Sunday, July 26, 2009
Successful Protest against Vedanta in Lanjigarh, Orissa
Despite company goons tried to stop activists on the way
25 July 2009
See photographs at http://www.epgorissa.org/apps/photos/album?albumid=6620562
Hundreds of tribals from the Niyamgiri mountain and Lanjigarh staged a protest against Vedanta's mining and refinery project that will ruin the sacred Niyamgiri mountain alongwith its water sources, rich cultural values and religious beliefs of thousands of Dongrias and the Dalits living there for millenia. The protestors drew a line on the way where Vedanta is forcefully building the mining road, giving a strong message that the company will not be allowed beyond that line. This protest was part of the Global Campaign against Vedanta carried out all across the country and other parts of the world. The activists demanded immediate closure of the refinery and scrapping up of mining permission given to Vedanta's subsidiary Sterlite Industries India Ltd. This protest comes at a time when the Vedanta Resources plc. is gearing towards its annual shareholders meeting in London next week.
The activists had to face opposition in various forms while going to join the protest today. For instance, the road in Lanjigarh side was blocked by the goons with boulders and stones. This did not mar the spirit of the people as they crossed them. The henious act of intimidating people by a group of motorcycle riders reached a high point when the vehicle carrying senior activists of the camapaign viz., Bhagwat Prasad Rath, Prafulla Samantara and Bhalachandra, was stopped by the goons. They first threatened the driver and charged him to have killed someone in an accident a few days back. As usual, all this was a way to stop the vehicle from going ahead. The goons forced the activists to retreat and as they were going back, a large group of tribals coming for the protest joined the senior activists and chased the goons away. Realising the plans laid out by the goons in the entire area, the protestors took Bhagwat Prasad Rath and Prafulla Samantara to a safe place as the others proceeded for the protest site.
It has come to the knowledge of the protestors that the plot was spread by the supporters of one of Orissa's biggest mafia don Mahima Mishra who has been given the contract to build the mining road to the Niyamgiri hills. It is noteworthy here that the tribals of Niaymgiri and Lanjigarh have been continuously intimidated by the goons with weapons for many months now working with Mahima Mishra to protect that company officials.
When the activists went to the police station to lodge a complaint against those who stopped them on the way in Dahikhal, they were told that the area does not fall in their jurisdiction and that they have to go to Ambadola, another 10-12 kms from there. It was thought unwise to proceed to Ambadola to lodge a complaint in the light of the whole day's proceedings, the activists did not go and instead have written to the SP of the area as well as to the Collector to take immediate action against such intimidation.
It must be noted here that the latest tactics of Vedanta is to refrain people from attending meetings and interacting with people joining the struggle from outside. This was clearly seen during the public hearing in Belamba in April 2009 and again during one of the meetings in the Niaymgiri hills in end of June. The tribals have revolted very strongly and as always, have shown great collective wisdon and energy in dealing with such situation. Today's protest is an example of this determination as thousands of them shouted slogans and resolved to protect the mountain against all odds.
Here are some photos of today's protest.
with inputs from Prafulla Samantara & Satyabadi Naik from Niyamgiri