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Chhattisgarh tribals hold rally against "coal law", get support from 14 states for Coal Satyagraha in Raigarh

By Ashok Shrimali*
Chhattisarh tribals’ resistance to coalmining has found strong support from 14 states, whose representatives gathered in Gare village of Tamnar block of Raigarh district to protest against what they described as “corporate loot” of the natural resources. The meeting was organized by Mines, Minerals and People (MM&P), a well-known advocacy group, in association with Jan Chetna, a grassroots organization.
The meeting was preceded by a huge tribal rally, in which tribals from 54 villages came together to oppose proposed coal mining near Gare village’s 72 sq km área, where an estimated reserve of 2,600 million tonnes has reportedly been located.
The main slogan of the rally was to break the "coal law", a direct reference to the salt law, which the Father of the Nation broke in April 1930 in Gujarat. 
Speaking on the occasion, Rajesh Tripathi, a member of non‐profit Jan Chetna, said, “We don’t want to do mining and give our land for mining, we are happy with forest produce and agriculture.”
He added, however, “If government is not keen to adhere our demands then the villagers’ first right to extract coal cannot be denied. The land owners have absolute rights over the land and in return we will pay the royalties to the government”.
Jharkhand's Kumar Biswas said, public sector entities were making a mockery of the system in Chatra and Hazaribagh districts, where the National Thermal Power Corporation has “destroyed all the land documents of the farmers with the help of government officers to avoid protest and make it difficult for the villagers to claim their rights over the land.”
Biswas condemned the gruesome violence in Hazaribagh, in which five persons were reportedly killed (click HERE).
Swaraj Das of West Bengal said, he had lost his land and was now running pillar to post to get compensation of his land from a mining company, which has got lease. He described the atrocities of the mining company “similar to the colonial era.”
At activist from Telangana said, under the fifth schedule area, there is a need to protect the tribal rights and oppose land grabbing, deforestation and displacement without adequate rehabilitation and resettlement.
Basant Pradhan from Indipada, Odisha, said, “We have full rights over our land and we will not give single inch of land to the mining companies. Indigenous tribes living in 5th schedule have its own culture and we will keep fighting to safeguard our rights, culture and forest.”
At the meet, it was suggested that a detailed Social and Environmental assessment of the impact due to coal mining in Tamnar and other coal areas in different states will be very useful to ensure the safety of people fighting at the grassroots level.
Speaking on the occasion, Ravi Rebapragada, chairperson, MM&P, said, “We have to bring youth together to strengthen our struggles against the companies (violators), because they are being easily lured by the mining companies. We have to keep fighting and active in our approach to protect our land.” He demanded implementation of the Supreme Court's 1997 Samata judgement for this.
Held to mark Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary, October 2, a resolution passed at the Coal Satyagraha insisted on the need for greater assertion for greater community control over natural resources, at a time where the most vulnerable communities are resisting large-scale corporate capture of their lands, forests and minerals.
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*Secretary-general, Mines, Minerals and People (MM&P), one of the main participants

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