Rahul Gandhi’s visit boosts tribals’ morale in Orissa

March 12th, 2008 - 8:41 pm ICT by admin  

Bhubaneswar, March 12 (IANS) Tribal agitators fighting to protect a hill in Orissa from mining by British company Vedanta got a morale booster after Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi openly extended them support. Gandhi visited the region during his four-day trip to the state. He told mediapersons in Bhubaneswar that the mining in Niyamgiri hill would destroy ecology.

“Gandhi had visited Ejurpa, a small hamlet in the Niyamgiri forest area, and spent time with the local tribals for about one and a half hours,” Bratindi Jena, an activist of the Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti, told IANS.

Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti is a forum of tribals that is fighting to protect the hill from mining exploration.

“Gandhi assured the tribals that he will help them to protect the hill and the environment,” she said.

“Gandhi categorically said that he is against mining in Niyamgiri hill,” she said. “This has given the tribals and other people who have been fighting against mining a big morale booster,” she added.

Niyamgiri in the Lanjigarh block of Kalahandi district is inhabited by Dongaria Kondhs, a tribal group.

Tribals of Kalahandi as well as from Gajapati and Rayagada districts have been protesting after Vedanta signed an agreement with the state government to set up a bauxite refinery and to mine bauxite in the hill four years ago.

The tribals claimed that mining would pollute their rivers, destroy jungles and displace them from their land and culture. “We are not going to vacate the land at any cost,” said Mali Puseka, a tribal leader.

More than 10,000 tribals will gather March 16 at Niyamgiri, some 600 km from here, for a mass worship to save Niyamgiri hills, Bratindi said.

This special event is being organised by three Kondh tribes to draw attention to an unprecedented threat to their culture, beliefs and place of worship.

The Supreme Court last November barred Vedanta Resources from mining bauxite after local opposition. However, it suggested that Vedanta make its Indian partner Sterlite apply for and obtain the clearance. The court judgment on the fresh application is expected this month.

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