Spread across 1,70,000 hectares over the three districts of Surajpur, Surguja and Korba lies the dense forest of Hasdeo. Known as the “lungs of Chhattisgarh”, Hasdeo Arand is one of central India’s largest contiguous tracts of forest, with rich biodiversity, an elephant habitat, the catchment area of the Hasdeo Bango dam.
The three districts are home to some 1.79 million Adivasis, including those from the Gond, Oraon and Lohar communities.
Currently carved into 18 coal blocks, Hasdeo Arand has been the site of conflicting interests – mining, environmental, and a sustained decade-long resistance by its Adivasi communities, to felling of trees and mining in the area.
“The movement dates back to 2011 when Parsa East Kete Basan [PEKB], allotted to the Adani group [through Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd], was granted forest and environment clearance,” says Muneshwar Singh Porte, a 27-year-old member of the Hasdeo Arand Bachao Sangharsh Samiti. Porte, who is from the Gond tribe and hails from Fatehpur village in the district of Surguja, has been associated with the movement for a decade now.
In June, the Union government deleted the clause mandating the Gram Sabha’s consent from the…