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India has unveiled the world’s tallest statue, depicting one of the country’s independence leaders, in a lavish ceremony featuring fireworks, fighter jets and rose petals showered by helicopters.
The 182-metre sculpture of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, known as the Statue of Unity to commemorate his efforts to corral hundreds of princely states into the Indian union after independence, was revealed on Wednesday by the prime minister, Narendra Modi.
Huge crowds and more than 5,000 police officers gathered in a remote corner of Gujarat state for the opening, which has also sparked protests from local communities who say they were not compensated for the land used to erect the statue.
Modi said the structure, which is twice the size of New York’s Statue of Liberty, was “an answer to all those who question the existence of India”.
“The height of the statue is to remind the youth that the future of the country will be as huge as this,” he said, adding it was also symbolic of “our engineering and technical prowess”.
The bronze-clad figure of Patel, which houses a memorial garden and museum in its base, cost an estimated 29.8bn rupee (£314m) and has been under construction for four years.
Lifts have been installed to take up to 15,000 tourists each day to a viewing gallery about 152m high. The admission fee is 350 rupees.
Police have denied allegations by local community groups that plain-clothes officers detained 12 people on Tuesday to prevent them from protesting at the site. The Gujarat government says 185 families were moved to accommodate the structure and received compensation and 1,200 acres (475 hectares) of new land.
The area is home to mostly tribal groups with special protected status. The chiefs of 22 local villages signed a letter calling on Modi to stay away from the inauguration.
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