Activist Ramesh Agrawal, 56, is among the six people who will be awarded the prestigious Goldman Environment Prize. However, two years after he was shot at immediately after he managed to stop Jindal Steel and Power Limited’s coal mining project in Raigarh district, Chhattisgarh, the police and courts have been unable to unravel the bigger conspiracy behind the attack.
The Chhattisgarh police have filed a charge sheet in the case in which seven people, including a Jindal employee, a retired army brigadier, KK Chopra and his associate SN Panigrahi, who run a security agency, Superior Fire and Security Service, which provides security for Jindal Steel and Power Limited in Raigarh, have been named. The main attacker, who hails from Andhra Pradesh, is still absconding. Chopra and Panigrahi are out on bail while the Jindals have repeatedly denied all allegations against the company.
Local activists and Agrawal alleged that the attack was carried out at the behest of Naveen Jindal in 2012. Agrawal alleged that Jindal is influencing the case because of which the larger conspiracy behind the attack is not being unraveled.
Agrawal, who is currently in San Francisco for the award ceremony, had managed to stall the multi-million mining project of Jindal Steel and Power Limited, citing lacunae in environmental clearances and alleged farce public hearings, mandatory for such projects. Before that, Agrawal was incarcerated for two months in 2010 when Jindal filed a defamation case, alleging that Agrawal defamed the company during his public meeting with the villagers.
The attackers shot Agrawal in his groin and thigh in 2012. Two years later, he still has a steel rod installed in his femur and a cane to support him while walking.
“The local police is trying to dilute the case even in court so that the witnesses and accused do not point at Naveen Jindal on whose instance the attack was carried out. The main conspirator is still absconding and witnesses record statements sluggishly. Jindal is trying hard to ensure that people even remotely associated with him are not indicted in the case,” alleged Rajesh Tripathi, another activist from Raigarh, who is fighting for the rights of tribals and protection of environment.
The Goldman annual prize honours outstanding grassroots environmentalists who have made sustained and significant efforts, even at great personal risk, to protect and enhance the natural environment. The individual cash prize is $175,000. Agrawal won the prize along with five other activists across the globe.