By Riyan Ramanath V, TNN | Jan 14, 2013,

LANJIGARH: The congregation of about 500 Dongria and Kutia tribals to greet Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh with their traditional song and dance at Lanjigarh had no clue who the minister was or what was the purpose of his visit.

“We don’t know who Jairam Ramesh is,” said Dadhi Pushika, a local tribal, who couldn’t spell out the name of the minister properly. He said they were asked by some local Congressmen to gather at the venue of the public meeting on Sunday and to perform their traditional music and dance.

The tribals, who were singing and dancing merrily before the minister arrived at the venue, however, stopped doing so as soon as hisentourage arrived. The shy tribals didn’t budge even as the minister urged them to continue singing.

“We were also asked to come with our traditional weapons to brandish during his (minister’s) visit. So I asked some of my friends in the village to come, who asked me if the guest was coming in a helicopter,” smiled another tribal Drenju Wikaka shyly. He said they were asked to sing a pro-Niyamgiri song. But when asked what the words of their songs were, Wikaka said they were singing, “‘Don’t take Niyamgiri o videshi'”.

“Every time a guest comes to our village on Niyamgiri issue, we are invited although after his return things remain the same. He makes some promises, which the local educated people make us understand. But our villagers are being tortured and treated like dogs by the local police on suspicion of being involved in Maoist activities and the leaders are not doing anything,” said Kalia Sikoka. He stressed Niyamgiri is everything for them and they won’t give an inch of it, questioning innocently why is there so much fuss about it.

Abducted Malkangiri collector Vineel Krishna, who is the private secretary to Ramesh at present, was also part of the visit. He said the security system has to improve in Maoist-infested districts to successfully complete developmental projects meant for tribals. “Maoists are instigating the innocent people and taking advantage of underdevelopment. In order to ensure development we need people’s support,” said Krishna. About his release from Maoist abductors in 2011, he said his release was possible only because of the support of local people.