Koyla satyagrah is a symbolic annual march carried out by the people of villages in the Raigarh region where coal mining and thermal plants have had a lasting effect on the ecosystem and the people. Drawing their inspiration from M K Gandhi’s salt satyagrah or the Dandi Yatra, the people and the activists of this region have been organising this community event for the last 6th years on Gandhi’s birth anniversary under the banner of Mehnat Kash Mazdoor Kissan Ekta Sangathan (MKMKES) and Janchetna. This year’s Satyagrah was held in Pelma and was attended by 1500-2000 people, most of whom were women.
Mr Harihar Patel spoke about the need to conserve the lands passed on to them by their ancestors and without which they will become alienated from their culture and farming. He said that if the government stresses on the development based on coal, the people should atleast have the right to mine and sell the coal lying in their individual and community land instead of an industrial giant. These views were also held by the villagers and the community leaders present in the gathering. The Pradhans of two villages also talked about the right to mine and sell coal in their own lands they added that if this task is undertaken by the villagers, the flora and fauna will not be affected on the scale a large industrial mine would. Mr Rajesh Tripathi talked about the need to claim right over the natural resource in the region and to spread awareness among people regarding mining, PESA Act and its violation. He also told people to be informed but not scared of the illegal encroachment of land and the fake FIRs reportedly lodged by mining companies and not to trust the promises made by these mining companies. Mr Ramesh Agrawal spoke about his experiences in fighting the mining giant Naveen Jindal where in a few years ago an attempt on his life was made which he survived but although some arrests have been made the main culprit according to him still roams free. He assured the people by saying that no one needs to be afraid of these attacks as the cause they are fighting for is bigger than their lives and he will continue to fight this battle. The crowd was then led by Ms Savita Rath amidst slogans and pouring rain to a coal deposit from where everyone filled their baskets with coal and marched back to the school courtyard where the auction was being held. The auction was held successfully and peacefully in the presence of a few policemen.