People of Karmali Village in Hunterganj Block, Chatra district in Jharkhand now have a song on their lips, “We shall overcome one day” as their year-long-struggle ended in finally closing down the five stone mines. A courageous honest government officer used his powers against all odds to act on true evidence for the good of the simple people. He not only ordered the closure of all the five mines but also gave orders to take legal action against the low-ranking officers who leased out the land illegally. It was too good for all involved to believe!

The readers might remember that Mahila (women) Mukti (liberation) Sangharsh (struggle) Samiti (committee) supported by Chetna Bharti, Chatra had begun a movement in December 2017 against illegal mining of five stone mining in the Dalit (lowest caste system) village of Karmali in Hunterganj Block of Chatra district. From the people’s side, the struggle was peaceful though they suffered physically, emotionally and monetarily at the hands of the miners and their goons. People used different strategies such as hunger strikes, rallies, distributed pamphlets, blocked government office, etc. to halt the mining. Numerous applications were submitted to all the government officials beginning with the Chief Minister of Jharkhand in Ranchi and finally they approached the courts. They hardly found any support from any of these people or systems.

The final blow was that 45 victims were slapped with a fraud registered legal cases including the leader of the andolan (agitation) and 100 unknown persons and as a result the leader had to go underground for a few months and a few of our staff members were taken to jail, which forced the people to think that they had lost the battle and to sit back and watch the painful sight of increased forceful digging and blasting in the mines. But the powerful prophetic voice of the staff continued announcing to the desperate helpless faces, not to give up but to go on with the fight, to see truth prevailing over evil, ‘we shall overcome one day’ was the song on our lips. A true sign of resurrection!!

At the very onset of our fight against the mining we were told by some of our friends that the people’s movement will never win over the money power of the miners. Yes, it is like the fight of David against the Philistines in the Old Testament.

Now the second stage of the struggle is to demand compensation for all that the people lost, houses, cattle, farming land, water bodies, etc. The leader of the Andolan, Vinay Senger, who makes no compromise and fourteen villagers whose anticipatory bail petition got rejected in Ranchi High Court surrendered before the court and are in the jail for two weeks.

Joel Urumpil, SCN

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