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PUCL writes to Gujarat CM, condemns notice to activist Lakhan Musafir barring him from 5 districts

The notice was served to Musafir, a noted environmental activist, by an SDM leveling allegedly defamatory charges against him

Sabrangindia 06 Apr 2020

GujaratImage Courtesy: counterview.net

The Gujarat government has served a notice to noted environmental activist Lakhan Musafir barring him from entering Narmada, Bharuch, Vadodara, Chhota Udepur and Tapi districts for two years.

The notice was issued by KD Bhagat, Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Rajpipla and it accused Lakhan Musafir of being “involved in anti-social and illegal organizing of people in the Kevadia area against the Statue of Unity and other projects”, not being into any “honest business or profession”, “organising violent attacks” and displaying a “communal mindset”.

In this regard, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has written to the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Vijay Rupani and other members of the Gujarat government demanding this notice be withdrawn immediately and institute a high-level inquiry into how the notice came to be and on whose orders, apart from demanding immediate punitive steps against the issuing officer.

PUCL has claimed that the “charges” against Musafir are not genuine. It has alleged that the SDM merely “copied and pasted” a piece of fiction spun by a police constable, without any investigation and discerning action.

In its letter PUCL sheds light on the full-time Gandhian Sarvodaya activist’s life and work, how he worked in Vinoba Bhave’s Ashram and spent time working with and learning from noted Gandhian activist Dr. Dwarkadas Joshi. PUCL also stated Musafir’s work in Kutch and his contribution in youth camps, organic farming and other rural development initiatives. They also stated how he stayed back in Adivasi villages in Gujarat and helped build toilets and bathrooms from 1986 to 1989, much before the Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan of the Modi government, and how he initiated educational activities like balwadis and anganwadis in villages.

Musafir’s pet projects of organic farming and helping farmers augment their incomes apart from standing alongside small Adivasi landowners / farmers in their (state-sponsored) crises – Gurudeshwar Wier and the Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) were also brought to the CM’s notice by PUCL.

Media reports say that Musafir had caused a flutter last year by stating that the Gujarat government has acquired 1,100 acres out of 1,700 acres of tribal land from six villages - Navagam, Limdi, Gora, Vagadia, Kevadia and Mithi, for the Statue of Unity, by putting at risk the livelihoods of 8,000 village residents.

Earlier too, Musafir had been put into detention during a top dignitary’s visit to the state. In 2017 too he was detained illegally by the Gujarat police and kept in an unknown place.

PUCL in its letter states that Lakhan Musafir is a person who has worked throughout his life for the upliftment of the downtrodden by helping them from everything related to organic farming to education and hygiene rights. Labelling him as an ‘anti-social person’ and someone who has a ‘communal mindset’ or is not involved in ‘honest work’ is defamatory.

The organization mentions to the CM and other top officials that the notice serves as a trailer of an unhealthy precedent set in the CM’s term. It says, “Disagreements with issues or motives or social movements is an acceptable part of democracy, and debates, discussions and solutions can follow from that. But hurling defamatory charges at an individual and misusing the law or ones position to deny a person his fundamental rights is an illegal and malafide act. We have no reason to believe that this would have happened on orders from your government."

“If the above are not initiated (if the demands are not met) then it would mean one thing and one thing only: viz. the entire episode happened on the orders of your government. This case cannot stand in a court of law and may/can/will result in “bad press” for your government, within and outside Gujarat,” the letter added.

The entire letter by PUCL may be read below.

 

PUCL writes to Gujarat CM, condemns notice to activist Lakhan Musafir barring him from 5 districts

The notice was served to Musafir, a noted environmental activist, by an SDM leveling allegedly defamatory charges against him

GujaratImage Courtesy: counterview.net

The Gujarat government has served a notice to noted environmental activist Lakhan Musafir barring him from entering Narmada, Bharuch, Vadodara, Chhota Udepur and Tapi districts for two years.

The notice was issued by KD Bhagat, Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Rajpipla and it accused Lakhan Musafir of being “involved in anti-social and illegal organizing of people in the Kevadia area against the Statue of Unity and other projects”, not being into any “honest business or profession”, “organising violent attacks” and displaying a “communal mindset”.

In this regard, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has written to the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Vijay Rupani and other members of the Gujarat government demanding this notice be withdrawn immediately and institute a high-level inquiry into how the notice came to be and on whose orders, apart from demanding immediate punitive steps against the issuing officer.

PUCL has claimed that the “charges” against Musafir are not genuine. It has alleged that the SDM merely “copied and pasted” a piece of fiction spun by a police constable, without any investigation and discerning action.

In its letter PUCL sheds light on the full-time Gandhian Sarvodaya activist’s life and work, how he worked in Vinoba Bhave’s Ashram and spent time working with and learning from noted Gandhian activist Dr. Dwarkadas Joshi. PUCL also stated Musafir’s work in Kutch and his contribution in youth camps, organic farming and other rural development initiatives. They also stated how he stayed back in Adivasi villages in Gujarat and helped build toilets and bathrooms from 1986 to 1989, much before the Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan of the Modi government, and how he initiated educational activities like balwadis and anganwadis in villages.

Musafir’s pet projects of organic farming and helping farmers augment their incomes apart from standing alongside small Adivasi landowners / farmers in their (state-sponsored) crises – Gurudeshwar Wier and the Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) were also brought to the CM’s notice by PUCL.

Media reports say that Musafir had caused a flutter last year by stating that the Gujarat government has acquired 1,100 acres out of 1,700 acres of tribal land from six villages - Navagam, Limdi, Gora, Vagadia, Kevadia and Mithi, for the Statue of Unity, by putting at risk the livelihoods of 8,000 village residents.

Earlier too, Musafir had been put into detention during a top dignitary’s visit to the state. In 2017 too he was detained illegally by the Gujarat police and kept in an unknown place.

PUCL in its letter states that Lakhan Musafir is a person who has worked throughout his life for the upliftment of the downtrodden by helping them from everything related to organic farming to education and hygiene rights. Labelling him as an ‘anti-social person’ and someone who has a ‘communal mindset’ or is not involved in ‘honest work’ is defamatory.

The organization mentions to the CM and other top officials that the notice serves as a trailer of an unhealthy precedent set in the CM’s term. It says, “Disagreements with issues or motives or social movements is an acceptable part of democracy, and debates, discussions and solutions can follow from that. But hurling defamatory charges at an individual and misusing the law or ones position to deny a person his fundamental rights is an illegal and malafide act. We have no reason to believe that this would have happened on orders from your government."

“If the above are not initiated (if the demands are not met) then it would mean one thing and one thing only: viz. the entire episode happened on the orders of your government. This case cannot stand in a court of law and may/can/will result in “bad press” for your government, within and outside Gujarat,” the letter added.

The entire letter by PUCL may be read below.

 

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