Chakra Living

Hunger Strikes May End Illegal Braj Hills Mining

by Radha Kant Shashtri

Posted November 7, 2009

Faced with continued illegal mining and quarrying in India's sacred Braj Hills, Man Mandir devotees have organized an occupation of the area and have issued an ultimatum to the Rajasthan state government to enforce their state laws and court judgments, which have banned all such mining. Devotees will know from the Srimad Bhagavatam that the Braj Hills, spanning the boundaries of modern Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana states, are intrinsic to the spiritual life of all Vaishnavas, having been the earthly location of the epic childhood pastimes of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna.

If the Rajasthan state government does not act decisively within the week to ensure the complete and total security of the Braj Hills, which they term as "the lifeblood of Indian spiritualism and religion," H.H. Pujya Ramesh Baba Maharaj has threated an "extended protest," expected to attract thousands of devotees of Krishna.

Delegates to a September conference in Linthicum, Maryland, of over 110 North American Hindu temples unanimously agreed to support immediate action to protect the remaining area of the Braj Hills from further destruction. The sadhus of Braj have been encamped in the blasting area for a month, with many of them beginning a hunger strike ten days ago. A further 12,000 pilgrims on Braj Yatra are arriving soon to join the ongoing protest.

For the last ten years, numerous sites in the Braj Hills have been systematically destroyed as their surfaces were blasted to extract stone. The sadhus of Braj, as well as other devotees from all parts of the globe, have been protesting the mining for the last eight years, meeting with authorities, appealing through the courts and completing" target=blank>informational and petition campaigns with rallies staged in many cities of India.

Although the government of Rajasthan forbade mining in the Braj region over a year ago and the Rajasthan High Court directed an end to mining, declaring the area as protected forest, illegal mining has continued on a massive scale in defiance of Supreme Court of India rulings that protected forest area must not be used for non-forest activities.

To date, the state government has irresponsibly and unethically refused to enforce either its own law or the rulings of the courts, despite having been repeatedly informed of the ongoing illegal mining, which the local district administration believes to be disturbing the ecology of the entire area. It is my belief the state government has not only turned a blind eye but even encouraged a "mining mafia" with local police and mines ministry officials accepting bribes to allow the continuing irreparable destruction of the Braj Hills.

Please support us in saving this ancient and sacred heritage site, which is vital for the religious and cultural existence of Vaishnavas worldwide.