APPARENTLY APPREHENSIVE that black could be deemed protesters against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, people in black shirts or T-shirts, or wearing black headgear, were barred from entering the domes put up for the Prime Minister’s public meeting in Bhachau, a city in Gujarat’s Kutch district, on Monday.
While some people got T-shirts bearing imprints of Modi, many others did not, and had to sit outside and watch Modi’s speech on giant LED screens.
Women and Muslim maldharis (cattle herders) wearing grayish-black kurta and pajamas were spared. Modi inaugurated a pumping station on Kutch branch canal of the Narmada dam project. Tarachand Chheda, a former minister and the sitting BJP MLA from Mandvi constituency in Kutch, said he was not aware of the issue. “I was at the venue from 1 pm to 6 pm. I didn’t see any pile of clothes at gates, nor did I receive any complaints on this. As a matter of fact, we hadn’t given any such instructions,” Chheda told The Indian Express.
Akshay Raj, an IPS officer who was in charge of gates 1, 2 and 3, said, “We have instructions from our superior. We don’t know the reason.”
Opposition Congress workers often use black flags while protesting government events in the state, and similar restrictions were enforced when the PM had visited Botad to inaugurate phase-I of Link-II pipeline of SAUNI project last month, although the pile of black clothes outside the venue were much smaller then. Most men in rural Kutch carry black shawls, and use them as headgear, towel or muffler – they are used both in summer and winter. At gate number 9, Vishal Gharva, 23, a mechanic from Nangiya village, of Abdasa taluka in Kutch, was barred entry since he was wearing a black cotton shirt. After waiting for a while, a boy leaving the dome handed Vishal a green T-shirt he was carrying. “I have come all the way from my village to see Modi. I can’t miss this opportunity…whatever be the cost,” Vishal said and ran towards the entrance.
Several others had no such immediate luck. Vishnu Koli, a farmer from Toraniya village, managed to source a white T-shirt, with an image of Modi printed on the front and Swachh Bharat writ large on the back. After changing into the new shirt, he rued this “harassing of common people”.
Many who had gone inside leaving their clothes and headgear at the gate came out even as the speeches were on.
While many found their clothes from the piles outside each gate — and some among them subsequently watched the event on the screen outside — some others could not. Rajabha Gadhvi, a resident of Rapar taluka, was almost reduced to tears. He came out of the dome to collect his shawl from outside gate No 7. But Constable
Rajabha Gadhvi, a resident of Rapar taluka, was almost reduced to tears. He came out of the dome to collect his shawl from outside gate No 7. But Constable Jilusang Bhavan posted there asked him to return once the event got over at 6 pm. “Look at the heat. Can one go about without a headgear?” said Gadhvi, a cattle herder.