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The Netarhat Firing Range Protest



Netarhat is a hill station in Latehar district in the Indian state of Jharkhand. It is also called as the “Queen of Chotanagpur”. Netarhat is known for its scenic beauty and exquisite weather but there is a protest going on for the past 30 years, upon an army field fire range sprouted a long-lasting campaign against relocation and dispossession.

This protest has been going on since the 1990s when the Centre designated around 1,471 square kilometers in Netarhat Hills near Latehar for army field fire exercise prior to the formation of what is now known as Jharkhand.
Under section 9(1) of the Manoeuvres Field Fire and Artillery Practices Act, 1938, two-state notifications dated November and March 25, 1992, notified this region for ten years of periodical field firing and artillery exercise.
According to sources, separate notices in 1992 and 2002 extended field shooting and artillery exercises until 2022.

People have terror in their hearts of losing their homes, and their forests. Of risks to their identities. That is why, over the past 30 years, individuals have travelled tremendous distances, packing food and carrying children, to come here.

The movement’s strength also comes from the participation of women. Many Adivasi communities did not see the need to allow women to join and speak in meetings at first, and many still do now.

The Netarhat movement, on the other hand, is a tremendous illustration of women’s empowerment.
It has made them more conscious of the situation. Many tiny movements led by women have sprung up as a result of the movement. Women’s leadership in the gramme sabha has become more prominent.
The Adivasis have a statistically significant relationship with their natural environment, which supports tribal land protection as well as their immediate subsistence requirements as farmers or forest dwellers.

Despite the constantly changing nature of the Indian State’s political and economic character, Adivasi demands have remained consistent: “rights over Jal, Jungle, and Jameen.” The recent Adivasi protest march in Jharkhand against the Netarhat field shooting range exemplifies the ongoing violation of Adivasi rights and culture.

A women carrying her sleeping baby in the protest

To safeguard the rights of the Adivasis, The government should place a strong emphasis on enforcing current policies (such as the Forest Rights Act of 2006), which empowers Adivasi systems of governance and existence, while also ensuring that any land purchase receives approval from the affected Adivasis tribe.

Even today, many ask the same question: why should modest but precious items fundamental to human survival be sacrificed for the sake of development? The forest is more than just a forest. It symbolizes the variety of life. Saving it is the same as saving variety.

After reaching “Tutuwapani” (place where they perform the protest), a few members of each household make plans to eat and sleep.
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Ishan Banerjee

I'm a self-taught Ranchi-based street and documentary photographer. I started photography as a hobby but gradually it became an important part of my life.… More »

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