The ongoing agitation against the proposed new coal mine by the Adani Group in central India’s Hasdeo forest, which began on 2 March 2022, has completed one year. The proposed mine has faced strong resistance from forest-dwelling tribes for over a decade. The Hasdeo forest is the largest contiguous stretch of dense forestland in central India, covering 170,000 hectares or 1700 sq km (65.6 sq miles), and is also home to the proposed Lemru Elephant Reserve.
Despite opposition and warnings from the government’s own forest research agency of a negative impact on the local habitat and forest ecology, final clearances for the mine were granted last year, leading to an indefinite agitation. The Congress-led Chhattisgarh government, which has taken on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for favouring the Adani group, gave the project the go-ahead.
The protesting tribes allege that the views of the village councils or gram sabhas, mandatory for consideration by law in remote, tribal areas like the Hasdeo Arand region, were either repeatedly violated or sidestepped. People from at least three villages have petitioned the district administration, seeking an investigation into these violations. The papers are also part of an appeal being heard in the Supreme Court against land and environmental clearances granted to the project.
Celebrity activists and high-profile politicians have shown their support for the ongoing agitation. However, the Supreme Court has refused to stay the project, saying that the pending petitions challenging land acquisition cannot be treated as any kind of restriction against mining, and that the rights of the tribes will be determined separately but “not at the cost of development.”
The protesters remain confident that they will prevail and are fighting not just for Hasdeo but also for the world, which is facing the dangers of climate change and environmental degradation. However, a victory for the tribes in this David vs Goliath battle will be hard won.