A resolve to intensify the protest against displacement was announced at the Thakur Dev Yatra And Adhikar Sammelan in the Surajgarh Hill area of Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra on 5-6 Janury 2018, with the slogan “We do not want mining”.

“We do not want mining …
Mining destroys the mountains and rivers, mining destroys the culture, mining destroys the water, forest and land, mining destroys the Adivasis and other communities.”

“We do not want mining …
Mining does not ensure jobs and development. Mining does not make any profit to the Dalits, Adivasis, poors and the labourers. Rather mining generates profits for the rich capitalists, their agents as political leaders and corrupt officials … mining is for looting the resources.”

Intensifying the protest against displacement was announced at the Thakur Dev Yatra And Adhikar Sammelan in the Surjagarh Hill area, with the slogan “We do not want mining”.

  1. Mining forcefully started by the Lloyds Metal in Surjagarh Hill area should be stopped immediately.
  2. The proposed Gopani Company in Surjagarh, proposed JSW Company in Damkondwahi, and proposed mining project at Jhandepar should be stopped immediately.
  3. For the sake of conventional way of earning, small scale Industry based on light forest products should set up under the supervision of Gramsabhas.
  4. Land Acquisition anouncement at the PESA area made by the Governor of Maharashtra on 15th November 2017 should be withdrawn.
  5. The implecations of PESA and Forest Rights Act should be realised and the sovreignty of the Gramsabha should be acknowledged.
  6. The police atrocities on the local people and the activists opposing the anti-public mining policies in a democratic way, should be stopped immediately, slapping fake charges and cases on them should be stopped immediately, incresing militarization in Adivasi areas should be stopped.

– These are some of their demands.

Surjagarh, Etapally (Distt. Gadchiroli)

Water-forest-land, mountains, rivers – these are our true resources, our Gods, our worship place are within these rivers and mountains. Earning from these forest products and the very existance of our deities are preserving and protecting the culture and independence of the Adivasis in this land. If, in the name of development, minings are allowed in the entire Gadchiroli district, it will destroy the forest resources. The local Adivasis and other communities will have to bear the burnt of displacement. That’s why all the mining projects that have been started and that have been proposed in the Gadchiroli district, must be abandoned immediately, demands the residents of Surjagarh Hill area, Etapally Tehsil, Gadchiroli district in the “Thakur Dev Yatra, Surjagarh Annual Festival and Rights Conference”. Public took oath to intensify their protests against displacement and anti-public policies. To protect their culture, to preserve the rights on water-forest-land, to ensure people-centrik development, crowd of thousands of people took resolution to take their movement forward.

The Surjagarh Hills in the Surjagarh area of Etapally Tehsil, Gadchiroli district is an important place of worship for the Adivasis and other communities. Among the hills the main hill hosts the place of worship of the lord of this area ‘Thakur Dev’ and other natural deities. Local Adivasis and other communities gather here for worshipping since centuries. This Surjagarh Hills are the identities of cultures, traditions, and religious activities of local people. This also hosts the historic fort ‘Surjagarh’ – the fort of Veer Baburao Shedmake who was martyred during the Sepoy Mutiny on 1857. The historical remains of that fort are still visible in this area that speaks about the revolutionary history of martyr Veer Baburao Shedmake. Existance of local people is directly connected with the existance of this hill. But now the Government is trying to destroy the very existance of this hill.

The “Thakur Dev Yatra, Surjagarh Annual Festival and Rights Conference” was organized from 5th to 8th January, like other years, by all the Gram Sabha’s of Etapally Tehsil, Surjapur Paramparik Ilakha Gotul Samiti and other areas of the district, on behalf of the public protesting against the anti-public mining and other violent activities. 70 villages of Surjagarh area and people from Korchi, Kurkhera, Dhanora, Etapally, Bhamragarh, Chamorshi, Mulchera, Aheri, Sironcha etc. Tehsils of Gadchiroli district took part in this four-day long historic rally. Not only the local people, but other mass organizations, political parties and intellectuals also took part.

First day of the Yatra was marked with traditional worshipping in the evening. Traditional dance and other cultural events happened during the night.

Second day, 6th January 2018, public meeting was organized to discuss on rights on natural resources and the issue of displacement. Along with local people, the anti-displacement movement workers, political parties also took part in this meeting.

PESA and Forest Rights Act were violated during distribution of mining projects in Surjagarh and other areas. The distributions happened by totally ignoring the Gram Sabha’s. To make profits for private companies the resources of local people are being sold out at throwaway price.

The place of worship for the Adivasis, the sacred Hill are being destroyed. For this reason, all mines of Surjagarh and all proposed mining projects of Gadchiroli should be stopped immediately and all MOUs should be withheld. These were the main topics of discussion. The Village leaders of Surjagarh area presented their views in the meeting.

Strong demonstration is going on at Jhandepar area of Korchi against proposed mining project. A representative of this movement, Maharu Kallo of Jhandepar Gram Sabha narrated about the protests they are holding at Korchi. He also called for a bigger movement against all mining projects in Gadchiroli district. Jai Jawa-Jai Kishan Manch Nagpur’s Arun Vankar, Zilla Parishad member Ed. Lalsu Nogoti, Surjagarh Ilaka Samity representative and Zilla Parishad member Sainu Gota, Zilla Parishad member Sanjay Charduke, Panchayat Samiti president of Bhamragarh area Sukhram Madabi, Panchayat Samity member Shila Gota, Surjagarh Gram Panchayat Chief Kalpana Alam, Communist Party of India District co-secretary Compare Amol Marakwar , Rahul Meshram from Alapally, Balaji Gawde from Perilili area, Surendra Hichami, Jhode etc delivered their speech and demanded immediate stopping of all proposed anti-public mining projects in Gadchiroli district to save natural resources and preserve the means of living of local people through natural resources. Also, they requested the Government not to ignore the pleas of local people, else in future they will intensify their protests against these anti-public mining projects.

Songs and dances were organized during evening by the Gram Sabha about the movements on rights on natural resources. On the third day local deities like ‘Thakur Dev’, ‘Marai Chhero’, ‘Bhima Pen’ were worshipped, and Thakur Dev was specially worshipped at the main place of worship at top of the hill, with sacrifice. Along with them, Veer Baburao Shedmake was remembered for his revolutionary fight by offering prayers at the historic places related to Veer Baburao Shedmake. On the last day of the Yatra, PESA-forest rights and strengthening the Gram Sabha’s were discussed during the morning time. Then chiefs of Surjagarh and other areas took pledge to strengthen the protest about mining at reserved area of Thakur Dev. Then the “Thakur Dev Yatra, Surjagarh Annual Festival and Rights Conference” was concluded with traditional last rituals.

The meetings and seminars had discussions on preserving the cultural aspects, religious beliefs and social practices, traditions, colloquial languages, deities, natural resources and forest based earning systems of the Adivasis and other communities, demands of scrapping all mining projects, reinforcing the PESA and Forest Rights Act and stopping police atrocities against public democratic movements.

During the Surjagarh festival a group called “Humans of Gondwana (Gondwana ke Log)” arranged a photo exhibition depicting the culture, civilization and lifestyles of the Adivasis. They have their own social system, an age-old traditional system. How this system is being destroyed on false pretext of earnings and development – were depicted in this photo exhibition.

Entire festival highlighted the protest against displacement, capitalism, rights of Gram Sabha in a historic manner.

This article first appeared in Sangharsh Samvad, and has been translated by Samik.