As thousands of tribals continue to protest against mining at deposit number 12 at Dantewada’s Bailadila iron ore mines, saying the hill that is to be mined is home to their deity, the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) has issued a notice, asking protesters to vacate the site by 12 am on Thursday. The SDM has threatened to “take legal action and clear the premises” and added that protesters would be responsible for the consequences.
After six days of protest, a delegation led by Congress’s Bastar MP Deepak Baij met Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel Tuesday. Following this, the state government announced a probe into the cutting of trees in the area. It also said that the villagers’ allegation that no gram sabha gave permission for the mining would be probed. Baij shared this with the Jan Sangharsh Samiti spearheading the protest. The Samiti refused to call off the protests and said protesters would camp at the site till the inquiry was completed.
The SDM’s notice says that “all demands were met” on June 11 and a stay has been ordered on all activities on deposit number 13. Despite this, it says, the spot has not been cleared and adds that this “can affect the peace and law and order of the area”.
Deposit number 13 is owned by NCL, an NMDC-CMDC joint venture. The contract to mine the hill has been given to Adani Enterprises Limited. The tribals believe that on the hill lived Pithormeta, the wife of Nandraj, a deity that lives in Bailadila hills with his wife and daughters Ilometa and Parometa.
On Tuesday, Raju Bhaskar of the Samiti said, “They have announced a stay on work, but there is no promise it will never start again. They are saying they don’t have power to stop it completely. When the state has 49 percent stake, why can’t they pull that out? We want finality that our gods will not be touched.”
Speaking to The Indian Express after the SDM’s order, Bhaskar said, “How is it that we are causing any harm to the public? All we want is that the MoU be rescinded by the state government.”