In early September, along with three other farmers from his tribal clan, Mangal Sai offered the first grains of his rice crop to the deity Bada Dev. Each year, this ritual marks the festival of Nava Khai: Only after thanking God for the harvest will the farmers reap its bounty.
But Bada Dev had a new address this year. For generations, Sai’s family has observed this ritual at a sacred grove of Sal trees in their ancestral village of Hariharpur, which lies inside the Hasdeo Arand forest in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.
Now, though, the tall, slender trees are part of “Parsa East and Kanta Basan,” an expanding coal mine that opened in the forest in 2013. The project is owned by a state-run electricity generator, Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam (RRVUNL), which has contracted all mining operations to the Adani group—an Indian conglomerate with an annual revenue of $13 billion.