Pic- aruna chandrashekhar

Pic- aruna chandrashekhar

Aruna chandrashekhar, facebook

Yesterday, 5 village councils (gram sabhas) of Pelma, Jarridih, Sakta, Urba and Marhadumar in Raigarh, Chhattisgarh, rejected plans to mine their forests for coal.

Coal India Limited‘s subsidiary South Eastern Coalfields Limited (SECL) wants to acquire over 2000 hectares of land in these villages, including over 280 hectares of forest land.

What with other state governments asking genius-like questions such as “does consent last forever?”, this is the fourth successive time since October 2014 that villagers here have rejected the mine.

“Bharat sarkaar hosh mein aaye/Government of India, please come to your senses. People here have a lot of things to do- work in their fields, collect their forest produce. Please do not waste our time with another attempt to divert our forests when we’ve already told you we don’t want mining here over and over again,” said Bansi Naik, a local farmer who’s been leading the opposition to the mine.

“The economic value of what every family here derives again and again from the forest cannot compare to the profit that only you will make,” said Shatrughan Sidar, a resident of the village of Pelma.

The gram sabha also declared that not just forest land, but all land acquisition for the mine must be stopped. The hearing was attended by over 250 people, with women outnumbering men, carrying their traditional sticks. “Take our pictures. We want to send a strong message to the company and the government,” said Sunita Rathia, an adivasi woman.

“Bhoo arjan radhh karo, raddh karo/Stop the land acquisition! The government must first recognise our community forest rights before trying to take them away.