Some tribal people from the villages of the proposed Deocha-Pachami coal mine area on Tuesday launched a new platform to demand scrapping of the proposed project irrespective of any rehabilitation package.
The group of around 25 tribal people on Tuesday held a news meet in Calcutta where they announced a protest rally on February 20 at Harinsingha village in the coal mine project area under the banner of Birbhum Jami, Jeebon, Jeebika O Prakriti Bachao Mahasabha (Platform to save land, life, livelihood and environment).
“The government had not discussed with us before fixing the price or rehabilitation package for the land handed down to us by our ancestors. We don’t want coal mines. We want to live there as we are. We want the government to scrap the proposed coal mine project,” said Jagannath Tudu, one of the members of the platform and resident of a village under the project area.
"The state government announced the price of land and our package. The officials should come to us first to know if we are ready to give up our land. The chief minister promised not to force anyone to give their land, but the administration and police are doing exactly the opposite,” said a member of the Mahasabha, He requested people from all tiers of the society to join the fight against the proposed coal mine that they feel would destroy the environment and affect the livelihood of thousands.
Echoing the leaders of the Mahasabha, economist-activist Prosenjit Bose, who was at the meet, said: “A wide array of democratic and progressive forces will be present in support of the tribal people at the February 20 rally.”
The Mahasabha's announcement comes a day after some Left-leaning intellectuals and cultural personalities under the People's Forum Against Politics of Hatred said they would march 250km from Calcutta to Deocha-Pachami from February 15 to 21. “We will walk from Calcutta to Deocha-Pachami to save the rights of land, livelihood, forest and environment for the people. The state government is deceiving people about the project. We will expose it at the February 21 rally,” said an organiser.
According to the government survey, around 21,000 people in 12 villages of Mohammad Bazar block will be affected by the proposed coal mine project.
The state government has received consent from around 1,500 villagers for land.
“We received spontaneous consent of landowners and there is no question of use of force. The government's policy is not to force anyone and we are following it. Allegations of using force on people is not right,” said Bidhan Ray, the Birbhum district magistrate.
The Mahasabha has also decided to move to the court against “forceful land-grab” and torture on women by male police personnel in December last year. The alleged incident took place when women in one of the affected villages came out to protest against a Trinamul rally in support of the coal mine.
One of the women present at the news meet on Tuesday claimed she had to undergo an abortion because of police torture. The police refuted the allegation.