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Protests break out across Gujarat ahead of polls

Large gathering of cattle rearers near Gandhinagar, Gujarat

Large gathering of cattle rearers near Gandhinagar, Gujarat | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Ahead of the assembly polls, Gujarat is witnessing a series of protests by different groups and communities pressing for resolution of their grievances and demands while raising the political temperature in the state.

A section of state employees continue to protest pushing their demands while new protests have been launched by cattle-rearing communities in North Gujarat and Saurashtra demanding that the new law against the menace of stray cattle in urban areas ben scrapped.

Irked by the arrest of former Dudhsagar dairy chairman Vipul Chaudhary in alleged corruption and financial irregularities, the Chaudhary community under the banner of Arbuda Sena have launched protests across north Gujarat accusing the ruling party of targeting the community leader Vipul Chaudhary ahead of the elections.

Cattle Control Bill

On Sunday, more than 20,000 cattle rearers and dairy farmers held a mega gathering in Shertha near Gandhinagar to protest the law that was passed in the state assembly in the last budget session.

The Gujarat Cattle Control (Keeping and Moving) in Urban Areas Bill, 2022, aims to regulate cattle in eight municipal corporations and 162 municipalities across the state.

“The community engaged in rearing animals to provide milk has resolved to demand that the law against stray cattle be scrapped. We want the state government to move for the repeal of the law in the coming session of the state assembly,” said Nagji Desai, a spokesman of Gujarat Maldhari Panchayat, an umbrella group that has united all different communities engaged in dairy farming in the state.

The group has also released a charter of their demands including providing lands in urban areas for cattle.

The bill provisions are against the Maldhari community, a representative of the cattle-rearers said on Monday after the mega gathering held near the state capital.

The state government had earlier announced that the new law would be kept in abeyance but recently the Gujarat High Court reprimanded the authorities for stray animals causing havoc in the roads in the cities.

Threat to block roads, highways

In last six months, five persons have died of attacks by stray animals who often cause road blockade and disrupt traffic in various cities Gujarat.

Speakers at the congregation on Sunday warned that if the law was not repealed, the dairy farmers and cattle rearers from across the state would block roads and highways.

They also announced that on September 21st, all farmers would stop supply of milk for a day.

Arbuda Sena taking out a rally to protest against the arrest of Vipul Chaudhary, in Surat on September 19, 2022

Arbuda Sena taking out a rally to protest against the arrest of Vipul Chaudhary, in Surat on September 19, 2022 | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

‘Witch hunt’ against Vipul Chaudhary

Similarly, Chaudhary community members came out on streets in several towns of North Gujarat demanding that witch-hunting against Vipul Chaudhary be stopped.

Mr. Chaudhary was arrested based on a new FRI lodged against him and other family members alleged that during his tenure as chairman of Mehsana’s Dudhsagar Dairy, he had allegedly siphoned off ₹750 crore pertaining to the Mehsana District Milk Producing Federation.

His arrest came amidst campaigning by his political front Arbuda Sena which he floated North Gujarat ahead of the assembly polls.

On Sunday, thousands of members of the Arbuda Sena held protests in Banaskantha and Mehsana districts against the police action, which is being viewed as “politically motivated exercise” to rein on the community strongman, whose rallies drew huge crowds.

Engaged in dairy farming and agriculture, Chaudharys are a sub caste of Patidar community and hold influence over North Gujarat political economy and politics with their control over dairies of Sabarkantha, Banaskantha and Mehsana.

In a huge gathering in Banaskantha on Sunday, the community leaders threatened that the ruling party would face the “political consequences” during the assembly polls if Vipul Chaudhary was not released.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2022 4:39:38 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/protests-break-out-across-gujarat-ahead-of-polls/article65909318.ece