The Statue of Unity, a 182 metre tribute to Indian freedom fighter Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel has been inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
India's prime minister on Wednesday unveiled a towering bronze statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a key independence leader and the country's first home minister after British colonialists left in 1947.
At 182 metres, it is one of the tallest statues in the world built at a cost of $403 million in Kevadiya, a village in Gujarat state.
Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Patel hail from Gujarat state.
Modi inaugurated the "Statue of Unity" on the bank of the Narmada river.
He had promised the project despite criticism that India couldn't afford to spend so much money on a statue.
Indian air force planes showered flower petals on the statue.
Patel was known as the "Iron Man of India" for integrating various states in the post-independence era as the creation of Pakistan led to a massive bloodshed between Hindus and Muslims moving between the two nations.
Angry local communities have warned Modi to stay away from the inauguration on Wednesday of the statue.
TRT World speaks with Rebecca Bundhun.
Protests against expenditures
The Statue of Unity, which is twice the size of the Statue of Liberty, has been built in a remote corner of Gujarat state as a flagship project of conservative leader Modi.
But people living around the $400 million statue of Patel want more compensation for damage to the environment.
Posters of Modi with Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani in a town near the statue were torn down or had the faces blackened at the weekend.
The chiefs of 22 surrounding villages have warned Modi to stay away from the inauguration of the mammoth figure, which will push the 128 metre high Spring Temple Buddha in China into second place.
"We villagers are determined and would like to inform you that on October 31 you (Modi) are not welcome here. If you come here as an unwanted guest we won't welcome you," they said in an open letter sent to the district administration.
"You and your companies have not only destroyed the natural resources, but are openly and brazenly exploiting them for business."
Icon or extravagance?
The letter said that building the Statue of Unity and the nearby Sardar Sarovar Dam had "destroyed" the Narmada river, India's fifth longest, while the local population did not have enough schools, hospitals and drinking water.
Local leader and former member of parliament, Amarsinh Chaudhary, said: "If Sardar Patel was alive today he would never have agreed to build such a statue at such a huge cost.
"This is being done for political gains as tribal groups in Gujarat are still suffering and devoid of basic human necessities."
Chaudhary said protests were being planned for Wednesday's inauguration. Authorities have already laid on tight security because of Modi's presence.
Chotu Vasava, a legislator in the state assembly, said the statue should have been built in New Delhi, and that Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party government picked Gujarat to buy the votes of Sardar's community.
More than 80 percent of the local population are from tribal groups with special protected status.
But 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 new land.
The statue has been under construction for nearly four years. About 3,000 workers, including hundreds from China, have put 5,000 squares of bronze cladding over a concrete and steel frame.
Funds for the statue came from the federal government, state-run companies and other institutions, and it was built in 33 months by construction and engineering company Larsen & Toubro Ltd.
Depicting the bald Patel in traditional attire, with a shawl over the shoulders, the statue used 210,000 cubic metres of cement, 25,000 tonnes of steel and 1,700 tonnes of bronze.
Some of the leaders Modi has branded as "forgotten" came from the opposition Congress party, and fought for independence from colonial ruler Britain in 1947.
Facing five state elections and a general election due by May, Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are reaching back into history for alternatives to the heroes of the Nehru-Gandhi family that dominated Congress.
The BJP says Congress has deliberately ignored leaders such as Patel, B.R. Ambedkar, who led the drafting of the constitution, and freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose.
Ironic that a statue of Sardar Patel is being inaugurated, but every institution he helped build is being smashed. The systematic destruction of India's institutions is nothing short of treason. #StatueOfUnity— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) October 31, 2018
The accusations are a distortion of history, says Congress, which ruled India for much of its independence history and is now led by Rahul Gandhi, the great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister.
"Ironic that a statue of Sardar Patel is being inaugurated, but every institution he helped build is being smashed," Gandhi said on social network Twitter, using an honorific for Patel.
"The systematic destruction of India's institutions is nothing short of treason."
"You would surely ask, on whose land would this statue stand? Whose plan was this?" social activist Medha Patkar wrote in what she called an open letter to Patel.
"This land, river, forest that your avatar is going to stand on, belongs to adivasis."
"Hordes" of tourists
But Modi has said the statue will attract "hordes" of tourists, just as the Statue of Liberty does for New York.
According to the Gujarat government, it will bring 15,000 tourists a day. Up to 200 visitors at any one time will be allowed on the viewing gallery 153 metres up.
Critics point to the lack of hotels in the region. The nearest city Vadodora, is about 100 kilometres (60 miles) away and Gujarat's main city, Ahmedabad, is more than 200 kilometres away.
It is also in a high security zone as the Sardar dam is on a list of sensitive national installations, so all tourists will have to undergo identity checks.
There are no trains, and most tourists will have to take a bus on a four-lane highway from Vadodora.
The state government is hurriedly building a new guest house complex with a large food court to cater for an expected tourist rush.
On Wednesday, Modi said Patel was a beacon of hope for India in the time of crisis and he will be a source of inspiration for ages to come.
Rashesh Patel, a 42-year-old businessman, said "though Patel was from Gujarat state, all Indians were proud of him because of his stature."
Mohandas Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Patel were the three key leaders of India's independence struggle, he said.
The monument will have a museum with 40,000 documents, 2,000 photographs and a research centre dedicated to Patel's life and work.