Tribals clash with police over coal mining project
Hundreds of tribal villagers armed with traditional bows and arrows clashed with police personnel on Thursday in protest against an open-cast coal mining project by a Coal India Limited subsidiary in Jharkhand’s Godda district.
The villagers in Taljhari of Boarijore block in Godda district have been agitating against the Eastern Coalfield Limited’s (ECL) project for the last few days, fearing the open-cast mining would cause land subsidence and pollution that would affect their livelihood.
On Thursday, the district police, on request of ECL, stopped villagers from gathering at Taljhari and resorted to a mild lathi charge to drive away the agitators.
This prompted the villagers to attack the police and the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) of the Mahagama subdivision, who was present at the spot, with bows and arrows.
However, no major injury was sustained barring minor bruises to a few police personnel. Sensing the tense situation, the SDM imposed Section 144 under CrPC in the entire panchayat prohibiting the gathering of villagers.
According to the ECL officials, they have been given 325 acres of land in the Lalmatia region after an auction by the central government and they have barricaded 125 acres of land so far. They have also paid compensation to the tribal villagers who have parted with the land.
“However, the agitation is done by villagers whose lands have not been acquired.
“They fear of land subsidence and pollution after open-cast mining is started in the area which would ultimately affect their livelihood,” said Gaurav Kumar, a local journalist based in Godda.
This is not the first time that a confrontation between the villagers and the administration has taken place.
“Six months ago, senior executives of ECL and the SDM who had gone to persuade villagers were taken hostage for several hours and were freed on police intervention,” said Gaurav. Godda deputy commissioner Zeeshan Qamar confirmed the agitation and imposition of Section 144.
“There was an agitation by the villagers who apprehend loss of their livelihood due to the coal project and we had to impose Section 144 to quell violence.
“The ECL has bagged the coal project on the site based on a national-level auction and has also paid compensation and jobs to the villagers in return for land according to government norms.
“We are mandated to provide them security in carrying out their work,” said Qamar.
The deputy commissioner said that talks are on between the agitating villagers and the ECL management to find out an amicable solution.