Gujarat government suspends official of 'Statue of Unity' governing body for 'inappropriate' remarks against tribal community

A group of protesters camped outside the local police station demanding that an FIR be lodged against the official.
For representational purposes
For representational purposes

NARMADE: The Gujarat government on Sunday suspended a senior official of the body that manages the 'Statue of Unity', the tallest statue in the world, in Narmada district for allegedly making inappropriate and objectionable remarks against a tribal community predominantly settled in this region, an official said.

Nilesh Dubey, who held the additional charge as Deputy Collector in Statue of Unity Area Development and Tourism Governance Authority, was suspended by the state government and a departmental inquiry was initiated against him, the Authority's Chief Administrator Ravi Shankar said.

The action came after an audio clip of his purported conversation with a Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) official on the mobile phone of a contractual employee of the Authority went viral, in which he is heard using inappropriate and objectionable words against the community, he said.

"Dubey has been suspended. A departmental inquiry has been initiated and appropriate action will be taken against him...He never denied having used the words (against the tribal community), but maintained that the audio clip made public contained only half the conversation," he added.

The words used by Dubey, who is posted as Assistant Commissioner of Sardar Sarovar Punarvasvat Agency, has led to a widespread agitation by members of the tribal community, with some of them engaged with the Authority even stopping work, the officer said.

The 182-metre tall statue, built to pay tribute to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, has become a major tourism attraction.

"Protesters have also demanded registration of an FIR against Dubey under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for using derogatory words against the ST community," said tribal rights activist Praful Vasava.

A group of protesters camped outside the local police station demanding that an FIR be lodged against him, Vasava said.

He also claimed that a 'bandh' call in Kevadia given by a group of tribal organisations was successful as most of the shops remained shut during the day.

"People came out on roads and shouted slogans against Dubey for using words that hurt the sentiments of the community. They burnt his effigy and also demanded action against him. Locals who are employed at the Statue of Unity have shunned work in protest," Vasava said.

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The New Indian Express