Mohali: Farmer leaders in Gujarat – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state – say they had to disguise themselves to evade heavy police surveillance and join protests against agricultural laws.
Palbhai Ambaliya, Yakub Guraji and Jayesh Patel, along with other leaders and representatives of Gujarat peasant unions, formed an umbrella organization called Gujarat Kisan Sangharsh Samiti on 6 December to mobilize support for the farmers’ Delhi Chalo protest. in northern India.
However, nearly all the leaders present at the December 6 meeting were placed under house arrest by the Gujarat administration to thwart any protest plans, several farmers said.
While the popular narrative around the farmers hype has been that only the farmers of Punjab and Haryana are agitating against the laws, but the truth is that Gujarat farmers are not joining because they have not been allowed to do so, Ambaliya said The cable.
“The Gujarat government has deployed state police to monitor cell phones, our WhatsApp chats, the movement of our vehicles and people entering and leaving our homes to prevent us from mobilizing,” the popular leader said over the phone. and peasant activist.
Another farmer leader, Yakub Guraji, accused Gujarat police of harassing his family as he tried to travel to New Delhi to join the protest.
“Eight to ten policemen blocked my way to Delhi on December 11. They took me into custody and held me in a cell for one night despite the fact that they could not name any charges,” he said.
As the farmers demonstrated for his release, the police harangued Guraji’s family, asking his son about his work. He was only released the next morning.
“I told the police that over 10,000 people will march in groups to Delhi from Gujarat. How many people can they arrest and detain? “
Today, December 15, the prime minister, speaking at the inauguration of a mega energy project in Kutch, Gujarat, said the Indian government is “committed to the welfare of farmers and will continue to reassure farmers and address their concerns. “. Modi too blamed the “opposition” for deceiving farmers at a time when the nation is taking a “historic step”.
Excerpts from the conversation with Ambaliya provide a detailed picture of the degree of police surveillance to which Gujarat farmers are subjected. The questions and answers have been slightly modified for clarity.
First, how did you escape the police?
On December 6, the Gujarat government somehow discovered our meeting which took place in Ahmedabad under the Gujarat Kisan Sangharsh Samiti flag. At the meeting we announced that a Kisaan Sansad program will be held on 11 December.
Before hosting the program, we asked the government for permission, but it was turned down. Our plan was to keep the Kisan Sansad and leave for New Delhi in a demonstration of 2,000 peasants and workers. The Sansad he should have given speeches only on the issue of farmers. But the government didn’t give us permission.
In addition, from 10 December onwards, the police began to arrest all the leaders of the farmers one by one.
As soon as I learned of it, I left my home in Dwaraka and went to Junagarh to dodge my impending arrest. I turned off the phone. Once I reached Junagarh, I briefly turned on the phone. The police somehow managed to trace my phone. I got a couple of calls from the police saying I shouldn’t leave the place.
But then I turned off the phone again. I knew where the police were coming from, so I took the opposite route. I went to Kutch, then from there to Gandhinagar. I made my way through the state as the police chased me.
In Junagarh, I decided to dress up. I changed my hair. I usually wear a traditional dhoti but I bought a pair of jeans and a shirt and put them on. I gave my car to someone else and got another one. I reached Udaipur on December 12th.
Similarly, Dahyabhai Gajera, another farm manager, was under house arrest. But while the police were at his front door, he managed to escape through the back door with the help of his son. His son quickly dropped him off at a nearby bus stop. From there, Dahyabhai secretly took a bus to Udaipur.
As we speak, more than 16 Gujarat agricultural leaders are under house arrest. Not everyone has the strength to evade a police chase like this. Very few of us could do that. Despite all this, around 150 people have been able to leave Gujarat so far. Some of us have reached the Delhi-Jaipur border and others are on the Singhu border.
Since when did Gujarat farmers speak out against agricultural laws?
Gujarat peasants have been mobilizing against the ordinances from day one. When it became a bill, we condemned it. When it was approved by a brutal majority, we condemned it. But none of us have been allowed to express our condemnation on a larger scale.
One day before agricultural organizations called for a Bharat Bandh, the prime minister [Vijay Rupani] he reached out to Gujarat traders through the press to say they didn’t have to support farmers. The government has also issued a Section 144 order. All of this is done to create an environment of fear.
Why doesn’t the Gujarat government want you at the Delhi protest site?
Let me tell you the greatest fear they have. Look at the way the government praises the new laws they passed. They are trying to meet people in the village to convince them of the laws. That’s right, a few years ago, the government had launched a crop insurance scheme, which has also been praised as these laws are being praised.
But today in Gujarat the whole project proved to be a major failure.
Insurance companies and the government are corrupt. This scheme has also been called Prime Minister Modi’s dream project. If it was a dream project, why was it suspended in Gujarat? We will talk about all this in Delhi morcha and that’s why they don’t want us there. The true model of Gujarat will be revealed to all.
How many Gujarat farmers are likely to join the hype on Delhi’s borders?
About 200 more people are leaving for Delhi now. They too will leave like I did, in secret. Right now in Gujarat, you can’t even say you’re going to Delhi. You can only talk about the movement after leaving Gujarat. This is the Gujarat model. All our phones, WhatsApp chats, our vehicles, everything is being watched.
Today the Prime Minister meets the farmers of Kutch in Gujarat. Does he meet them to allay their fears?
After 2002, Kutch became a free trade zone. At that time, many sardars moved to Kutch to do business. Kutch sardars are traders, not farmers. Kutch’s soil is not fertile enough for agriculture.
Furthermore, the BJP strategy has been to talk to people who speak their language. The farmers he is meeting will. And it’s not that the BJP doesn’t have farmers as members and supporters. There are also some BJP farmers who believe in their party’s ideology.