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Barred from South Gujarat? Activist charged with 'not employed in gainful vocation'

Lakhan Musafir
The Gujarat government has served externment notice to well-known grassroots human rights activist Lakhan Musafir, known for taking up the cause of the tribal people next to the Narmada dam in Gujarat. Considered a relentless fighter against the plan to develop tribal areas around Statue of Unity, three kilomtres downstream of the dam, as a hot tourist destination, Musafir has been served the notice by Narmada district authorities.
According to civil society sources, the notice says that Musafir should not enter South Gujarat districts – Vadodara, Bharuch, Narmada, Chhota Udepur and Tapi – as also Vadadara district for the next two years. A close associate of top Vadodara-based environmentalist Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, the allegations against him include such charges like he is “not gainfully employed in any honest vocation.”
Other allegations say, he organizes “unlawful assembly” of affected people and 'anti-social' elements and opposes the “developmental” projects of the government, indulges in sloganeering, causes violence with arms and incites people, fights with government employees, has a communal mindset. harbours 'outsiders' to protest against government projects, travels around with arms, and terrorises people in a way that nobody is willing to complain or testify against him.
Last year, Musafir created a flutter by stating that the Gujarat government has acquired 1,100 acres out of 1,700 acres of the tribal land of six villages – Navagam, Limdi, Gora, Vagadia, Kevadia and Mithi – for developing tourism next to the 182-metre high Statue of Unity, the world's tallest, putting at risk the livelihood option of their 8,000 residents.
Talking with mediapersons Musafir, who said plans were afoot to acquire more land, had added, the government promised to the tribals that they would be involved in the tourism project by encouraging them to open restaurants and become tourist guides, and that tourists could stay at their houses as paying guests. However, all the promises went up in the air.
Musafir is known to be one of the few local leaders who is put under house arrest and detained whenever a function involving a top dignitary, ranging from the Prime Minister to the Gujarat chief minister, is held at the Statue of Unity or the Narmada dam.

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