Chattisgarh’s Dantewada region is again in the midst of chaos as the authorities have launched a crackdown on the adivasis who are intensifying their struggle against the state administration in a bid to prevent security camps from coming up in the Burgam region.
The setting up of fresh camps was announced in the beginning of this month in Potaali village, located in a strategically important core Maoist area in Dantewada, some 350 kilometres from state capital Raipur. The dense forest region has remained tensed from November 12 as the protests started when the camps started making inroads in the villages.
Speaking to NewsClick, activist Soni Sori explained, “The police camps are leading to more militarisation of the region, which essentially means a brutal crackdown on tribals.” She added, “The villagers want schools and hospital,s and the continuation of their way of life instead of heavy militarisation.”
Over 10,000 people have gathered from across villages in protest against the police camps. Sori stated, “In a brutal crackdown against the protesters, many were lathicharged, women and children were also brutally injured.” Bastar remains politically volatile because of the clashes between Maoists and security forces.
Meanwhile, the administration is continuously attempting to dismiss the movement. Instead it is trying to apprise the villagers about the ‘benefits’ they will get after the establishment of the camps. The state administration also announced the construction of a 14 km road from Aranpur to Potali-Permapara, adding that, “From next month, fair price shops will be opened in Potali through which rice and other necessary things will be distributed to the villagers. Health camps will also be organised in the Potali market to provide health services to the villagers.”
In another instance, barely 40 kms away, at the National Mineral Development Corporation compound in Kirandul, six trucks and cars of the security forces alongside their earth movers were set on fire by alleged Maoists. The NMDC had formed a joint venture with Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation (CMDC) in 2008. The new entity NCL (NMDC-CMDC) had got environment clearance in 2015 to mine 10 million tonnes (mt) of iron ore from the mine spread over the lease area of 413.74 hectares. Deposit-13 has a huge reserve of 326 million tonnes of high-grade steel-making raw material. NCL floated a global tender, inviting proposals from private players to develop and operate the mine. Of the 10 companies that participated in the bid, Adani Enterprises was selected as the successful bidder and appointed as the mining contractor in December 2018.
Also read: Dantewada Tribal Protest Enters Fifth Day Against Adani Mining on Hill
Nearly 10,000 tribals had protested against the venture on an indefinite dharna, demanding a complete shutdown of Adani’s operations and asserted that if mining commence, the thick jungle cover in Hasdeo Aranya will be completely destroyed. The area has enormous religious significance for the tribals as the hill is revered as the shrine of Pitod Devi, wife of nature god, Nandraj. Mining activities on the hill will also affect water resources like rivers, leaving them dry thereby affecting the lives of the tribals.