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Chhattisgarh: Tribal Folk Oppose Mining In Sacred Hill

The hill is revered as the shrine of Pitod Devi.

Dantewada: Tribals in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district have launched an indefinite protest against mining on a hill they claim is revered as a deity.

The hill is situated in the Bailadila Iron Ore Mining Area belonging to the public sector National Mineral Development Corporation.

Tribals from some 200 villages of Dantewada, Sukma and Bijapur districts, under the aegis of the Sanyukt Panchayat Samiti, began the protest in front of NMDC’s Kirandul facility, demanding that the PSE abandon plans to mine the hill.

The 10 MTPA capacity Bailadila Iron Ore Deposit-13 at Kirandul is being developed by a joint venture company, called NCL, formed by NMDC and the Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation.

A contract for excavation and mine development was awarded to Adani Enterprises Limited last year, officials said, adding that currently tree-cutting was underway to build an approach road to the site.

“The deposit no. 13 hill has been given to Adani Enterprises by NMDC for mining. The hill is revered as the shrine of Pitod Devi, wife of nature god Nandraj, and our faith has been associated with it,” said Nandaram Sori, a Communist Party of India (CPI) leader and one of the protesters.

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“If we allow mining on the hill, the local people will have to bear the brunt. We will not allow NMDC or Adani to mine it. Besides, mining activities on the hill will also affect water resources and turn them dry, which will affect our lives,” Sori claimed.

Security in the area has been tightened as some Maoist banners have also come up declaring support for the agitation, officials said.

“No permission has been taken for the protest though one has to the right to protest in a peaceful manner in a democracy. If law and order is disturbed, action will be taken,” said Abhishek Pallava, Dantewada Superintendent of Police.

“People, mostly from interior areas, have joined the protest due to Maoist pressure. Maoists have put up pamphlets in support of the protest. If any person having links with Naxals is seen among the protesters, then he or she will be arrested,” Pallava added.

“We are keeping a close watch from the Maoist point of view, as they may try to trigger violence in the garb of protests,” he said.

Speaking to PTI, VS Prabhakar, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), NCL, said, “The NCL is the owner of deposit no.13 and its mining lease is registered with the joint venture company.

Mining lease will not be transferred to Adani or to anyone else at any point of time.”

“The work was awarded to Adani by inviting open tenders through a transparent process. Any propaganda in this regard is condemned,” he said, adding that mining activities were yet to start at the site.

“Even after mining starts, the tribals can offer prayers there. Their religious rights will not be affected,” Prabhakar stressed.

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