Development should be done by piercing our bodies alive, and then pick the bloody uranium through us. We won’t move a little bit, won’t turn back, we will be on our lands, where every drop of our sweat and blood is hidden. This is our naturally designed life, haunted by hunger. We dwelt here, we die here…” These are the agonised words of the Chenchu tribe, echoing from the Nallamalla forest.
After many decades, in Andhra Pradesh, the central government discovered a great new thing: uranium. What the Chenchu and other tribes know is that gold is yellow, silver is white, the sky is blue, and in the water, we can see our reflection of shadows. To the outer world, they are ‘uncivilised’ but to them, they are civilised in their lifestyle in the forest, developing their lives season-by-season, polishing the days with nature’s disruptions.
Caste or region doesn’t matter to them, but they are not even treated as human beings in our greatest developing (destructive) country. The Constitution provides all rights to rule the forest when your roots are beneath your land. But the poor central government doesn’t know this, rather, they plant and they cut as per their wishes when tribal communities are not allowed to cut even firewood.
Sometimes, tribal communities are offered jobs or money as the ‘greatest luck’ that could happen to them. A question then arises in their hearts: does development mean giving or taking? After this, officials start behaving badly with tribal communities. Many forests end up losing their identity and the native population.
On April 26, 1986, a nuclear accident took place at the nuclear reactor no. 4 in Ukraine, popularly known as the Chernobyl Disaster. Many people were killed through the spread of radiation, and the city remained empty. In our country, in Jharkhand’s Jadugoda, similar events took place, but people continue to live there. Chinky Shukla’s essay ‘Jadugoda: The Nuclear Graveyard’ gives a clear portrait of the effects of mining on the town. The Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. (UCIL) was at the receiving end of many curses from people, awash with the blood and tears of people. It gifted them cancer and other diseases, with many bed-ridden after inhaling the polluted air.
Radiation from the mines is leading to many impairments. Nothing remains sacred, only the shadows of the people desecrated and ruined, with humps on their back, with half of the face stretched and fully filled with radiation-effected blood, and sucking every second of human happiness. Also, the government had started a tiger reserve in this area, but many tigers went missing.
The beauty of tribes and the forest cannot be defined. It’s mysterious and hidden history always stirs in every breath of theirs. Development, more like (devil)upment—the word echoes like a thunderclap. As we peep into the past, every development project has left some kind of smear, and nothing was perfect. Common people cannot define what development is ‘done’ to them (tribal communities), but can define the pain and exploitation brought through it.
If the Nallamala forest, located in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and part of the Eastern ghats, is dug and mined, then definitely, both states will turn to become graveyards in the future. Maybe not to this extent, but it’s true this development will bring big destruction.
Along with tribes, scholars, writers, students, and journalists were all fighting on this issue publicly, and also in social media to save the Nallamalla forest. The Amazon is also under threat. But I feel that there is no use, even though people are still fighting without losing hope. Officials remain ignorant as many parts of the forest were dug, and samples were collected secretly.
The government has many themes for this mining project. There was a reason behind this project, to tackle the electricity crisis. But, more than an electricity crisis, we are facing a bigger water crisis and an environmental crisis. Maybe, it was for development, but a piece from the map and Earth will disappear if uranium mining continues.