Narendra Modi sees ‘urban Naxals’ in dam protest in Gujarat
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said “urban Naxals” with “political backing” had stalled the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat for several years, stressing the need for speedy environment clearance to usher in development.
Modi was addressing a conference of environment ministers of the country being held in Gujarat through videoconference from Delhi.
“Urban Naxals and anti-development elements with political backing had stalled the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam by running a campaign that the project will harm the environment. A huge amount of money was wasted because of this delay,” Modi said after inaugurating the two-day conference.
“Now when the dam is complete, you can very well judge how dubious their claims were. Contrary to their claims, the area around the dam has become a teerth-kshetra (pilgrimage) for environment lovers,” he added.
He said the Sardar Sarovar Dam project was started immediately after Independence by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and was completed when Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat. “Can you imagine how much of the country’s resources was wasted?” he said.
Without taking any names, Modi accused many “global institutions and foundations” of trying to put roadblocks in the path of India’s development with the aid of “urban Naxals”.
Modi and the Right-wing ecosystem have persistently used the term “urban Naxal” to attack political opponents, seeking to paint them as anti-establishment and anti-national.
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha earlier this year, Modi had accused the Congress of having turned “destructive” as the party had been “captured by urban Naxals”.
Modi said the “urban Naxals” were still active and urged the environment ministers to ensure that projects for “ease of living and ease of doing business do not get unnecessarily stalled in the name of environment”.
He called for a “balanced approach” between protecting the environment and not allowing development to be stalled.
Though Modi didn’t name anyone, it’s well known that eminent environmental activist Medha Patkar had led the protest against the Sardar Sarovar Dam, which she said would displace large number of poor villagers.
Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel has on many occasions referred to Medha an “urban naxal”.
In poll-bound Gujarat, the BJP has been trying hard to resurrect Patkar once again in a bid to counter the Aam Aadmi Party, which is seeking to emerge as a challenger to the saffron party.
The AAP had fielded Patkar in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Mumbai and the BJP is using this to take on the new challenger.
“Some people have made new efforts to give Patkar a backdoor entry into Gujarat politics. I would like to ask the youths of Gujarat if they would allow those who opposed the Narmada project as well as the development of Gujarat to enter the state,” home minister Amit Shah recently said at a rally in Gujarat.