To fight against the commercial mining of coal in Jharkhand, we have to recall how the battle against bauxite mining by mighty Corporate Vedanta was fought and won by the tribal community in the Niyamgiri mountains in Orissa.
The news of the Supreme Court approving the Posco and Vedanta Projects in Orissa came as a thunder-blow to all the movements striving for an equitable Indian social order. Large forest land amounting to 2,900 acres had been permitted to be decimated by the Korean giant and a sacred hill amounting to 660 acres had been allowed to be dug and destroyed by the Sterlite group. If this was not a travesty of justice against the poorest of the poor, what is? It seemed God was also not listening to the helpless cries of those being displaced and deprived.
The answer always given for such cruel displacements is that adequate compensation will be given in form of alternate land and/or money. What is conveniently forgotten is that not only the land and environment is being destroyed in the name of development, it is a whole way of living developed over centuries that is being attacked for a promise of happy materialistic living totally built on selfishness. We wish to convert this wonderful country of diverse cultures and traditions into a monolithic American way of life where everyone eats, dresses, thinks and speaks the same way, thus drowning out our rich cultural heritage.
Much as we respect the Highest Court and the law of the land, it was time now for all people’s movements to get together on this issue and support wholeheartedly our friends in Orissa who were fighting on an uphill path but knew they were right according to the higher law of humanity. No government in history has been able to rough ride the united voice of the people and this was the moment and occasion
for us to come forward and gather together in large numbers around our friends from Orissa to give them strength, support, encouragement and a loud voice that could be heard all over the country.
Mr. Jairam, an activist of the Dongria Kondh tribe, which holds the hill sacred (awarded to Sterlite), declared ”Even if you kill us we will not give up Niyamgiri. Our souls are in Niyamgiri, our food, water, homes are in Niyamgiri”?
The Niyamgiri people had decided not to allow Sterlite to enter Niyamgiri and unitedly they resisted all Government orders at the cost of intimidation, arrests, threats and punishments meted out to them. The decision of the united tribal community was clear – we will not allow even at the cost of our lives. This was Gandhi’s Satyagraha in its purest form and like Gandhi the people of Niyamgiri won despite all the Court orders and Government pressures.
We need a similar Movement in Jharkhand to stop and scrap the commercial mining of coal, a commodity on which the Gram Sabhas have total ownership power.
Prem Verma,Convenor, Jharkhand Nagrik Prayas, Ranchi