Jarapa palli sabha
20th August, 2013. Yesterday Jarapa – the last of the twelve villages selected to vote on the proposed Niyamgiri mine – sealed the victory of the mountain and its people over Vedanta, as, like every other village, it unanimously opposed the mine. Niyamgiri has now spoken, and commentators agree that, though the Ministry of Environment and Forests has the final say on the resolution passed by the villages, they would face public outcry if they ignored the clear message of the Dongria.
Thanks to the hard work of activists at, and around, Niyamgiri, the precedent process, enabled by the Supreme Court, has been fully transparent, and the Odisha government’s attempts to use violence and manipulation to influence the verdict, have failed. As a result the world has witnessed the clarity and conviction of Niyamgiri’s people – from Dongria and Kutia Konds, to Dalits, Gaudas and others who live off the bounty of the mountain – who realise that there is no richer life than having self sufficiency, community and freedom. In the palli sabhas Niyamgiri’s tribal people showed their wisdom and knowledge as they articulated their vision of development, and questioned the type of development prescribed for them by the state, which they do not recognise as progress. (More details below). Yesterday they celebrated their great victory with music, drums and dancing.
The Hindu newspaper quotes Lingaraj Azad, leader of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti on the final palli sabha vote:
“As all gram sabhas have unanimously rejected mining in the hills despite the sinister design by the Odisha government and ruffians engaged by Vedanta, it is time Vedanta gracefully respected public sentiment and packed off,”
The Ministry of Environment and Forests now have two months to deliver the final verdict on the mine according to the April 18th Supreme Court ruling. After ten years of bribery, corruption, coercion and violence to try to get Niyamgiri’s bauxite, Vedanta has lost a $7 billion investment. This people’s victory should be a lesson to other communities fighting mega-projects who seek short term profit over the longevity of sustainable communities. With strength, solidarity and commitment you can win. As they say in India – “ladhenge jitenge!” – ‘We will fight, we will win!’.