With rose petals and guns, India's Modi inaugurates world's tallest statue

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates the 182-meter-high (600-foot-high) “Statue Of Unity” on October 31. (AFP)
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India inaugurated the world's tallest statue on Wednesday with fireworks, folk dances and floral tributes, deploying tight security amid an outcry by local groups over the soaring cost of the 182-metre (600-feet) sculpture of an independence hero. (AFP)
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India inaugurated the world's tallest statue on Wednesday with fireworks, folk dances and floral tributes, deploying tight security amid an outcry by local groups over the soaring cost of the 182-metre (600-feet) sculpture of an independence hero
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India inaugurated the world's tallest statue on Wednesday with fireworks, folk dances and floral tributes, deploying tight security amid an outcry by local groups over the soaring cost of the 182-metre (600-feet) sculpture of an independence hero
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India inaugurated the world's tallest statue on Wednesday with fireworks, folk dances and floral tributes, deploying tight security amid an outcry by local groups over the soaring cost of the 182-metre (600-feet) sculpture of an independence hero. (AFP)
Updated 31 October 2018

With rose petals and guns, India's Modi inaugurates world's tallest statue

  • Activists said about a dozen of their leaders had been detained ahead of the spectacular opening of the 182-meter (600-foot) tall
  • Indian authorities hope the statue will attract 15,000 visitors a day to the remote corner of Gujarat

SARDAR SAROVAR DAM, India: India inaugurated the world's tallest statue on Wednesday with fireworks, folk dances and floral tributes, deploying tight security amid an outcry by local groups over the soaring cost of the 182-metre (600-feet) sculpture of an independence hero.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi officially opened the statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel describing the completion of his pet project as "a day that will be remembered in the history of India".
Air force jets flew over the giant figure and clouds of rose petals were dropped from helicopters onto its head as Modi bent in front of the statue on the ground.
Modi hailed Sardar Patel's "strategic thinking" in bringing together the disparate country after independence in 1947 and described the Statue of Unity as "a symbol of our engineering and technical prowess".
More than 5,000 armed police guarded the huge site in a remote corner of Gujarat state, with Anand Mazgaonkar, a community group leader in Narmada district, accusing plain clothes officers of detaining 12 people late Tuesday. Police denied the claims.




AFP

But the authorities took no chances in case community groups staged protests to condemn the decision to spend 29.9 billion rupees ($400 million) -- much of it public funds -- to build the statue over a nearly four-year period. Hundreds of Chinese have been among the 3,500 workers involved in its construction.
Drones and helicopters kept watch on the area, according to police, after the chiefs of 22 villages signed a letter calling on Modi to stay away from the inauguration.
Posters of Modi with Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani were torn down or had their faces blackened at the weekend. Police guarded new posters put in their place.
Local legislator Chotu Vasava said: "Tribal groups have been exploited by different governments, the ruling BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) is repeating it again."
"I am not against Sardar, but what is the use of the statue if the people on the land have to suffer and are moved from their homes?"
The Gujarat government said the 185 families moved to make way for the statue had been compensated and given 1,200 acres (475 hectares) of land.
More than 80 percent of the local population are from tribal groups with special protected status.




AFP

In the largely tribal town of Dediapada, roughly 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the statue, villagers shuttered shops and closed the main market for the day in protest.
"We are still facing problems of water, health infrastructure and employment," one resident, Vikram Vasava, told a local broadcaster.
"How will the statue help us?"
Sardar Patel was a deputy prime minister in India's first post-independence government. He became known as "the Iron Man" by convincing feuding states -- sometimes with a threat of force -- to join the new united country.
His name had been largely overshadowed by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has dominated Indian politics since 1947. But Modi-inspired nationalists have sought to put him back in the forefront, with critics accusing them of appropriating his legacy.
The statue is more than twice the size of New York's Statue of Liberty and also dwarfs the 128-metre (400-feet) high Spring Temple Buddha in China, the world's next-biggest statue. It is made up of nearly 100,000 tonnes of concrete and steel.
Online booking to visit the Statue of Unity has opened with a 350 rupee ($4.75) admission fee for the 153-metre-high observation deck.
Indian authorities hope the statue will attract 15,000 visitors a day.
India is also working on a giant statue of 17th-century warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji, riding a horse and brandishing a sword, which should dominate the Mumbai shoreline from 2021. The current design would make it 212 metres high.


Key hospitals in Indian Kashmir treat more than 150 tear gas, pellet injuries

Updated 26 min 19 sec ago

Key hospitals in Indian Kashmir treat more than 150 tear gas, pellet injuries

  • People gathered in groups despite the ban on public gatherings
  • The government has not provided any number of injuries
SRINAGAR, India: At least 152 people have suffered injuries from tear gas and pellets in disputed Kashmir since Indian security forces this month launched a sweeping crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Indian authorities have deployed additional paramilitary police, banned public gatherings and cut cellular and Internet links to prevent large scale protests after withdrawing the revolt-torn territory’s special status on Aug 5.
Still, people especially youth, have come out in the lanes of the region’s key city of Srinagar, on occasions such as Friday prayers or Eid this month, throwing stones, prompting retaliatory action by security forces.
Data obtained by Reuters showed 152 people reported to Srinagar’s Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences and Shri Maharaj Hari Singh with injuries from pellet shots and tear gas fire between Aug 5 and Aug 21.
The government, which has not yet provided any figures of the injured in the sporadic protests, has said there have been no deaths in this month’s demonstrations in a region where more than 50,000 have died since an armed revolt broke out in 1989.
India hopes that withdrawal of special privileges for Kashmir, such as exclusive rights to land, government jobs and college places and opening them up to people from the rest of the country will help to integrate the territory.
Pakistan lays claim to Muslim-majority Kashmir and has condemned the decision to change its status.
A local government official in Jammu and Kashmir, however, said the number of injured was probably higher than the figures from the two hospitals.
Many of those who were discharged within hours do not feature in their list, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, while others, with wounds treated at smaller hospitals, remain unaccounted for.