Protests expected as India prepares to unveil world's largest statue

Hugh Fox
October 31, 2018

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.

"In Modi's worldview this statue is a crucial part of the signaling of the rise of India and the presenting before the world that rise in visual terms", Hindol Sengupta, who wrote a biography about Patel, told the Washington Post. "Is remembering the country's great personalities a crime?" Reports said that PM Modi will be welcomed by the bands of the Armed Forces, Gujarat Police, SRP, CRPF and BSF, and cultural troupes from 29 States and two Union Territories.

But officials in Gujarat state are anxious that community groups could stage protests to demand compensation for land taken to erect the Statue of Unity, which cost 29.9bn rupees (£315m) and has taken almost four years to build.

India's prime minister on Wednesday unveiled a towering bronze statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a key independence leader being promoted as a national icon in the ruling party's campaign ahead of next year's general elections.

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In his address to the country, the prime minister paid tribute to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and also praised the para-athletes, who had represented India in the Asian Para Games recently and said that their spirit to overcome challenges is inspirational.

Posters of Modi with Gujarat's chief minister, Vijay Rupani, were torn down or had their faces blackened at the weekend.

The committee overseeing the construction of the project reportedly also asked for public donations to finish the statue and called on farmers across the country to donate iron.

In the lobby area at the entrance of the statue, a museum and audio visual gallery will feature 15-minute presentations on the life of Patel and the tribal culture of Gujarat, to entertain tourists awaiting their turn to go up.

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The statue occupies over 20,000 square meters and is surrounded by a 12 square km artificial lake.

The project is facing opposition from local villagers in the region and from rival political parties. The chiefs of 22 villages around the statue signed an open letter calling on Modi to stay away from the inauguration. Charges for adults is Rs 120 and for kids it is Rs 60 to visit the memorial, statue site and Sardar Sarovar Dam.

Leader of Opposition in the Gujarat Assembly, Paresh Dhanani, a Congress MLA, targeted the BJP over the non-completion of the Narmada canal network.

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