An update from Sister Joel:
There are numerous rivers caressing the State we call Jharkhand. Many of these rivers have succumbed to the modern development process leaving these rivers into dumping grounds.
The life of Niranjana River in Hunterganj Block, Chatra District, is at the mercy of the sand mafias and the concept of modern development. This river originates in the forest, winding through 3 Blocks of Chatra district and empties into the famous Fhalgu River in Gaya. Phalgu is holy for the Hindus who come from all over the country to do their Pind Daan. (Memorial service to the ancestors) Now the sand mining business groups have begun a cruel attack on the river, illegally/ with the tacit approval of the government. They are digging up the river without any qualms and leaving it as dry pits. The water layer is receding fast leaving the river sandless and waterless. The environmental pollution is indescribable and dangerous for the children and those who have to cross the river to come to the town. But according to the government, for the fast development of the country, these are inconveniences people will have to bear with.
But the people of Hunterganj Block and the District at large showed that this cannot be tolerated especially after the death of a teenage girl child, in connection digging and dumping of sand. And so on 28th December 2017, not minding the biting cold the people of all castes, class, and creed came out of their huts /homes in large numbers. (Around 2000) They took out a rally and sat in ‘dharna’ for about 4 hrs. at the Block office. The people warned the government/ the mafia of dire consequences if they continued the plunder. The pressure of the unarmed people was strong that the next day the local administration began to clamp down on illegal miners. But the people know that it will be short-lived. And so a delegation met with the Circle officer and the contractors and placed a 5 point demand. They also requested for an immediate halt on the illegal collection and sale of sand. Meanwhile, a series of actions have been chalked out: there will be peoples committees doing door to door awareness building; a core group will be sitting on indefinite fast at the site of the mining while other groups will scout the river bed to stop those tractors/trucks that are carrying away sand illegally.
The above-described interventions were possible mainly due to Village Republics (Gaav Gana Raj) and Mahila Mukti Sangharsh Samiti (women’s struggle for freedom) The long-term objective of the struggle is to question the present model of development which is bent on plundering natural resources as fast and easily as possible.
The struggle is tedious and the opponents are too strong but the untold misery of the people hopefully will strengthen peoples struggle and save Niranjana River.
Gaav Gana Raj and Mahila Mukti Sangharsh Samiti