A rally of over 5000 people gathered together at Muniguda, inspite of the heavy rains and an ongoing Bus strike, to protest Vedanta’s proposal to mine Niyamgiri. Thousands of Jharania and Dongaria Kondhs braved the rains to join the rally with their traditional arms. The rally started at 10 am from Rajulguda village near Dahikhal and reached Muniguda petrol pump where tribals and other protesters had converged from four diffrent corners of the region shouting slogans such as “Niyamgiri is ours”; “We will never give up Niyamgiri till we are alive”.
Speaker after speaker spoke out against Vedanta’s genocidal efforts to destroy Niyamgiri and its environs for its greed for profits. In his speech, Prof Bhagwat Prasad Rath wanted to know if there is any example available within the 62 years history of independent
Other prominent speakers included, Lingaraj Azad and Kumuti Majhi of Niyamgiri Surakshya Samiti, Satya Mahar and Giridhari Patra of Kalahandi Sachetan Nagarika Manch, Rajendra Bharati and Sidharth Nayak (advocates) as well as former MLA sarangdhar Kadraka. Sarangdhar Kadraka, himself a Dongaria Kondh, described Niyamgiri Hill as a Kamadhenu which protects and nurtures the local people and compared Vedanta with an Asur (demon) whose efforts to despoil Niyamgiri will destroy everything. Prafulla Samantra, the President of Loka Shakti Abhijan, a key figure in effort to save Niyamgiri, also spoke to the assembled people.
The main support of the programme came from CPI( ML) New Democracy and its leader Bhala Chandra Sadanngi . The president of the Loka Sangram Manch the leading tribal organization of
The people handed over a memorandum to Chief Minister through the BDO in which the following demands were raised
- Cancellation of mining lease in Niyamgiri
- Allotment of rights to forest dwellers and tribals in Niyamgiri as per FRA 2006
- Issue of BPL cards to the poor, Widow allowance, old age pension in Niyamgiri and Muniguda area
- Provision of a school in every revenue village in and around Niyamgiri
- One hospital for 10 revenue villages in Niyamgiri
- Minimum 100 days work at Rs 100 wage per day to the poor in the region under NRGES
- Minimum Support price for forest produces in Niyamgiri
- Fair price and good marketing support for produces collected by tribals in Niyamgiri
(With inputs from Satyabadi Naik; Picture by Satyabadi Naik)