Does a mining company respect the dead?

No. of course not. They barely respect the living. 


In 2016, four young men were killed in a police firing on the 1st of October, during a protest against Thriveni-Sainik and NTPC’s coal mining project at Pakrih Barwadih. The youngest were school going boys and the oldest was only 32, and they were from the villages Sindwari, Sonbarsa, and Chepa-Khurd in Barkagaon block of Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand. A day later, the police laid siege on the villages of Churchu, Chepa-Khurd, and Nagari, where they vandalized property and beat whoever they came upon. The population of these villages had more or less emptied their homes, and disappeared into the fields, or into the homes of distant relatives, or as they say, gone underground. 

Today, most of the houses of Sindwari and Sonbarsa have been demolished, the village of Churchu has disappeared, and the graveyard of Nagari doesn’t exist anymore. 


The protests have not ceased though, and the villagers claim the complete lack of compensation, and illegal dumping is now at the edge of their lives. Every night, ten to twelve people sleep right next to the dumping site, in two makeshift ‘dharna-sthals’, one built by the Mahtos the other by the Muslims, and if any illegal dumping happens, as it usually happens in the middle of the night, they begin to scream at the trucks and stop them as they can. They have put red flags on top of the dump to mark their territory. And the first thing they say, is that they have been protesting and keeping vigil now for fifteen days. 


The company claims that it is dumping on Gair Majurua land, and tells the villagers to go talk to the government. The NTPC officials tell them that if their land is being acquired, they should get jobs. But in a letter dated 28th March, 2024, the villagers claimed that ‘an official told them that if they harass them for jobs, they will forcibly dump on their lands.’ The villagers are demanding justice. They are demanding their rightful employment.

But the government officers give them a minute or two. They usually walk away without saying anything. 

No one listens. 

Everyone knows no one listens. 

They haven’t listened since 2004 when they said they didn’t want mining. That this region was irrigated, multi-crop, that it had seasonal harvests.  

Now, they’ve dumped on rivers, dried up the region, and destroyed everyone’s sense of identity itself. Those who were once farmers and landowners, have to beg for compensation and jobs. 

A man is on the phone.

Where are you?

Come to where we once beat the CEO. 

The protestors laugh. 

Now, people claim that anyone who complains against the company ends up with even less compensation than they deserve, and may even be removed from their jobs. Thus, no one comes on record, as it has become the cultural practice of the mining areas in Jharkhand, that live under duress and a repression that has an old name. 

A house right next to the over-burden dumping site says they received no compensation. 

‘Does anyone come to them to speak to them?’

‘No, they call them to the office.’

An old woman and two young women all laugh but refuse to come on record. Everyone is keeping a roza. 


Protests prevented the graveyard of Dadikala from being destroyed which now sits at the edge of the overburden dump. The graveyard of Nagari was destroyed on the night of ‘Shab-be-barat’, the night of forgiveness, the night of freedom or atonement, but here no one could forgive the police force that descended at night and removed a graveyard that had over five centuries of generations. 

‘Did the dalaals also dig up their own people?’

‘The dalaals people were also in this kabristan.’

‘Did they dig up the graveyard by hand or by machines?’

They dug everything with machines. Smashed everything to smithereens. 

‘Was there anyone from the village of Nagari working that day?’

‘No, they were from outside.’

‘Did anyone see any bones?’

‘Yes. But it’s all covered up again.’ 

‘Some people from Nagari sold their dead.’

When people point out where the graveyard was, you can only see JCBs, coal dust, and a mark in the middle of the mine. Two men from Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh are standing at the edge of the mine. They are to perform an external audit. They speak about the development of this nation. We speak about the destruction of the planet. They speak about how people can earn their livelihood. We speak about how we are feeding billionaires while everyone is struggling. They speak about how everything is run by capitalism. We speak about how all the vegetarian billionaires will die first, because at least we can eat meat. 


We move on. There is no atonement here, no graveyard but the graveyard of the human race. 

Another large group of villagers from Dadikala are sitting under a banyan tree. They are protesting against the poisoning and potential destruction of their pond, the Raja Ahar pond, built on five acres, 62 decimals. The fish they grow in the pond belongs to the entire village, and they manage around five or six quintal per year. From Roi fish to local fish, everything, the pond irrigates, provides water to their animals, washing clothes, for bathing. But now there’s a black sheen over the pond and the company wants the land. People had gathered with their sarpanch to write another ‘avidhan.’ They are writing that everyone should be properly compensated and rehabilitated before the pond is destroyed. 

A police van appears. The group of thirty men eventually hardens, and becomes anxious. One man walks away. Others start making fun of him. Everyone stares at the armed policemen. One policeman with a register asks whose land is this? An old man says its his. Apparently there was an altercation between the company people and the protestors are few moons ago. 

The police leaves. The man who walked away returns. Everyone tells him that he shouldn’t have gotten scared. He thought they came for him. But why would they? Only six policemen, and thirty villagers. They came for their own work. And they left. 


One old man didn’t sign the avidhan and keeps asking for it. He gets it. People laugh. 

Another man begins a tirade against Congress’ Amba Prasad. How it was her family that helped defeat the movement here. How they get money from the mining lobby. A while earlier, another man was talking about how the JMM got money through Electoral bonds from Thriveni Earthmovers. And the list confirms. As Thriveni Earthmovers, they’ve given 3 crores on 9th April, 2021. As Thriveni-Sainik, they’ve given three crores on 12th October, 2023. And next day, on 13th October, 2023, another five crores as Thriveni Earthmovers. 

Everyone knows its election season. 


A day earlier, Amba Prasad lectured the Adivasis during their sarhul puja about respecting jal, jangle, jameen by not setting the jungles on fire. No one said anything about mining to her. Or the destruction of the forests of Northern Barkagaon by mining companies. 

Privately, the sarpanch says Congress will still win here, even though the BJP won by over 4,79,548‬ votes last time. ‘People will abuse them, and they will vote for them.’

In Gondalpura, where villagers have been protesting against Adani Enterprises, a panchayat meeting sat a few days ago and vowed that ‘no one will even accidently vote for BJP this time.’



An old woman collected the freshly falling mahua flower next to the dharna site and the overburden boundary at Dadikala. I also start putting a few into my bag. It’s one of the most beautiful fragrances of summer. She gives me a sathua leaf to wrap it in. 

And than it occurs to all of us. This might be the last year this mahua tree will bloom. Next year, it might be covered in stone. 

Written by an Activist who would like to remain anonymous

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