Coal’s Cruel Face – Chawm Ganguly

The media reports were chilling – a 150 member police force led by the local SP was attacked by the villagers who were allegedly defending a payloader they had earlier captured from a company. The company was  seeking to clear the overburden to access the coal seams that ran under the land the villagers were tilling since time immemorial.

The mainline media used the story to throw jibes at the Government – how the Government, which had assumed power riding the wave against land grab, was now firing at legitimate protesters. The usual visits of the politicians, shedding crocodile’s tears in the hospitals where the injured were admitted followed, along with the points and counterpoints. Why was the SP “closed”? Who ordered the firing? If the police did not fire, as they claimed, where did the spent ammunition cases come from? The debate raged on, and the main issues were conveniently forgotten.

What induced an officer of the state to lead such a huge force to “repossess” a mere payloader? Why were higher authorities (as alleged in some quarters) kept in the dark? Why were the local political leaders not co-opted? Why did “the company”, instead of having a “meaningful dialogue” with the “agitating villagers” and paying them “adequate compensation” seek to “use the police” to steamroll over popular dissent?

Ask these questions, my friends in the media for Sister Valsa’s soul is appealing to your uprightness. Yes, the same Sister Valsa who was murdered on the fateful night of November 15th, 2011. The same Sister Valsa who was leading the popular agitation of the villagers against the untoward ways of a mining conglomerate.

Sister Valsa’s voice that was silenced brutally is crying for justice for, the payloader that was the bone of this contention was owned by the same company (yes, we know of separate legal entities and of the corporate veil), still.

Coincidence? Cruel Coal what will satiate your thirst for blood? Who are the people who sign your death warrants? Can the soot bedecked ill gotten wealth that you generate buy everything?  Who cares?