Struggle Against Mining in Sariska National Park

MILESTONES struggle against mining

However, as the community went about restoring their johads with the help of TBS, they could not help observing that the hills were being gouged mercilessly by mining, thus affecting the natural system of water and drainage. They realised that even the hills needed protection.

A protected forest with unclear boundaries, a tiger reserve chalked out in a limestone-rich area, mining leases whose legality is questionable — all these have created a mess in the Sariska National Park (Tiger Reserve) in Rajasthan. The TBS found that even after constructing johads, the water level did not go up in the wells and lakes around Sariska. But soon found what was wrong. TBS traced the missing water to the pits left unfilled by the miners after their operations. Water collected in them, depriving the wells and lakes of water.

The mining mafia was growing at an alarming rate as their strong adversary. Their mining activities were destroying not only the Aravalis (an oldest mountain range in the world), but the indiscriminate dumping was also causing damage to the Sariska National Park and endangering the lives of the wild animals. An ecological imbalance was setting in, with faster degradation of the area under mining operations.

So, with one voice TBS protested, gathering villagers as they went on their long marchers to demonstrate the injustice. Nearly 45 organizations from other states supported the yatra as part of the Save Aravalis Campaign.

A public interest petition was filed by TBS in the Supreme Court of India. In 1991, the court issued an order against continuing mining in the ecologically fragile Aravalis. This was followed up by a notification by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in May 1992 banning mining in the Aravalli hill system. It eventually led to the closure of 470 mines operating within the buffer area and periphery of the Sariska National Park.

During this struggle, TBS activists had to face the wrath of the mine owners. They were threatened and attacked. The miners carried on a vilification campaign against them. Pro-mining elements disturbed village meetings, with outsiders hurling abuse and stones.

But, TBS remained undaunted through all this. The important thing is that they were able to arouse the potential of the communities to think, decide and act. During all this TBS learned to be patience in struggle against injustice. After all, does not that Gandhian way life teachs to protest peacefully but continuously and consistently?