India: Odisha’s Fresh Move to Mine Niyamgiri Opposed

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    File photo of Rahul Gandhi with Dongria Kondhs during his visit to Kalahandi district

    BHAWANIPATNA: Green activists have raised their voice against the move by the State Government, which has recently filed an interlocutory application in the Supreme Court, seeking fresh ‘palli sabhas’ to reconsider mining of bauxite from Niyamgiri Hills through Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC).

    Former Union minister and Chief Advisor of Green Kalahandi, Bhakta Charan Das, has questioned the rationale behind the Government’s move. Das said any attempt to extract bauxite would be opposed and under no circumstances would the livelihood of Dongria Kondhs and other tribals inhabiting the hill would be allowed to be destroyed.

    The bauxite mining project had suffered a jolt two years ago after all 12 gram sabhas held in and around the Niyamgiri Hill range voted unanimously against it. The ‘gram sabhas’ were held in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts following a Supreme Court directive.

    He said any attempt to mine Niyamgiri Hills, located on Rayagada and Kalahandi border, will destroy the indigenousness of the primitive tribe.

    Das has been leading the agitation against mining of bauxite in Niyamgiri since 2003 and had even managed to rope in Rahul Gandhi twice in 2008 and 2010. In 2010, Rahul had announced that he is their ‘sipahi’ in Delhi and would safeguard their interests. His announcement scuttled whatever chances were there to mine bauxite from the hill.

    Rahul’s slogan, ‘Mein aap ka sipahi hoon, Delhi mein rehta hoon’ still rents the air in the region and with the AICC vice-president slated to visit Niyamgiri yet again, the issue has taken centrestage. Though the date of visit of Rahul has not been finalised yet, he is likely to visit the State with regard to Forest Rights Act.

    Das said he welcomed mining of bauxite deposits in other hills of the district but will not allow mining on even an inch of Niyamgiri.

    The annual rituals of Niyam Raja, the presiding deity of Niyamgiri Hills and Dongria Kondhs, scheduled to held from March 26 to 28, will attract Dongria Kondhs from across the district to the hill. The mining issue is likely to resonate once again.

    However, the Government’s application, filed in the second week of this month, is yet to be listed for hearing by the apex court.

    Source: http://www.newindianexpress.com/