Adivasi Youth are Standing Up Against Government’s Apathy in Uranium Mines of Jharkhand

Even as I started riding from Jamshedpur towards Jadugoda this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about Arjun Samad, the young activist in Turamdih, who had started fighting for the rights of his fellow tribals from the age of 14. He lives in the UCIL quarters, his father works in the company, but that hasn’t stopped him from fighting for fairer wages and better healthcare facilities for the workers.

While the harsh reality faced by contractual labor and the villagers who are living in close proximity to the nuclear tailing ponds had me disturbed, the superb weather and beautiful natural surroundings lifted me up. There’s an indescribable beauty in the simple act of ploughing one’s field with a pair of bullocks. The bad quality of roads rattled my shoulders, but when I came across this farmer tending to his land, all I could do is sit there and stare at the unison of him and his animals till the land.

It made me wonder about the millions of farmers who tirelessly toil to produce food. And while one may argue that they do it for economic reasons, their tenacity at it is what puts them in a different league for me.

So this morning, as I have raindrops on my back, humid air on my face, I am inspired to cycle further, motivated by an activist who fought for his people’s rights since the age of 14 and the countless farmers who undertake the noble task of generating invaluable wealth from the land at the cost of their sweat and toil. There is so much to be inspired by in life, if only we look, if only we listen. What inspired you today? Share a story or an anecdote with me.

Also, head over to my website for detailed findings of nuclear radiation poisoning in the villages of Turamdih.

How often do you meet someone who has the distinct recognition of being Jharkhand’s first tribal photographer to have been showcased internationally? I reached Jadugoda drenched in the rain that I encountered while cycling on the way. But the warm welcome by Birulee family made me feel at home at their spacious abode. As I enter the room of this young photographer, I see small figurines of Batman and Spider-Man, something you’d find normally in a teenagers room. But for someone who is born in a family that has exemplified the fight against UCIL’s (Uranium Corporation of India Limited) Uranium radiation pollution, superheroes don’t just sit on a house shelf.

@ashishbirulee has photographically documented the horrific effect that Uranium mining’s radiation pollution has been having on the native Ho tribals who live in this region. His photographs have been featured in Uranium film festivals and Anti-Uranium photo exhibitions in Brazil, Canada, and Japan. He has been published by @thetimesofindia , @huffpost among others. He may be in his twenties when most kids out of college are looking for their first job, but for Ashish, these photo exhibitions are just a beginning. He plans to learn filmmaking and document the struggle of inhabitants of Jadugoda against radiation poisoning. His youthful demeanor and a love for the camera instantly makes us connect and what begins, is the first step in our friendship. I’m honored to know him and wish he accomplishes all that he aspires to.

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