New Delhi: A week ago, activists, students and citizens thronged the streets and were on the railway lines in Goa in a historic protest against three major infrastructural projects which aim to hasten coal routing for big corporates.
As the campaign gained momentum on social media, it also garnered international attention. However, in the midst of it all, an FIR has been registered against the conveners of Goyant Kolso Naka and Goencho Ekvott, two organisations leading the movement to ‘Save Mollem’. The protesters have been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, which include unlawful assembly, restriction of movement and rioting.
According to an Indian Express report, Pankaj Singh, South Goa SP said: “We will probe in detail. The sections for now are against the six convenors of the two NGOS.”
The activists said they would respond to the initiation of criminal action. Speaking with NewsClick, Deepika D’Souza from Goyant Kolso Naka said: “We are trying to work out the details of the FIR since we haven’t gone through it, but we are going to respond to it and continue (with the protests).”
The criminal proceedings have taken many by surprise. Activists allege the move is an intimidation tactic by the BJP government to stop the movement and its ongoing momentum. Speaking with NewsClick, an activist with the ‘Save Mollem’ campaign said: “This came as a shock to us. We had the most peaceful protests which included children and students. It was largely citizens at the forefront in the campaign. We are now countering the false propaganda being put out by some of the biggest corporations in the country. They are trying to say that there is no environmental damage being done to our land. When we reply to their propaganda through social media channels, we are being muted. It just goes to show the strength we have as citizens.”
The citizens started an alternative campaign on social media platforms with the hashtag #ArrestMeToo. It was an attempt to show that the FIR wasn’t a setback and that no attempt to silence them will bear fruit. “We are not taking this lightly at all; we are trying to fight back with facts and not false narratives,” the activist said.
At midnight on Sunday, several citizens, activists and members of political parties sat in protest on railway lines of Chandor in Goa against the doubling of tracks. The move, they alleged, was to favour coal companies and make Goa a coal transportation hub at the cost of its ecology.
Activists on the ground also accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of the same. They said the move will threaten the ecology, public health and heritage of the state. Residents alleged that the government has given its go-ahead for work to begin on these projects despite the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process being incomplete. The rail track doubling project is reportedly involves felling of trees in the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and in a national park on the state border.
Also Read: Midnight Protest in Goa Against Rail Line Doubling; No EIA Clearance, Allege Activists