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In Chhattisgarh, BJP, Cong spar over mining at Hasdeo Aranya forest

Demanding the resignation of Chhattisgarh Panchayat and Health Minister TS Singh Deo, the opposition BJP in the state attacked the Congress on Tuesday, saying that the ruling party did not care about the people of the state.

“Chhattisgarh is an ATM for the Congress. Party leaders are busy looking after other states,” BJP leader Brijmohan Agarwal said. Agarwal, along with BJP leader Kedar Kashyap, was addressing the media on the Hasdeo Aranya protests.

Tribals in Hasdeo Aranya, a biodiversity-rich dense forest in Chhattisgarh, have been protesting against the mining inside the area for the past 97 days.

Singh Deo had said on Monday that had it been in his control, he would not have let mining take place in the forests. “He is saying he will take a bullet for the cause. He should resign and join the protest,” Agarwal said.

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While the Chhattisgarh government gave permission to clear the forest for the expansion of PEKB mines, the central government is also planning to make the Parsa coal mines inside the same forest operational.

The BJP leaders defended the role of the central government in granting mining licenses. “The BJP met with the tribals…we heard people out. The state government is pushing everything on the central government, but what did they do? They should have put their foot down. State governments have rights too,” Agarwal said. “Chief minister Bhupesh Baghel likes to talk about Chhattisgarhia identity but he is not doing anything for the state. He is busy pleasing the party leadership.”

Meanwhile, In response to the opposition, chief minister Baghel said that protests should be held in Delhi. “If they feel so strongly about the issue, why don’t they protest in front of the central government? After all, they are the ones who allot mines.”

Baghel also commented on Singh Deo’s statement. “If Singh Deo doesn’t want trees to be cut, not even a branch will be hampered there. He is saying he will take a bullet, there will be no need. Goli chalane waale par goli chal jaayegi (The one who wields the gun will have to face the bullet),” Baghel said.

On Monday, Singh Deo had visited protesters in the affected villages inside Hasdeo Aranya forests and had extended his support to the protest.

State Congress chief Mohan Markam also responded to Singh Deo’s statement. Speaking in BilaspurMarkam said, “As a public representative of the area, it is Singh Deo’s duty to meet the people and take their voices of dissent to the government.”

Last week, chief minister Baghel had remarked that those protesting against mining in Hasdeo Aranya should first stop using electricity.

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