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Tribals take out rally against Vedanta Alumina project

Staff Reporter

Some 5,000 activists from Kalahandi and Rayagada took part in it

BERHAMPUR: Ethnic tribals of Niyamgiri area organised a rally against the Vedanta Alumina Limited (VAL) at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district on Saturday.

It was held at a juncture when the VAL and the Orissa government are contemplating to approach the Supreme Court against the scrapping of Vedanta's bauxite mining project in Niyamgiri hills by the Environment and Forests ministry of Central government. This rally had been convened by the Niyamgiri Surakshya Samity (NSS), the organisation fighting against proposal of bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hills and the rights of Dongria Kondh tribals since 2002.

The slogan for this rally was ‘Khani Nahin ta factory Nahin, Vedanta Company Rahiba Kahin' (Without mines there can be no refinery, then why should Vedanta be here). Around 5,000 activists mostly tribals of Niyamgiri area from Kalahandi and Rayagada districts took part in it. Leaders of different organisations like Lok Sangram Manch (LSM), Samajwadi Jan Parishad (SJP), CPI (ML-New Democracy), Sachetan Nagarika Manch of Kalahandi who had supported NSS in its fight against Vedanta since its inception also took part in this rally as invitees.

Allegations

There were also allegations related to efforts of the State government and Vedanta officials to sabotage this rally. To counter this anti-Vedanta rally of locals of Niyamgiri hills, an organisation named Lanjigarh Vikas Samity (LVS) also took out a counter rally and met the Kalahandi Collector in support of VAL and its plans to mine Niyamgiri hills for bauxite. The NSS activists alleged that government agencies and VAL officials were behind this organisation.

CPI (ML-New Democracy) leader Bhala Chandra Sarangi alleged that activists on their way to this rally from Muniguda area in Rayagada district were stopped near Bijabandili and Asuragada by supporters of the VAL. Similarly leader of LSM from Muniguda Haribandhu Kadraka was allegedly stopped by police to refrain him from attending the public meeting. He was released when the crowd threatened to gherao the Lanjigarh police station, Mr. Sarangi said. Initially the NSS had planned to hold its public meeting against the company in front of the gate of refinery complex of the company at Lanjigarh. But administration had imposed restrictions under Section 144 of CrPC in the area. So, the venue of the meeting had to be shifted to a spot near the conveyor belt of the VAL refinery at Lanjigarh. The NSS activists took out a rally from Kadamguda, which culminated at this spot for a public meeting.

Speakers in the public meeting like Lingaraj Azad of Jan Parishad, Mr. Sarangi, Mr. Kadraka and NSS leaders like Lada Sikaka said they would continue their long-term agitation till the refinery of VAL at Lanjigarh was closed down. They also added that a large number of agitators had faced atrocities at the hands of goons of the company as well as the police. Several activists of the NSS had cases pending against them as they had protested against the Vedanta project. The NSS demanded the government to immediately quash all the cases pending against the anti-Vedanta activists. It was also demanded the company should be compelled to pay up compensation to the families who suffered due to these false cases.

As per the NSS functioning of the Laniigarh refinery was illegal as the company had not received mining clearance and its functioning can only mean efforts are continuing through dubious means to get mining permission in Niyamgiri area again.

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