The police did not show up for the next hour, but within minutes of our call, the trucks and the bulldozers were gone.
Since Dilip’s murder, the contractors have taken away sand from a 10 km stretch of the river. But every time they call the police, they immediately get threats from the sand mafia.
Last year, when Dilip’s cousin Aditya asked the proprietor of the Churimai Crusher Industry Binod Mahato to stop his illegal activity, goons came to his house and threatened to kill him.
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“After that, my mother did not let me stay at home,” recalled Aditya, who stayed away for six months.
Despite the risk, Ram Jiwan is proud of his daughters. “I lost one son, and my daughters continuously receive threats, but there is no fear in our blood.”
Before coming to Kathmandu, Sangam and Laxmi collected data on the activities of sand and boulder miners and quarry owners in the region. Even if the authorities don’t take any action against the perpetrators, they want the community to be aware of the issues. “If we teach the students about the importance of conserving the Chure, some of them may continue the fight,” said Sangam.
But Laxmi believes that, ultimately, change has to come from the central, provincial and local governments, with strict implementation of environmental protection policies.
When not fighting for the environment, or running around the courts, Sangam gives tuition classes to school children and Laxmi teaches at Janata Secondary School in Mithila Municipality. They earn barely enough to pay off the Rs3.5 million that the family owes money lenders.
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Sangam also heads the Om Prakash Mahato (Dilip) Environment Conservation Academy, an NGO established two years ago, and Laxmi keeps track of the ongoing court case.
The Dilip Academy has built a garden area, Dilip Chure Batika, after receiving Rs1.5million from the President Chure Tarai-Madhes Conservation Development Board. The family has also invested Rs2 million from the central government, and Rs500,000 from the Madhes government after Dilip’s death in the institution.
But what the sisters really want is justice, and the termination of the sand mining contracts. In a community which marries off daughters after Grade 10, it was Dilip who convinced their parents to let his sisters go to college.
With his support, the two sisters were preparing for the civil service exams when he was killed. Both sisters now want to go to university to study Environment Science.
Said Sangam: “If our brother were alive, the situation of not only our family but also the environment would have been better. We want to contribute however we can to fulfil his dreams.”
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