Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Massive Rally and Convention at Muniguda challenges Vedanta’s plans to mine Niyamgiri

5th September, 2009

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 India where mining has benefited the locals and conserved the resources for the safety of future generations. Bhagwan Majhi of PSSP , Kashipur, while narrating the repressions and atrocities they have experienced in their fight against Utkal Alumina for the last 15 years also appealed the Niyamgiri fighters to further intensify their struggle. Dongaria leaders Dadi Majhi and Bari Prikaka declared in their addresses that, " Niyamgiri is our mother, it is our father and it is our god. We can't breath without Niyamgiri".

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 South Orissa, Budha Gamang was also present. The convention was presided over by the local tribal leader Haribandhu Kadraka and president of the local unit of Lok Sangram Manch. Bhalla Sadangi of Loka Sangram Manch pointed out that this was the first local mass event totally organized locally. He also said that “the Mahayudh against Vedanta has started- the people have united against Vedanta to oust it and never to allow mining of Niyamgiri”.

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
The programme was highly successful despite rains and bust strike. heavy force deployment had made by the state though it was one of the most peaceful events one witnessed in the area. This event today has visibly demoralized the Vedanta camp who had made relentless efforts to stop it happening by undertaking a propaganda war against the rally and the convention.

(With inputs from Satyabadi Naik; Picture by Satyabadi Naik)

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