The Adivasi (tribal) community in Surajpur District, Chhattisgarh, has been on a tree-hugging protest to stop destroying one of the most extensive continuous forest ranges, Hasdeo Arand since April 26.
After the Chhattisgarh state government assented to the coal mining activities and destruction of forest cover on April 6, in one of the largest continuous forest ranges, Adivasis have strived to control deforestation, loss of livelihood, and displacement once the coal mining began.
According to the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) report, 2021, Hasdeo Arand is the abode of approximately 10,000 Adivasis, from Gond, Lohar, Oraon, etc., on 1,70,000 hectares of land with rich biodiversity. The reports have recorded 82 species of birds, endangered butterflies species and 167 types of flora, with 18 labelled as 'threatened'.
It already consists of 23 coal mine blocks, and in 2009, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change moved to categorise the forest as a No-Go Zone. Yet, the mining project got the go-ahead as the No-Go Zone policy did not finalise.
Moreover, the WII report (2021) states that almost 60-70 per cent of Adivasi income is generated from forest-based resources. Hence, their displacement and poor rehabilitation can lead to loss of livelihood.
'Illegal' Mining Project
Adivasis believe that the government plan is illegal, as mining on their land should not proceed without their consent according to Panchayat Extension on Scheduled Area (PESA) Act 1996. PESA Act deems Gram Panchayat's consent as a priority before any development project starts. Adivasis claim that their consent was forged on documents for this project.
Activists claim that approximately 700 people will be displaced from their original homes, and 840 acres of dense forest will be felled for mining. Bipasa Paul, an activist working in the region, commented, "...both Central and state governments, to serve the corporate interest, are stepping back in safeguarding this (previously) No-Go area...," as reported by The Hindustan Times.
Marginalisation Of Adivasis
All over India, the Centre is attempting to start new mines to increase coal production and meet increasing demands domestically during this heatwave; however, the territorial marginalisation of Adivasis is also growing. These projects are being given to India's most prominent mining corporations, just like how Adani Enterprises has been given the Hasdeo coal mine to manage, as reported by The Diplomat.
Adivasis have not lost hope yet. The protests are kept alive. They are trying not to let the authorities destroy the forest cover and reclaim the 'No-Go' status to prevent the mining from materialising. However, government authorities have stooped to arresting and lodging complaints against the Adivasis to harass them.