more than 120,000 sq.mtrs. surrounded by a man-made lake (reservoir called Garudeshwar Weir); a bridge connecting the statute to the mainland; improved roadway between the Statue and Kevadia village; parking and transport site; and hotel and Convention Centre (Shreshtha Bharat Bhawan). These project components are proposed to be constructed as part of Phase I of the Statue of Unity Project.

Phase II of the Project will include the development of banks of River Narmada up to the Bharuch District; development of road, rail and tourist infrastructure; schools, colleges and universities for tribal development; education Research Centre and Knowledge City; tourism corridor from Garudeshwar to Bhadbhut; and clean technology research park and agriculture training centre. These are also part of the composite Statue of Unity Project, although the project area of the same has not yet been revealed to the general public.

The Environmental Clearance required under the Environment Impact Assessment (hereafter EIA) Notification of September, 2006, has not been sought for any component of this elaborate project. This is despite the fact that the Statue of Shri Sardar Patel which is the principal component of the Project is to be constructed 3.2 kms. from the Sardar Sarovar Dam and adjacent to the Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary, the boundary of which touches the Sardar Sarovar Reservoir and on the right of Statue the Nana Thavadia Village is part of Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary. The Project will involve extensive construction work in an active riverbed of a perennial river, River Narmada, and also is likely to fall within a critical wetlands area as and when the same is to be notified under the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010.”The construction of the Project and tourism and other human activities after the completion of the Project is bound to have adverse effects on the downstream river, its biodiversity, and the surrounding wetlands all of which has been ignored by the respondent authorities.   It is also pertinent that for the World’s Tallest Statue, the Respondent Authorities have not even engaged in a Social and Environment Impact Assessment which would shed light on the impact of the project and the resultant influx of migrant labourers and tourists on the livelihoods of the indigenous people who have been residing downstream from the project for generations.  The safety and disaster management component of the project has also been casually dealt with, which is particularly shocking seeing as how, the construction for the Project is on an active tectonic plate in a fault line area which is already burdened with the load of the Sardar Sarovar Dam and its massive reservoir!

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