Bengal: Thousands of Tribals Protest Against Open-pit Coal Mining Project in Deucha Panchami
Deocha Panchami Tribal Protest
Thousands of tribal men and women protested in front of the Birbhum District Magistrate’s office in West Bengal’s Siuri on Monday demanding the cancellation of the coal mining project proposed by the state government in Deucha-Pachami.
At the protest, they raised the slogan, “We will not leave our forest and our land. We will not let it become a coal mine.”
The indigenous people of 36 local villages from Deucha-Pachami area have been protesting for the last eight months demanding the cancellation of the coal mine project. The protesters have been on a relay hunger strike in Baromesia's Dangal since February 20. Finally, the tribals came to the city and demonstrated in front of the DM’s office. They also submitted a memorandum to Birbhum DM Bidhan Roy.
On Monday afternoon, there was heavy rain in Siuri and people outside were running in search of a shelter. However, thousands of tribal men, women and youth, who have walked for about 20 kilometres, stayed put and raised slogans in front of the DM’s office. The slogans from their protest demanded the resignation of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and said, “Tribals no longer need Mamata's government.”
The protest was led by local tribal leader Teresa Soren. Expressing anger against the state government, he said, "Today, the government is very careful of the tribals! We don't need this. We are tribals, this land is ours, and this forest is also ours. We will not leave this land and forest under any circumstances."
A protesting woman said, "No one in the hills wants coal mining. We are being threatened by the police for protesting. We will see to the end of this fight."
The agitators have said that they will continue a mass hunger strike until the project is cancelled.
Another leader of the movement, Ganesh Kisku, who submitted the memorandum to the District Magistrate, said, "Our main demand is to immediately cancel this open-pit coal mining project.” He further said, “The Chief Minister announced from a Trinamool Congress event on July 21 that coal mining has started on Deucha Panchami. Around 75% people in this area don't want mining. With whose permission did this mining work start?"
Birbhum District Magistrate Bidhan Roy said, "The demands of the tribals will be conveyed to the proper place. The mining work has started after talking to the locals."
Meanwhile, the West Bengal Vigyan Manch has raised questions about the survey work on the proposed coal mining project on Deucha-Pachami land. The organisation said, “There was supposed to be an eight-stage survey. The third phase survey has just been completed. In this way, based on some preliminary surveys, administrative work has started, and various government announcements are being made. It is not only creating confusion, but it is a very anti-scientific movement. Government should immediately stop this extremely unscientific action.”
A statement by the West Bengal Science Forum states, “Geological survey said that the Brahmani-Birbhum region has many apparent faults. The use of explosives for excavation may activate the faults and make the area earthquake prone.”
The Deucha-Pachami-Dewanganj-Harinsinga coal block is the second largest coal block in the world and the largest in India. Estimates show that around 20,000 people will be displaced due to the project.
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