KEVADIYA: Ahead of the scheduled unveiling of the 'Statue of Unity', the villagers of Kevadia have written an open letter to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi stating that they won't welcome him during the event on October 31.
According to PTI, the letter has been written by headmen of nearly 22 villages situated near the Sardar Sarovar Dam in which they also announced to boycott the event citing widespread destruction of natural resources due to the memorial, which is dedicated to the country's first Home Minister Sardar Patel.
The memorial is situated on an islet and is said to be 182 metres tall. It is also being touted as the world's tallest statue.
"These forests, rivers, waterfalls, land and agriculture supported us for generations. We survived on them. But, everything is being destroyed now and celebrations are also planned. Don't you think its akin to celebrating someone's death? We feel so," the letter stated.
The open letter has been signed by the headmen of 22 villages.
"We all villagers want to tell you with extreme grief that we will not welcome you on October 31. Even if you come here like an unwanted guest, you are not welcome here," the villagers said in the letter.
Calling 'Statue of Unity' a sheer wastage of people's money, the villagers said that people's hard-earned money is being wasted on such projects at a time when several villages of the area are still deprived of basic facilities like schools, hospitals and drinking water.
"If Sardar Patel could see the mass destruction of natural resources and injustice done to us, he would cry. When we are raising our issues, we are persecuted by the police. Why you are not ready to listen to our plight?" the letter said.
Earlier this month, tribal activists had announced that people living in 72 villages near the dam will join the protest on October 31 by not cooking food.
"We have also urged tribals of the eastern belt of Gujarat, from Dang till Ambaji, to join our protest by observing bandh that day. We are confident that the entire tribal population will stand up against the injustice" said tribal leader Anand Mazgaokar.
Meanwhile, some unidentified persons tore and defaced posters of PM Modi and Chief Minister Vijay Rupani in several parts of the district during the last few days.
"It happened because locals are angry. No one provoked them. We have only given a call for bandh," Mazgaokar added.
The Gujarat Congress also targeted the BJP government and PM Modi over the non-completion of Narmada canal network.
Ahead of the inauguration of the statue, Leader of Opposition in Gujarat Assembly, Paresh Dhanani, wrote a letter to Rupani and demanded that the Narmada project should be declared as a national project to give a "fitting tribute" to Sardar Patel.
"The construction of the dam got delayed because of litigations and stay by the Supreme Court. But, there was no ban on the construction of the canal network. But, instead of completing the network, BJP only did politics. Thus, canals having a cumulative length of 20,000 km are yet to be constructed" Dhanani said in the letter.
Former Gujarat CM Shankersinh Vaghela too attacked the PM over the 'Statue of Unity' project and said that the PM should first unite vital institutions like the CBI and RBI before talking of unity.
Vaghela also demanded that the contribution of all the royals who had "gifted" their princely states to build a united India after independence, should get a mention in the museum built beneath the Statue of Unity.
The veteran Gujarat politician attacked the PM and called the statue a "marketing gimmick" while demanding that the government should address the grievances of tribals and the poor.