Deforestation for mining resumes in Hasdeo; locals, activists allege detention

December 22, 2023 01:42 am | Updated 01:42 am IST - Raipur

Deforestation for mining activities in the Hasdeo forests in Chhattisgarh sparked protests in Sarguja district on Thursday, with locals and activists alleging that they had been detained and the Opposition Congress raising the issue in the State Assembly.

The local administration claimed it had all the necessary permissions to go ahead with the deforestation while the police said that they had visited the residences of the activists to advise them not to create a law and order situation.

Locals from the region have resisted mining in recent years and when Forest Department cut down trees to clear land for mining in Parsa East Kete Basan (PEKB) Phase II last April, there was a major protest. Thursday’s deforestation exercise was also to clear land, a part of a coal block allotted to Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam (RRVUN), the power generation company of the Rajasthan government.

Arrest, argument

In the morning, Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan convener Alok Shukla wrote on social media that three persons, including the Ghatberra village sarpanch were arrested by the police. He also shared a video in which some people can be seen having a heated argument with the police.

Later in the day, Mr. Shukla and an associate were allegedly stopped from reaching the protest site in Sarguja and were taken to Bilaspur instead.

Around 8.45 p.m., Mr. Shukla released another video, in which he said he and his associates were detained by men in plain clothes. “We were released around 5.30 p.m., but unfortunately our three associates from Hasdeo have not been released. Neither have their arrests been shown, nor have they been released. This itself is dangerous that when trees were hacked the last time [during Congress rule], the BJP that is ruling now had opposed,” said Mr. Shukla.

Meanwhile, the matter was brought up in the Assembly with Leader of the Opposition Charan Das Mahant accusing the BJP government of favouring Adani Enterprises. Raising the issue in Hasdeo Arand, Mr. Mahant said that whereas people are yet to get benefits (after the formation of new government) industrialists like (Gautam) Adani are.

“Felling of trees has started [in Hasdeo area] and 30,000 trees have been chopped. Tribals who were protesting against tree felling were arrested. Our [Congress] government had brought a resolution in the House to save Hasdeo. We want the government to stop Hasdeo from being destroyed. Don’t hand over the poor’s land and jungle [to industrialists],” Mr. Mahant said.

Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait too released a video condemning the detention.

Sarguja collector Kundan Kumar said that for the PEKB Phase II, 134 hectares of deforestation is to be done for mining activities every year and Thursday’s deforestation is for 2022 as the activity was held up due to elections.

“Last year deforestation in 41 hectares was done and for the remaining 93 hectares could it not be done because of elections and MCC. On December 12, we received the permission for the deforestation in the remaining area. We had to resort to deployment of police forces because we wanted to avoid any violence like the last time. There was no untoward incident or any kind of violence or gherao,” said Mr. Kumar.

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