- Residents of Vagadiya village near Statue of Unity put up board citing Constitution articles to assert their right to their land; ‘those who do not obey Constitution are traitors’, it reads
Vishal Mistry, Rajpipla: The tribal population living near the Statue of Unity seems to be quite miffed. Residents of Vagadiya village near the world’s tallest statue in Narmada district have erected a board that lists out resolutions made by the gram sabha—a local governing body that claims administrative rights in the area—and asserts that adivasis are not Hindus. They say their traditions are entirely different from those of any other religion.
Vagadiya is one of the six villages in the vicinity of the Statue of Unity whose land is being claimed by the government for tourism development. The others are Kevadia, Kothi, Gora, Navagam and Limdi. The villagers had protested to the fencing work started by the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) last year.
Earlier this month, despite protests, SSNNL began levelling the ground near the Statue of Unity for construction of parking area in front of the Kevadia railway station. The protests had started when the land survey work was taken up.
How the board came up
Recently, the villagers of Vagadiya held a gram sabha, just like in earlier times. There, they passed around 25 different resolutions. Subsequently, they put up a board on the route leading to Statue of Unity and passing through their village. It is placed in such a way that no passerby would miss it. It highlights various articles from the Constitution to assert the right of adivasis to their land and proclaims that since adivasi culture is completely different from others, they are not Hindus.
Vagadiya village leader Shailesh Tadvi said, “Our village falls under Schedule 5 areas. We have put up this board to protect the Constitution, environment and our traditions.”
The resolutions come at a time when the government claims it has been holding talks with the villagers as it tries to acquire land around the Statue of Unity. BJP MP Mansukh Vasava, a tribal leader who was former minister of tribal affairs and has been quite vocal about their rights in Bharuch and Narmada, has said that adivasis have been Hindus since time immemorial.
What the board says
Water, forests and land in tribal areas belongs to the tribals where decisions taken in the gram sabha will be binding.
Regular rules will not apply to scheduled tribal areas.
Non-tribals will not be allowed in the scheduled areas without permission. Adivasis hold the right to mining and hence any mining activity in the area cannot be done without the permission of the gram sabha.
Non-adivasis cannot purchase land in scheduled areas.
The control and administration of such areas will lie with adivasis. Municipalities and municipal corporations are unconstitutional in scheduled areas.
Local jobs in scheduled areas will be reserved 100 per cent for adivasis.
Since the traditions followed by adivasis are completely different from others, they are not Hindus.
Those not obeying the articles will be considered traitors.
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