On October 1, 2016, in the wee morning hours, police open fired 60 rounds of bullets at villagers on a peaceful sit-in protesting against unjust land acquisition in Hazaribagh district killing 5, and injuring at least 40 more. The farmers of Badkagaon have been struggling against the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) since 2004, which was when coal blocks were allotted. As per NTPC data, of the total 8,055 acres needed, it has been able to acquire about half, 4,043 acres, including forest and government-owned land, seven years after it started acquisition. Of 8,745 affected families, only 2,614 have accepted compensation. The rest are still protesting against the unjust compensation and illegal methods of land acquisition. The Karnapura Bachao Sangarsh Samiti has been active since 2004 for protecting the farmlands against NTPC. This association has carried out a number of protests, marches and demonstrations, including two Koyla Satyagraha, in which the local people extracted coal manually, and submitted the money earned to the national treasury, claiming, ‘If the government wants the coal beneath out land, we will give it to them, but we won’t part with our fertile land.’
In 2015, a consortium of two companies Thriveni Earthmovers and Sainik Mining won a tender to begin mining by the end of 2016. This is not the first stint of illegal mining for Thriveni, which had earlier been accused by the Shah Commission for illegal mining in Odisha.
Amidst lot of protests, and with heavy security, mining was started on May 17, 2016. But soon afterwards, politicians from opposition parties supported the villagers to resume the struggle for their rights to land and livelihood. Many meetings were scheduled between the ruling party, but the demands of the farmers were not met. Earlier this year, on August 14, there was another altercation when 200 villagers prevented NTPC contractors from building a resettlement colony. The villagers had thrown stones, to which the police had responded with tear gas and 22 rounds of bullers, injuring 6 people, including a journalist, who were then later arrested when they reached a civil hospital in Hazaribagh for treatment. And thus, on September 15, some thousand odd villagers started a sit-in protest near a mining site in Chiru Barwadih village, where the police brutality occurred on October 1, 2016.
These villagers who were protesting for their land and livelihoods have been beaten and harassed many times before. Currently, there is a First Information Report (FIR) against ‘500 unnamed persons’ for blocking mining operations and allegedly attacking the police. This effectively means that the police can arrest anyone from the village, as there are no names in the FIR, and this is an effective tool for intimidation and police treats. This forced hundreds of families to flee their homes after police and paramilitary forces carried out a door-to-door search of houses in six villages of Chapakala, Chipakhurd, Sonbarsa, Churchur, Arahar and Nagri. Due to the nameless FIR, they didn’t need a warrant for the search either.
Like more cases of environmental justice movements in India, this one too seems to follow a pattern of brutality and violence, human rights violation, asymmetric power structures and illegal methods and intimidation tactics to coerce the ecosystem people into giving up their fertile land for below than favourable conditions. The government claims that (although the conflict started in 2004) the current agitation is mainly due to Yogendra Saw, former MLA of Barkagaon in Hazaribagh district, and to Nirmala Devi, the current MLA from Barkagaon. The couple has been accused of "instigating the mob to resort to violence".