As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the world's tallest Statue of Unity in Narmada district on October 31, 2018, the residents of 72 tribal villages who have been directly or indirectly affected by the project boycotted the inauguration by not cooking food. They released black balloons in the sky and burnt tyres to mark their protest. Ahead of Modi's visit, the heads of 22 villages in the vicinity of the dam had written an open letter to him, stating that the villagers would not welcome him at the inauguration. Local tribal leaders announced a boycott of the function citing destruction of natural resources due to the construction of the memorial. A day before the inauguration, several tribal activists and local people were detained as a preventive measure. The affected people consider the statue a "colossal" waste of public money. The government has envisioned a tourism zone in the stretch between the Sardar Sarovar Dam and the Statue of Unity. It is touted to have a "valley of flowers", a "Tent City", a guest house for every state, hotels and a lake for boating, for which the government plans to release water from the Sardar Sarovar Dam. The tribals fear submersion of their villages and crops. Some of the villages also lost many acres of land in October when the government widened the access road leading to the statue. Of the 72 villages in which land has been acquired, the residents of only 32 villages have been compensated so far. However, in 19 of these villages, rehabilitation is yet to be completed. People in six villages Navagam, Vagadia, Limdi, Kevadiya, Kothi and Gora in Kevadiya Colony have been displaced and are living in temporary shelters. According to human rights activist, Anand Mazgaonkar, these six villages are not recognised as projectaffected. Other affected people include those who have been paid monetary compensation but are awaiting land and jobs as promised under the rehabilitation package as well as those who have been compensated with land but are unhappy as the land is unproductive. Tribal activists also allege that the Statue of Unity project has not taken environmental clearance. According to a media report, the activists wrote a letter to the environment secretary, stating that the statue violates the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986, environmental impact assessment notification of 2006 and a few orders issued by the National Green Tribunal. The Statue of Unity is only 3.2 kilometres from the Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary. According to a Supreme Court order dated December 4, 2006, if a project requiring environmental clearance is located within a 10kilometre radius of a wildlife sanctuary or national park, the project requires the approval of the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife. On December 17, 2018, the residents of Kevadiya Colony locked the executive engineer of the Sardar Sarovar Punarvasvat Agency in his office at the Statue of Unity site to protest against the lack of jobs for the local people. They also complained of the lack of basic facilities for those displaced by the project. However, police rushed to the site and brought the situation under control. On July 25, 2019, the Gujarat High Court ordered a status quo on the acquisition of land for various tourism projects and asked the state government not to evict anyone until further orders. The court's decision came after a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed against the land acquisition in the six villages. The PIL was filed by Ahmedabadbased environment activist Mahesh Pandya. In the petition, Pandya alleged that the government and the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSSNL) want to evict around 5,000 tribespeople residing in the six villages under the guise of tourism development projects without following due procedure under the Land Acquisition Act. He stated that the land is being acquired for tiger safaris, hotels and other buildings planned near the Statue of Unity to develop tourism. The petitioner further claimed that the land acquired from several tribal families was never utilised for the purpose for which it was acquired and that the physical possession of the land was never taken over. In December 2019, the Gujarat government enacted a legislation called the 'Statue of Unity Area Development and Tourism Governance Act, 2019 which, amongst other things, excludes the application of the LARR Act, 2013, and effectively takes away the protections provided under Schedule V and the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, to the affected people. In May 2020, the High Court of Gujarat withdrew the stay order on SSNNL to acquire the land surrounding the statue. Following this, the company laid fences on open plots of land around the statue in Kevadiya colony. The local residents protested and clashed with the police, in which 20 people were arrested. After a month of protest, on June 5, the fencing work was stopped to facilitate talks with the local residents. While the state government maintained that the fencing was not related to the Statue of Unity, the tribespeople claimed the move was another ploy to acquire land from them. The state, on the other hand, contended that it has not asked anyone living within the fenced plot to vacate and stated that the dialogue was to make the residents aware of the government packages. However, it also formed teams to book villagers trespassing into the lands. In August 2020, a tribal man attempted suicide to protest against the fencing, which was completed in June. In November 2020, the district administration served the first notice to execute the environment ministry's order to classify 121 villages around Shoolpneshwar Wild Sanctuary as ecosensitive zones. This has led to further protests by tribal communities because it includes the state government as the coowner of the 121 villages' land. In March 2021, Union Minister of Tribal Affairs Arjun Munda blatantly denied claims of protests by aggrieved land owners in the Lok Sabha.
Demand for rehabilitation, Demand for promised compensation, Complaint against procedural violations, Demand for employment
Non-Forest (Grazing Land), Non-Forest (Other than Grazing Land)
Has the Conflict Ended?
When did it end?
Why did the conflict end?
Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict
Land Acquisition Laws, Forest and Scheduled Area Governance Laws, Environmental Laws, Other
Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013
24(2): [If an award was made five years before the 2013 LARR Act, but possession has not been taken, the proceedings will have lapsed, but the government can choose to initiate acquisition proceedings again]
Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996
Section 4: [Mentions powers of the gram sabha/panchayat and that a state would need their consent before passing a law relating to the area]
Statue of Unity Area Development and Tourism Governance Act, 2019
Section 2(I)(i): [Defines "occupier" as someone who is liable to pay rent on the land or building]; Section 2(b): [Definition of "building operations" as under the Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act, I976]; Section 31(1): [State government by notification can declare a tourism development area to be an industrial township]; Section 38: [No person has any right in the land acquired by the government prior to the Act within the tourism development area]
Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006
Schedule I, Item 8(a): This project would fall under the General Conditions and therefore be a Category A project requiring mandatory clearance; Section 7(III): Conducting public consultation
Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute
What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community? What was the decision of the concerned government department?
Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:
Non-rehabilitation of displaced people, Non-implementation/violation of the PESA, Violation of LARR Act, Controversial land acquisition by the government , Delay in compensation, Non-payment of promised compensation, Violation of free prior informed consent, Violation of environmental laws
Status of Case In Court
Whether any adjudicatory body was approached
Name of the adjudicatory body
Name(s) of the Court(s)
High Court of Gujarat at Ahmedabad
Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:
Whether criminal law was used against protestors
Official name of the criminal law. Did the case reach trial?
Reported Details of the Violation:
While protesting against the fencing put up by the company around the statue, the local residents clashed with the police, in which 20 people were arrested.
Date of Violation
June 20, 2020
Location of Violation
Nature of Protest
Complaints, petitions, memorandums to officials , Protests/marches, Objections as part of official procedures , Self-immolation
Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:
Government of Gujarat
PSUs Involved in the Conflict:
Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?
Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached
Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:
Larsen and Toubro, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited
Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?
Name, Designation and Comment of Corporate Authorities Approached
Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:
The Concerned Citizens, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust