However, the Jamaat-e-Islami denied allegations and accused detractors of diverting attention away from people’s grievances.

New turn to Kerala GAIL row Jamaat-e-Islami alleged to have rented land to gas authority
news People's Protest Tuesday, November 07, 2017 - 14:37

The pitched protests over the GAIL pipeline project in Kerala’s Mukkom seems to be stirring up fresh controversies with each passing day.

In the latest twist to the row, the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, a Muslim organization that has been spearheading the protests, is being accused of having business dealings with GAIL even as it opposes the pipeline project.Allegations have been raised that the Insaaf Charitable Trust under the Jamaat has been renting out 50 acres of land at Kolappa in Kannur to GAIL for storing pipes since 2013.

These allegations have gone viral on social media, raising an online debate on the intentions of the Jamaat in leading the protests.

The Jamaat, however, has denied all the allegations against it, and has accused its detractors of trying to divert attention from people’s grievances and confusing supporters of the protests.

Officials of the Jamaat argue that the land belongs to an independent trust, and that only a small portion of land is being used for storing pipes, while the rest of the land is used for various social purposes.

T Shakir, State Public Relations Officer for the Jamaat-e-Islami told TNM, “The land in question doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to the Insaaf Charitable Trust. In about 50 acres of land, there is a school functioning, there are agricultural fields and the pipes are kept in about 5 acres. This land belonged to PC Mammu Haji, and he had given it to the trustee long ago for community services.”

Shakir also added that the Jamaat is not anti-development, but is against the way the GAIL pipeline project is being implemented.

“As an organisation, we are not against development. In fact, we welcome it. That’s the reason we didn’t object to the trustee renting out the land to GAIL in 2013. We are protesting against the GAIL project as we stand in solidarity with the victims. We are standing tough on the way the project is implemented.”

The ambitious Kochi-Kootanad-Bengaluru-Mangaluru pipeline aims to connect the southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala to the national gas network. A 438-km pipeline running from Kochi to Mangaluru is expected to be completed by 2018.

However, the planned project has hit an obstacle in Mukkom, where the pipeline is to pass through residential areas. Protesters allege that the pipeline will require 160 acres of land and will displace nearly 600 families, as it passes through densely populated areas in Kozhikode. They also argue that the project violates the Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act 1962, which bars pipelines through residential areas.

On November 1, the protests in Mukkom turned violent after police forcibly removed a tent erected by protesters.

While requesting the government and the CM to listen to the victims of the project, Shakir also alleged detractors of purposely giving a communal colour to the issue.

“It was CPI (M)’s Kozhikode District Secretary who called the protestors of Mukkom Muslim separatists. There are Hindus, Christians and Muslims protesting. It is not victims of any religious extremism, but victims of GAIL who are protesting. Giving this people’s protest a communal colour is using the Sangh Parivar’s language. It is disheartening to see the CPI (M) using the same language for their political interests,” Shakir said.

“When the Gadgil Commission report came out it was a Christian sabha which led the protest, which was never tainted with a communal colour. We had even joined the protest in solidarity then. Why is it that when a Muslim organization is involved it is easily bottled up as a communal agitation?” he added.

Maqbool, the Kannur District Secretary of Jamaat-e-Islami, also alleged that there was a political agenda behind the targeting of the Jamaat. “There is a political agenda behind targeting Muslim organizations in the GAIL protest. This is done to divert attention from the real causes. We are protesting against the government violating laid down acts and being unwilling to listen to the victims.”

Shakir also cautioned that giving a communal colour to secular issues would play into the gameplan of right wing organisations. “If the Mukkom protest is given a communal colour, UDF will automatically have to remove its support, making the protest a failure. This will only come as an encouragement to the saffron brigade. In the long run it will prove detrimental to the CPI (M) itself,” he said.

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