This week more than 5000 Dongria Kondh tribals and other farmers and local people from grassroots group Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti conducted a six day foot march (Padayatra) to visit 104 villages on and around the Niyamgiri mountains. The marchers stopped in the villages to make them aware of the upcoming gram sabha (village council) hearings which will determine the fate of the Niyamgiri hills and their livelihoods in the next month or so. Foil Vedanta’s orange banner featured heavily in the march. It was brought by our delegation who will be working alongside the NSS and Dongria in Odisha in the coming weeks.
At the same time the Odisha government has now announced that gram sabhas will be held in only twelve villages, while Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti point out that 160 villages will be affected by the mine. The selected villages are five in Kalahandi district – Jadijhola, Palbiri, Phuldumer, Ejurpa and Konakadu, and seven in Rayagada district – Jharpa, Khambesi, Kesharpadi, Batuli, Serkapadi, Lakhpadar and Lamba.
Meanwhile the tribal affairs minister V.Kishore Chandra Deo has written to the Odisha state governor S C Jamir decrying the impact of ‘indiscriminate mining activities’ on scheduled tribes and urging him to use his special powers under Schedule V of the constitution to stop the mine at Niyamgiri and withdraw the MoU. Jamir then convened a joint meeting of ST/SC Development, Steel & Mines and Forest & Environment Secretaries and the Chairman-cum-Managing Director of Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) to allegedly ‘take stock of the status of Niyamgiri hills’.
Photos, video news-clips and statements below.
Statement from gathering of Dongria and other farmers and villagers at Muniguda on 23rd May, 2013, at the end of their six day Padayatra:
We will resist any kind of exploitation of the Mining stocks of the mountain. Odisha Govt and Navin Pattnaik: respect the Supreme court’s orders.
We want the Gram Sabha to be held completely independent, free from Vedanta influences and Govt. influences. CRP and other armed forces are coming to villages in name of Maoists search operations and harassing us. They are misbehaving with our girls and ladies. They are threatening us not to attend any meeting against Vedanta. But no matter what comes, we will not give our mountain. Every dust particle, water drop, every leaf and all these natural resources belong to us – the tribals and others including the Muniguda and Lanjigarh townships.
How dare you wish to conduct Gram Sabhas in just 12 villages where as there are over 160 villages directly depending on this mountain? We have resisted the mining and any kind of mining.
Vedanta Agarwal go back.!! get out of Odisha soil!!
We the tribals also demand to conduct the Gram Sabha immediately without further delay. The state govt is trying to buy more time to manipulate the village council meetings so that rain may come and people’s participation be reduced…. no way.
Local news clip:
See a video of the march and rally here and a speech by Dongria leader Lado Sidaka
and another video of the march and a speech by Lingaraj Azad from Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti here.
Letter from minister of tribal affairs – V. Kishore Chandra Deo to Odisha state governor S C Jamir and all Indian state governors: Deo-Mining-Governors 2013 Apr