Injustice by Coal Companies in Thar Coal Fields

MITHI: The people from different communities from various areas of Thar have voiced their serious concerns against the grave injustices being committed to them by coal companies in Thar Coalfields during a “peoples’ tribunal or the conference of the villagers (Rajouni Kath)”.

The event was organized by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum village Warwai, block-1 near Islamkot town on Wednesday. The tribunal aimed to initiate its deliberations in Thar where communities-in-struggle have been resisting the creation of toxic zones on their lands due to massive coal extraction and other related activities by companies. The PFF chairman Mohammad Ali Shah, Aslam Mallah, Muhammad Mallah, Sajan Shaikh, Sanaullah Rahimoon, Faiz Mohammad Rahimoon, Mohammad Amin Rahimoon ,Syed Bhooral Shah, Mohammad Saleem Halepoto, Azizullah Halepoto and others addressed the tribunal.

A large number of civil society representatives, affected villagers and media persons also attended the tribunal meeting. During the meeting a theater was also presented over the worsening condition of Tharis while Thari songs were also sung. Mr Shah said that it was the second tribunal of its kind.and such events would be held in all concerned blocks in Thar, whereas, an indictment would be drafted identifying the core concerns and issues , providing witness and testimony. He said that there should be an end to the greed unlimited for the coal reserves at the cost of the destruction and devastation of the environment and ecology of the rain-dependent arid zone of the country.

Mr Shah and other speakers said that the tribunal meeting ( Rajouni Kath) was the way towards creating the sense of the ownership of their lands, grazing lands , graveyards and their historical sites. ” It is our history, in which we come together and speak to conflict – to judge. In building this bridge to our pasts and our futures we reclaim the community tribunal from those of power, to and for, the people” they added. “Typically People’s tribunals have been used by communities in struggle when the sense that formal/dominant legal processes have failed, and will continue to fail.” they said.

They maintained that failure of law came in many forms: that the forum did not recognize the original violation as violence or that the forum failed to provide corrective measures by the companies engaged in the coal mining in the vast area of Tharparkar district. . ” tribunals or the council of the elders of the local people have a long and rich history from across the world, from the Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Vietnam, the World Tribunal on Iraq, to the numerous tribunals (forty-six) organised by the Permanent People’s Tribunal – on fracking and climate change, on migration, on Canadian mining internationally, on workers rights etc.” They added. ‘By establishing a people’s tribunal process in Pakistan, it is envisaged that the full range of activities on coal can be brought into conversation with each other under its auspices. They said.

The speakers deplored the fact that the vast area had already been affected due to massive extraction and the environment and ecology of the area was also damaged beyond any repair. “Driven by the communities-of-struggle in Thar region it aims to bring together the numerous communities opposing coal: from those living in the shadows of coal power plants and coal importation facilities; communities who have opposed coal for its impact on global climate; the public health community who are witness to the health impact of coal; environmental activist communities working to highlight the impacts of coal on the environment, in contexts of global warming; lawyers working to provide stronger reviews upon the coal sector and enhanced environmental protections; the renewable industries; wider civil society, journalists and academics engaged in understanding fossil fuels in Pakistan’ added the participant of the event.

The affected people of Warwai, Lanjo and other villages of Block-1, speaking on the occasion deplored that the company had made agreements with them that there would be no fences around the village, but now not only fence was being erected but the villagers were also being harassed. The company people were blaming them for stealing diesel and other company stuff. They said that due to violation of the agreements by the mining firms they were facing serious stress. They said that the company had not provided compensation to survey grazing lands (pastures) and trees to them. The residents of the affected villages deplored that the company had violated the agreements and was harassing them with the support of the police, their ways and ways of their livestock were being closed. They demanded justice and announced that they would not vacate their homes and lands.

They appealed to the lawmakers to help them in that regard. They pledged to continue the peaceful protest but warned if the officials of the companies continued to harass them; the company and the administration would be responsible for any unwanted incident in the peaceful region of the country.

“Thar coal companies have also been harassing and displaced people of the union councils of Khari Ghulam Shah and Thario Halepoto, who were even not provided with the compensation of their lands and other required facilities acquired by the coal companies for the coal extraction ” they added

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