Condemn lathi-charge on earthquake survivors

Reproduced here is the English translation of the memorandum submitted jointly to the chief minister of Gujarat by several Gujarat-based NGOs on January 29. The NGOs request that you/ your organisation endorse the memorandum and send the same on your own letterheads through fax or by e-mail to the chief minister of Gujarat at the following contact number and address.
Fax office: 3222101, 3223467

Fax residence: 3243726


January 29, 2002

Chief Minister
State of Gujarat

On January 26, members of several organisations in Gujarat — volunteers, activists and intelligentsia concerned about the rehabilitation of quake–affected people — gathered at Gandhi Ashram, Ahmedabad to observe a day–long fast and also held a dharna. The chief object was to register protest against the state authorities’ oppressive treatment towards the Lok Adhikar Manch and SUCI activists in Anjar, Bhachau and Rapar.

In the last 15 days, the Lok Adhikar Manch has organised peaceful rallies for people’s fundamental right to rehabilitation. On January 25, the government authorities began the shameful task of removing huts of the quake-affected victims living in and around Bhatt-Padia and Vagad Welfare Society. As a spontaneous response to this, many people joined a rasta–roko. The police ordered a merciless lathi–charge on unarmed citizens, especially helpless women.

We strongly condemn this undemocratic step against the activists and volunteers coordinated by the Lok Adhikar Manch to fight for a common citizen’s fundamental right to food, shelter and livelihood.

For the past 10 days at least, government officials have been destroying temporary tents and accommodation of these marginalised citizens asking for perfectly democratic rights. In a region suffering from paucity of water, their water has been thrown away and there have been blatant attempts to break Kutch’s confidence and self–respect. This is led by Mr. Chhibbar, the district collector of Kutch. Several government officers willing to do their duties have been thwarted by this collector.

It seems to us that Gujarat’s year-end attempt to present a rosy picture of rehabilitation is politically motivated. With this end in view, the government seems to be making a well–planned effort to silence the voice of the people. The government must abandon this anti–democratic approach and must adopt a pro–people, constructive approach and must complete the work of rehabilitation, keeping social justice as the central concern.

1. This meeting condemns the fascist, repressive and undemocratic approach adopted by the government in Bhachau on the 25th of this month and honours the fundamental right of the people of quake–affected areas to protest democratically against injustice. The government has struck a deadly blow on the democratic spirit by thwarting the constitutional right to self–expression. We demand that this right is respected in future.

2. The police have falsely charged the seven social activists arrested on January 25 with extremely shameful crimes of spreading terror, rioting, misleading people and attempted murder of government officers. We condemn this despotic attitude of the government and demand that all these false and fabricated cases be withdrawn immediately.

3. This meeting strongly condemns the despicable, anti–people and dictatorial attitude adopted by the District Collector of Bhuj during the meeting with media and leaders of this popular movement. The collector, who tries to depict the tragedy of the earthquake as a celebration, who disdains and threatens common citizens of this country has lost the right to be on a public position. Therefore, this meeting demands that the democratic spirit of this country be saved by the immediate suspension and punitive action against Mr. Chhibbar.

4. This meeting takes serious note of the fact that a number of problems related to assistance to the quake–affected people remain unsolved. Besides, the government approach of red–tapist officialdom keeps reducing the chances of justice for the people. Therefore, this meeting asks that the government appoint with immediate effect a taskforce in each of the talukas. This taskforce should comprise an equal number of representatives of quake affected citizens, of the Lok Adhikar Manch and of the government and that they be empowered to settle the problems at the village level.

We are convinced that such a system will reduce the suffering of the quake–affected people and bring under control the rampant corruption.

Achyut Yagnik, SETU James C. Dabhi, Behavioural Science Centre; Francis Parmar, St. Xavier’s College; Sonal Mehta, PUHR; Prakash Shah, MSD; Girish Patel, Lok Adhikar Sangh;
Sukhdev Patel, Janpath Lalji Desai, MARAG, Cedric Prakash, Prashant Neeta Desai, MARAG;
Victor Moses, XSSS; Javed Ameer, SEED; Indukmar Jani, Naya Marg; Ashim Roy, Sophiya Khan, INSAAF; Ishwarbhai, AVSC; Daheda Dhulabhai, MVS; Dhandhuka Reshmabhai Rahabhai, SVS, Hadad, Danta Hiren Gandhi, Darshan.

Archived from Communalism Combat, January-February 2002 Year 8  No. 75-76, Campaign 2



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