The welcome warning is unnerving – “Don’t go near that village. People will pelt stones at you or may even attack you”.
This is mafia land, a rugged countryside dotted with hills and forests in Rajasthan’s Alwar district, where a mining cartel holds sway.
Their diktat is the last word and their orders executed with military precision by villagers.
This influential mining mafia – involved in illegal lifting of stones used in construction work— has held up a proposed army missile launch pad in Kithoor area, about 150 km from Delhi.
Officials confirmed that a team of around 150 members of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) was attacked and forced to leave by angry villagers in September.
The missile launch pad is among the two major projects planned by the DRDO in the state — the other is a missile interception base in Pali district.
DRDO has already acquired a huge chunk of forest land in both the locations.
The area is largely inhabited by the Mev community, which is involved in illegal mining.
The villagers were allegedly told by the mining cartel that the army would carry out explosions in the area and that they would be forced to leave their homes.
Work was stopped after the attack and DRDO machinery is now lying idle.
Kasim Khan, sarpanch of Khoha Bas village near the proposed missile base, confirmed the attack and said the villagers were wary they would not be able to graze their cattle in the forest.
However, Alwar district forest officer PD Gupta said “grazing” was just an excuse.
“Illegal mining is the real issue. The community protesting the project is largely involved in illegal mining even in the forest areas,” Gupta told HT.
With the mafia holding sway among the villagers, even a camp organised by the district administration and forest officials failed to persuade them in favour of the project.
Fear of the mafia — who allegedly use strong-arm tactics against opponents — runs so deep that residents of Khoha Bas village warned this correspondent against visiting the proposed army base.