The flaw in all this is, as a Union Home Minister, Patel also displayed a right-wing, but non-communal nationalism, and he was to ban the RSS immediately after the murder of Gandhi by Nathuram Godse, an RSS member who had dropped his membership not out of principled change of heart, but because he did not want to get the RSS involved directly in his activities.
Nonetheless, as we show above, when the BJP is seeking to win over the centre-right support base from the Congress, appropriating Patel is a sound tactical effort.
And so, Narendra Modi has been involved over the past three years in having built, near the Sardar Sarovar Dam, a massive statue of Patel. There will be a 597 feet high statue, which is to be far bigger than the Statue of Liberty. The proposal is for a project involving a bridge connecting the statue on Sadhu island to the bank of the Narmada river, a memorial, visitor centre buildings, a memorial garden, a hotel, a convention centre, an amusement park, research centres and institutes. The total cost is currently estimated to be Rs 2500 crores (US $ 406.5 million). To understand the meaning of this figure we will cite just a couple more figures – Gujarat’s budget for 2013-14 shows a revenue surplus of Rs 4602 crores, while the allocation for labour and employment is Rs. 841 crores.
The problem with all this all-India, possibly global drum beating of Modi, where he is virtually seeking to put up his own statue under the shadow of the Sardar, is the opposition by locals. Villagers of Kevadia and a number of other nearby places were bitterly opposed to all this. Activists of Radical Socialist, trade unionists, environmental activists, and local people, have pointed out that the Kevadia Area Development Authority, a body under the government of Gujarat, had clearly projected plans to turn the place into a tourist spot. In order to do so, Sarpanches of 52 villages got letters from the KADA that they should agree to hand over their villages for tourism purpose or else face consequences.
This is an area where six villages had been compelled to hand over their land back in the early 1960s for the Sardar Sarovar Dam, to build the Staff Colony, Government Offices and Guest House. Only recently, a few days back, Modi agreed to some of their demands, as a result of adverse publicity at a time when he was trying to showcase the Statue of Unity. Till then, these villagers were not even treated as project affected people.
Building the Statue and the project that goes along with it will deprive tribal people from land, livelihood, and forest. As a result, they have been fighting Modi for a considerable time. It had been declared that today, Sardar Patel’s birthday, which Modi is seeking to appropriate by inaugurating the statue, would be observed by many such protesters in a peaceful manner. They were going to organise a day long hunger strike, after having given public notice, in a private place, not even in a public space.
But to stop even this, raids have been carried out on the evening of 30th October. Rohit Prajapati, Trupti Shah, Amrish Brahmbhatt, and Sudhir Binniwale, who are widely known radical activists of Gujarat, were travelling from Vadodara to Rajpipla. They were apprehended at Rajpipla and forcibly confined in a house without any reason being given. It has further been reported that a significant number of people have been arrested from at least seven villages. The full list of the names of the arrested is not known. However, this includes Lakhan Musafir, Dhirendra Soneji, Dipen Desai, Rameshbhai Tadvi from Indravarna village, Shaileshbai Tadvi from Vagadia village, Vikrambhai Tadvi from Kevadia.
We appeal to all socialist and democratic organisations, to protest the entire project, to support the right of adivasis to land, forest and livelihood, and to support democratic right to protest.
Please send your protests to
The Governor, Gujarat
Fax No . 079-232 31121