In the north-central Indian state of Jharkhand, the Adani Group proposes to establish a huge coal mine that will swallow up several villages in the Gondalpura area. Adani has misnamed the project ‘Gondulpara’. The local people have opposed the project since day one, holding demonstrations and running Adani representatives out of town. In late January, these feisty citizens held a large motorbike rally as a show of strength. Referring to the extravagant pomp and ceremony surrounding Prime Minister Modi’s opening of the controversial Ayodhya temple, participants asked ‘are there no temples in Gondalpura and Balodar?’.
Name of coal block: Gondulpara.
Owner and developer: Adani Enterprises
Coal reserves: 176 million tonnes
Proposed annual capacity: 4 million tonnes per annum
Location: Hazaribagh District, state of Jharkhand, India
Project area: Approximately 520 ha, encompassing the villages of Phulang, Hahe, Gondalpura, Balodar and Gali
Households affected: Up to 1950
On 20 January 2024, a large motorcycle rally against Adani Enterprises and its proposed ‘Gondulpara (sic)’ coal mine took place in the Hazaribagh district in the north-central Indian state of Jharkhand.
Hundreds of protesting motorcyclists from the villages of the Barkagaon area rode through the region shouting slogans of ‘Adani Go Back!’ and ‘Adani is a thief!’, to ‘Jal, Jungle, Zameen.’ (‘Water, Forest, Land, is ours!’). The area threatened by the proposed coal mine consists of extremely fertile irrigated fields, capable of producing multiple crops per year. This produce is augmented by products from the forests, also under threat.
The rally was organised by the decades-old Karanpura Bachao Sangarsh Samiti, a local organisation that has been protesting against mining in the Karanpura valley. The ride commenced at around seven in the morning from Balodar and Galli, and went through the villages of Gondalpura, Azad Nagar, Motra, Ambajit, Mohugain, Chandaul, Bhagwan Bagi, Barkagaon Main Road, Sarhn, Pipradih, Vishrampur and the Shanichar bazaar, and to Harli, Badam, Babupara, where it ended at five thirty in the evening at Gondalpura.
A pamphlet was distributed which described how the villages of Phulang, Hahe, Gondalpura, Gali and Balodar will disappear and the impacts of Adani’s coal-mining project will affect the entire region due to pollution and the disappearance of water sources such as the river Badmahi, which is extremely important to a multi-cropped and prosperous region.
A central theme of the protest was that the company and government officials have refused to heed the village-level decision making body, the Gram Sabha, which has repeatedly rejected any attempts at mining in the region, whether by Adani Enterprises or the National Thermal Power Corporation. All delegations to senior local officials and to the state’s chief minister, Hemant Soren, asking for the project to be cancelled have not stopped the company from asking for another public hearing, which is now slated for the 5 February 2024.
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The rally itself was a practice in 'horizontal politics', to strengthen local ties, as well as making a statement to those in power. Participants declared that there were no caste or religious differences between them, that many of them had relatives and distant connections to one another across villages, that everyone should come and work together, and appealed to people not to work for the company, or to fall for the company’s social-welfare programs.
The rally had symbolically chosen the ‘Shanichar Bazaar’, the ‘Saturday bazaar’, which is the weekly market, and a cultural tradition for the villages. Speaker after speaker sang songs, spoke about their experiences with the government, with mining struggles in the state of Jharkhand, and about the upcoming national elections in India, and about how their elected leaders have betrayed and disappointed them. They spoke about the environment and their forests, about how they’ve defeated innumerable companies who have tried to take their lands, and how no one should work with the company. They constantly invoked their collective strength as farmers.
There were speakers who took aim at the proceedings around the (then) imminent Ram Mandir event in Ayodhya, which has complete state backing and patronisation.
‘I won’t say anything about what is happening in Ayodhya, or about the Ram Mandir, that is your faith. But are there no temples in Gondalpura and Balodar?’ said Ilyas Ansari, who drew loud applause from the crowd.
Apart from the independent media, there were no other reporters, and no coverage in the mainstream media.