She defies age in fight against mafia

Archana Phull

(Sangdah (Sirmaur), April 29)

THE WRINKLES on her face are tell-tale. They speak aloud her relentless battle against the mining mafia in this remote limestone treasure in Sirmaur district. Neither poverty nor illiteracy has dampened her will to protect her land from the ruthless 'money-makers'.

Seventy-two-year-old Kinkri Devi was a part-time sweeper in the tehsil office. And now she is alone in her struggle against illegal mining. Her success includes a legal victory against a mine contractor of Dadahu in the Himachal High Court in the early eighties another in the Supreme Court, for closure of some limestone mines.

"But, how does that matter," she asks. "I filed a petition in court with the money I saved for five long years. I won the case and some mines were shut. And soon several others began mushrooming in the area. The mines are crushing my land and my Sirmaur, but nobody cares," she says.

Unscientific mining in Sangdah, Kamroh and Bhut Madi belts have shorn the hills of their green cover through large-scale uprooting of trees. This has taken a toll on the lives of animals. Besides, continuous blasting of limestone in the area are a threat to the lives of residents. Kinkri Devi detested mining in Sangdah ever since her childhood.

"In the early Eighties, the detrimental effects of mining began to adversely affect the environment around Sangdah. I raised my voice against those responsible for the degradation. Initially, the villagers supported me and persuaded me to move court. But later everybody backed out and I was left alone in my struggle."

"Money," she says, was the distracting factor. The poor residents of Sangdah and adjoining villages are mostly employed as daily wagers in the mines. The contractors lured them with money and then threatened them if they joined the protests.

"The mine owners tried the same with me. But I spurned their money and brushed away the threats. Who bothers? I have to die one day and it's better to die fighting for a cause," Kinkri says. She was recently bestowed with the Rani Laxmibai Award (Rs one lakh) by Prime Minister. She has kept the amount for campaigns against the mining mafia.

Referred by: Balram Sampla
Published on: May 1, 2001
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