Two farmer activists, who have been spearheading the public movement against the proposed Mandal-Becharaji Special Investment Region (MB-SIR), were arrested by the Ahmedabad district police late on Saturday night for allegedly burning a replica of a Maruti car and delivering instigating speech, violating a public notification at Dalod village of the district on August 15.
The two were released on bail by a magisterial court on Sunday. The activists have been identified as Lalji Desai and Sagar Rabari.
Giving in to the widespread protests against the MB-SIR, the state government had recently downsized the MB-SIR project. Initially, the project included 44 villages, but now the number of villages under the project has been reduced to eight.
According to a sub-inspector at Mandal police station,
Jhala said that the notification prohibits assembly of more than three persons without permission, bursting fire crackers in public and delivering instigating speech. Violation of the notification is an offence under Section 188 of the IPC.
According to Jhala, in spite of the notification, these persons held a public function at Dalod village without permission. Also, he added, they burst fire crackers, burnt a replica of a Maruti car and delivered instigating speech. A case has been registered against them.
While two of them have been arrested and released on bail, the rest eight will be arrested soon, police said.
The police action against the activists is being seen as an attempt by the state government to suppress the voice of dissent in the state.
The activists have been opposing the MB-SIR under the banner of Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG). The group had organised a press conference in Ahmedabad on Sunday to protest the police action.
“We had taken permission for a public function at Hansalpur village. However, the permission was cancelled by police late on August 14 and we were intimated about it early on August 15 morning. Authorities had also deployed heavy police bandobast in Hansalpur. So, to avoid any friction, we changed the venue to Dalod village. We don’t think we require permission to hoist the tricolour on August 15,” Lalji Desai said.
Farmers from 44 villages have been protesting the state government’s decision to notify SIR on the grounds that they don’t want to part with their fertile land, since close to 50,880 hectares of fertile land would be diverted for industrial use once the decision comes into force. The farmers’ protest had received support from the RSS-affiliated farmers’ union Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) on June 8, when it passed a resolution against the Gujarat government’s move.