The murder of an IPS officer in the mining region of Madhya Pradesh on Thursday is only the latest in a long line of ‘hits’ by the mining mafia, which has become increasingly brazen in the way it operates, manifestly with political support.
Narendra Kumar, a 30-year-old sub-divisional police officer posted in Morena district in MP, was mowed down when he attempted to stop a tractor that was carting illegally quarried stones away. Even in the short while that he had been posted there (on probation), Narendra Kumar had turned up the heat on the mining mafia, which evidently enjoys political patronage.
Just last month, Chandrika Rai, a 42-year-old journalist in Umaria district in MP, and his wife and two teenaged children were hacked to death. Rai had written extensively on the activities of the illegal coal mining mafia in the region, and had alleged the involvement of a local leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the mining. (More here.)
The allegations centre around Narendra Singh Tomar, BJP MP from Morena, who has in recent times been seen to share public platforms with mining mafia members who had been charged with assaulting a mining officer.
Such mafia ‘hits’ aren’t limited to one region alone. Late last year, a Kerala nun who had been campaigning against the displacement of Jharkhand villagers from coal mining in Pakur district, was similarly beaten and hacked to death. (More here.)
These instances of murder, each more gruesome than the next, point to the increasing brazenness with which the mining mafia operates with political patronage, which some analysts say poses a serious challenge to India democracy.
Even by the estimates of the Coal Ministry, there are about 10,000 mafia groups active in India, plundering natural resources at great loss to the exchequer, and at enormous environmental and social cost.
Illegal mining flourishes in as many as 17 States, the government acknowledges. In 2010 alone, over 82,000 complaints of illegal mining were registered, twice as many as in 2009. Maharashtra alone accounted for 34,284 cases.
In his documentary film Blood and Iron, on the activities of the mining mafia, journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta warns that illegal mining poses a threat not just to the traditional way of life in remote hinterlands where tribal people live. The danger, he cautions, is to the very essence of democracy itself, given the complicity of political formations – and the money power that the mining mafia wields on them. (Watch a clip from the documentary film here)
The political-mining mafia, says Thakurta without exaggeration, could one day overwhelm and overturn Indian democracy.
Social researchers point to illegal mining as the reason why Maoists retain their hold among tribal populations, who are the first to be displaced. Sanjay Bosu Mullick of the Ranchi-based Bindrai Institute of Research Study and Action (BIRSA) and the Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee (JMACC), notes that an estimated 60 percent of India’s mineral-rich districts are under the influence of Maoist groups, and that the “plunder” of resources was leading to conflicts in these mining zones.