Release Activists Arrested in Gujarat, Urges Front Line Defenders

Front Line Defenders has urged the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release human rights defenders Rohit Prajapati, Trupti Shah, Amrish Brahmbhatta and Sudhir Binniwale. These activists were arrested in Rajpipla, Gujarat while they were protesting against the Statute of Unity and associated government project. Below is the release, reproduced for BH readers. – Editor

Press Release:

India: Detention of human rights defenders Rohit Prajapati, Trupti Shah, Amrish Brahmbhatta and Sudhir Binniwale

On 30 October 2013, human rights defenders, Mr Rohit PrajapatiMs Trupti ShahMr Amrish Brahmbhatta and Mr Sudhir Binniwalewere arrested in Rajpipla, Gujarat. They had been involved in the protest against the ‘Statue of Unity’ and the associated government Project, which would heavily impact on the environment and inhabitants of Gujarat. They were released on 31 October 2013.

Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah are members of People’s Union for Civil Liberties, and Sudhir Binniwale is a member of Jyoti Karmachari Mandal, a local trade union group. Amrish Brahmbhatta is a member of Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti Environmental Group.

On the evening of 30 October, the human rights defenders were stopped by the police while travelling to the anti-Project protests. Upon arriving to the town of Rajpipla, they were stopped and searched by police officers. They were later allowed to leave, but when they stopped to fill their car with fuel, they noticed that a police Jeep was following them. The group decided to drive to the offices of NGO Rajapipala Social Service Society, where the police Jeep followed them. After speaking with the police officers, they were not permitted to leave the NGO office. The four human rights defenders remained detained there until the afternoon of 31 October, missing the protest.

The human rights defenders are involved in the campaign against the construction of the Statue of Unity project, which they believe will impact negatively on the people of Gujarat. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of the State of Gujarat, has been involved over the past three years in efforts to build a statue of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patelnear, the former Deputy Minister of India and a native of Gujarat, on the Sardar Sarovar Dam. On completion, the Statue will stand 597 feet high. The proposal involves plans for a bridge connecting the statue on Sadhu Island to the bank of the Narmada River with new visitor centre buildings, a memorial garden, a hotel, a convention centre, an amusement park, and research centres.

52 nearby villages that will be impacted heavily have demonstrated their opposition to the project. Heads of Panchayats (Village Councils) of the 52 villages received letters from the Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) demanding that they agree to hand over their villages for tourism purposes or face consequences. In the early 1960s, six villages were compelled to hand over their land for the Sardar Sarovar Dam, to build the Staff Colony, Government Offices and a Guest House. The community leaders believe the Statue of Unity project would deprive the people of Gujarat of their land, livelihood, and forest.

One of the human rights defender, Rohit Prajapati informed Front Line Defenders that a complaint has been submitted to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which registered the complaint on 5 November 2013.

Front Line Defenders believes that the harassment against Rohit Prajapati, Trupti Shah, Amrish Brahmbhatta, and Sudhir Binnawale is directly related to their work in the defence of human rights, in particular on the effect of the construction of the statue to the environment and inhabitants of Gujarat.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in India to:

  1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the detention of Rohit Prajapati, Trupti Shah, Amrish Brahmbhatta, and Sudhir Binniwale, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
  2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological security and integrity of the human rights defenders;
  3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in India are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

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