And, to pursue the heinous agenda in the name of development, police and
local administration has been repressive on the tribal members who are
opposing to the mining project. As alleged by the agitators and
activists, tribal people have been booked under false charges and are
being jailed with the objective of weakening the movement.
‘In the recent days, a tribal leader fighting against Vedanta was being
murdered, but there has been no arrest or investigation by the police
yet. Also, 16 people are in jail on false charges without commitment of
any crime. And, six months back five dalit women were put in jail
because they were in the movement to fight against Vedanta. Now, to
suppress the movement and put the tribal members behind bars, the state
police is vaguely linking the Save Niyamgiri movement with the armed
Maoist movement’, says Prafulla Samantara, Convenor of National Alliance
of People’s Movement (NAPM).
Recently, on August 9, two Dongria tribal members and leaders of the
movement Lado Sikaka and Sana Sikaka were abducted by police and
released on 12th August as there was strong reaction from different
quarters worldwide. The abduction was planned and executed by the State
police who came without uniform but with guns.
The two leaders were traveling to Delhi along with members of their
community to attend a policy dialogue session on the topic ‘Niyamgiri: a
test case for the defense of our forests and tribals’, organized jointly
by Research Foundation for Science Technology and Ecology and the Save
Niyamgiri Movement at Constitution Club, New Delhi. Few other Dongria
Kondh representatives were also supposed to attend, but as their phones
and car keys had been confiscated by the abductors, they were forced
back to send the alarm to the kin.
‘The leader of Dongria tribe was taken away on gun point by the police
in broad day light, was beaten up, tortured and warned not to be in the
movement. But the leader like Lado Sikaka boldly told to the police that
he cannot sacrifice Niyamgiri and will continue to fight for it’, said
Prafulla Samantara, Convenor of NAPM who is actively associated with
Save Niyamgiri Movement adding that, ‘doing all these, if Vedanta tries
to ensure a smooth sail to start mining on the Niyamgiri hills, it
shouldn’t think so. Rather every repressive measure has made the
The tribal people have pledged not to sacrifice Niyamgiri – their lord,
their soul to anybody for any price. They worship Niyamgiri as it has
been the only source of life for them since generations. So these tribal
people defy any authority that wants to handover their god to any
outsider or company.
can give it to any outsider. It’s our property, the property of the
tribals. Nobody can transfer it to any outsider’, says Kumti Majhi,
President of Niyamgiri Suraksha Committee.
Niyamgiri gives them life and livelihood, and it also gives them a space
to make their life full of joy. So, the tribals are determined to
protect their soul and source of life – Niyamgiri. They are even ready
to take arms to protect their god ‘NiyamRaja’. ‘If Vedanta comes to take
Niyamgiri, we will cut it into pieces…Pieces like this..’ told a Dongria
youth Sana Majhi holding the axe on his neck. Sana’s emotional out burst
says that the tribals would not bother to take arms against any force
that comes to take control of their ‘Niyamgiri’.
Since ages, Niyamgiri has not only been the source of livelihood for the
tribal communities, but also the backbone of their life and culture. ‘If
they live with Niyamgiri and dance with Niyamgiri, they can also die for
We have pledged to sacrifice 20000 lives to save Niyamgiri’, says Kumti
Majhi, President of Niyamgiri Suraksha Committee.
‘The tribal people living in and around Niyamgiri hill ranges get
everything from the Hill. They grow pulse, millet and even vegetables on
the slopes of the hill. They get water from the fountains flowing down
the hill. The thick vegetation provides them fresh air to breath. To
them, the hill is their source of life and the only reason for
celebrations. So, they can’t spare it at any cost’, says Pradeep Purohit,
an activist and a leader of the Gandhamardan Suraksha Andolan adding
that, ‘we came out successful in protecting Gandhamardan from the eyes
of Balco. So we are very much hopeful that we can also save Niyamgiri
from the eyes of Vedanta’.
The movement is gathering strength and the tribals have pledged in a
ceremony to go to the extreme end to save Niyamgiri as their life and
culture as closely associated with it. They are now ready to take arms
to save the Niyamgiri hill range. Looking at the movement, there has
been number of committees instituted by various organisations. Supreme
Court also sent the Central Empowered Committee to see the realities and
report. But the tribal people are not happy with the outcome of all
these committees and their reports. They now believe, Niyamgiri is their
god and they have to protect it even if the government goes against
‘The movement is on since last seven years. People have not allowed
mining in Niyamgiri. Illegally Vedanta has constructed the Alumina
Plant. Central Empowered committee of the Supreme Court, for which I was
a petitioner, recommended unanimously to ban mining in Niyamgiri. But
the Supreme Court didn’t give any direction based upon its own
committee’s recommendation. It’s unfortunate for the people of India.
So, people are now supreme. People say, they are ready to sacrifice to
save their mother Niyamgiri which gives them life and livelihood’, says
Prafulla Samantara, Convenor of NAPM.
The tribal people living in and around Niyamgiri seem to be losing their
patience. They must not be neglected in the name of development. Instead
of taking them into confidence and plan development as per their needs
if the government and the planners further impose an alienated
development plan on these tribal people, they would not only try to
stand as a power against the government but also would start hating the
so called civilised society and the world outside their hamlets.