Orissa tribals seek divine help to prevent British project

March 17th, 2008 - 8:04 pm ICT by admin  

Bhubaneswar, March 17 (IANS) Hundreds of tribals in three Orissa districts decided to seek divine intervention to stop an alumina-mining project by British company Vedanta Resources. The tribals from Kandha tribe from Kalahandi, Rayagada and Koraput assembled over the weekend carrying their traditional weapons and sacrificed chickens and goats to a stone and a wooden pillar at Ijirupa, a hamlet located in Niyamgiri hills, a senior district police official told IANS Monday.

The Kandha tribals believe that the hills belong to Niyam Raja Penu, a male deity represented by a sword. The tribal people claim to be descendants of the deity and worship a stone that symbolizes the deity.

Vedanta has already built a $900 million alumina refinery in the region that is now running on test trial.

Ijirupa has a population of about a dozen families and was visited by Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi earlier this month. He assured all help to the tribals to protect their environment.

“The rituals the tribals performed over the weekend were an oath to fight against the unprecedented threat to their culture, beliefs and place of worship by the Vedanta project,” Siddharth Nayak, a social activist and lawyer, told IANS.

The tribals, accompanied by Janis (priests) and Bhejens (priestesses), danced several hours to the beats of drums and dhampa, a traditional instrument, an eyewitness said.

They also worshipped a wooden pillar known as Dharani Penu (mother earth).

The tribals complain that the government is determined to take away their lands after it signed an agreement with Vedanta four years ago.

The Supreme Court last November barred Vedanta from mining bauxite after local opposition.

However, it suggested that Vedanta make its Indian partner Sterlite apply for the clearance. The court judgment on the fresh application is expected this month.

“We performed the rituals because some of us have seen the Niyamgiri Raja and Dharani Penu telling us in dreams that we should protect them from mining exploration,” a tribal leader said.

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