Thousands of tribal men and women protested in front of the Birbhum District Magistrate’s office in West Bengal’s Siuri recently demanding the cancellation of the coal mining project proposed by the state government in Deucha-Pachami.

At the protest, they raised the slogan, “We will not leave our forest and our land. We will not let it become a coal mine.”

The indigenous people of 36 local villages from Deucha-Pachami area have been protesting for the last eight months demanding the cancellation of the coal mine project. The protesters have been on a relay hunger strike in Baromesia’s Dangal since February 20. Finally, the tribals came to the city and demonstrated in front of the DM’s office. They also submitted a memorandum to Birbhum DM Bidhan Roy.

The protest was led by local tribal leader Teresa Soren. Expressing anger against the state government, he said, “Today, the government is very careful of the tribals! We don’t need this. We are tribals, this land is ours, and this forest is also ours. We will not leave this land and forest under any circumstances.”

A protesting woman said, “No one in the hills wants coal mining. We are being threatened by the police for protesting. We will see to the end of this fight.”

The agitators have said that they will continue a mass hunger strike until the project is cancelled.

Another leader of the movement, Ganesh Kisku, who submitted the memorandum to the District Magistrate, said, “Our main demand is to immediately cancel this open-pit coal mining project.” He further said, “The Chief Minister announced from a Trinamool Congress event on July 21 that coal mining has started on Deucha Panchami. Around 75% people in this area don’t want mining. With whose permission did this mining work start?”

Birbhum District Magistrate Bidhan Roy said, “The demands of the tribals will be conveyed to the proper place. The mining work has started after talking to the locals.”

Meanwhile, the West Bengal Vigyan Manch has raised questions about the survey work on the proposed coal mining project on Deucha-Pachami land. The organisation said, “There was supposed to be an eight-stage survey. The third phase survey has just been completed. In this way, based on some preliminary surveys, administrative work has started, and various government announcements are being made. It is not only creating confusion, but it is a very anti-scientific movement. Government should immediately stop this extremely unscientific action.”

A statement by the West Bengal Science Forum states, “Geological survey said that the Brahmani-Birbhum region has many apparent faults. The use of explosives for excavation may activate the faults and make the area earthquake prone.”

The Deucha-Pachami-Dewanganj-Harinsinga coal block is the second largest coal block in the world and the largest in India. Estimates show that around 20,000 people will be displaced due to the project.

Lal Singh Dil
Lal Singh Dil (11 April 1943–14 August 2007) was a Punjabi Dalit poet of the wretched of the earth. His verses on caste oppression and call for revolution made him the bard of the Naxalite movement in Punjab. He died on 14 August 2007 at the age of 64.

Dil wrote extensively on the farmers’ plight in rural Punjab of the 1960s. And Punjab remembers him to this day—when the Narendra Modi government enacted the farm bills in September 2020, Sikh farmers across the borders of Delhi evoked Lal Singh Dil as one of their icons.
Pramod Gupta, Kolkata

‘Slaves’ Who Came To Jamaica
The first black slaves brought to Jamaica did not come directly from Africa but were either Africans, or the descendants of Africans, who had been enslaved for a time in Spain. In 1518 King Charles I of Spain (Ferdinand's successor) signed a four-year contract, allowing an annual supply of 4,000 African slaves to enter Hispaniola, Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. After that, slaves were taken directly from Africa.

More than 1 million slaves are estimated to have been transported directly from Africa to Jamaica during the period of slavery; of these, 200,000 were re-exported to other places in the Americas.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Akan, Ga, and Adangbe from the northwestern coastal region known as the Gold Coast (Ghana) dominated the slave trade to the island. They frequently rebelled and joined the Maroons who had escaped the plantations and lived in mountains. As a result of this, the plantation owners decided to enforce other groups from West Africa in an attempt to diffuse the Akans.

After 1776, slaves were “imported” from other parts of Africa- Ga and Adangbe people from Toga, Yorubas and Igbos from the Bight of Biafra (Nigeria) and Kongos from Central Africa and they outnumbered the slaves from the Gold Coast. The demand for slaves required about 10,000 to be imported annually.

In the British mind, slaves were no more than property and merchandise to be bought and sold. On this premise, the British enacted a whole system of slave laws aimed primarily at policing slaves. In general, the premise that slaves were no more than property allowed slave owners to treat them brutally. The severity of this brutality varied. Slaves on large sugar estates generally suffered the harshest punishments, while those on smaller estates and in towns received somewhat better treatment.

Since their arrival on the island, blacks had resisted their enslavement. They engaged in what is referred to as atomised forms of resistance, such as foot dragging (work slowdowns, or 'go-slows'), destruction of property, theft, absenteeism from work, and the covert murder of the slave masters. But resistance also took the forms of large-scale rebellions and establishment of maroon communities.

By December 1833 there was a Bill for the abolition of slavery, and it became effective on August 1, 1834. At that time all slaves became apprentices. They remained working for the same slave masters. The system was a failure, and that too was abolished. Slaves received their unrestricted freedom on August 1, 1838.
When Britain abolished the institution of slavery in 1834, Jamaica had a population of more than 311,000 slaves and only about 16,700 whites. Unlike other groups of people who came to Jamaica, including the Jews, Indians, Lebanese / Syrians and Chinese, they had no assets, no property or businesses and most of all, no land.
Bharat Patankar, Maharashtra

Forced Labour in China
UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Tomoya Obokata reported to the Human Rights Council recently that sufficient evidence points to forced labour in the Uyghur Region of China.

In particular, he highlighted that, “While these programmes may create employment opportunities for minorities and enhance their incomes, as claimed by the Government, the Special Rapporteur considers that indicators of forced labour pointing to the involuntary nature of work rendered by affected communities have been present in many cases.”

Uyghur rights activists are still awaiting the report from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who visited the Uyghur Region earlier this year.

Bloomberg shares that Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, has placed Obokata among the ranks of the “anti-China forces.” But the repetitive condemnation may not be enough to fix the damage done.
According to Obokata’s report,

“Given the nature and extent of powers exercised over affected workers during forced labour, including excessive surveillance, abusive living and working conditions, restriction of movement through internment, threats, physical and/or sexual violence and other inhuman or degrading treatment, some instances may amount to enslavement as a crime against humanity, meriting a further independent analysis.”
Miriam Kirmali, Freedom United

Back to Home Page

Vol 55, No. 10, Sep 4 - 10, 2022