Odisha: Eleventh Gram Sabha rejects Niyamgiri mining plan
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Odisha: Eleventh Gram Sabha rejects Niyamgiri mining plan
Report by Kishore Dash, Rayagada: Khambesi gram sabha in Rayagada district opposes mining in Niyamgiri. The eleventh Gram Sabha held at Khambesi village under Muniguda block in Rayagda today has unanimously rejected the proposed mining project  atop Niyamgiri hill held sacred by the local tribal people.
It was a painful journey for the officials to reach the Khambesi village, situated some 100 km from here. They had to walk on foot for hours together while passing through the hilly terrains beginning from Serkapadi village.
The entire sacred Niyamgiri hill is owned by Niyamraja (hill deity) who provides us the livelihood. “Our God lives in open space. You can’t keep it locked. We would continue to fight for Niyamgiri. The Dongria Kondh tribal’s worship Niyamraja as their protector and provider, their supreme deity and ancestral kin, who preside over Niyamgiri, the law of the land, said Lado Sikaka, a prominent anti-Vedanta activist.
Earlier 10 Gram Sabhas  held in Kalahandi and Rayagada districts had voted against the mining proposal reaffirming their religious, cultural and livelihood rights over the mineral-rich hills.
District judge Sarat Chandra Mishra supervised the proceedings as CRPF and state police forces including Special Operation Group (SOG) jawans kept watch on the proceedings from nearby hills. The 12th Gram Sabha, which is also the last in the series, will be held at Jarpa village in the district on August 19.
The Supreme Court, in its April 18 order, vested powers on the Gram Sabhas to take a call on the proposed mining of Vedanta Aluminum Ltd (VAL).
The SC was ruled if the BMP (bauxite mining plan) , in any way, affects their (Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers like Dongaria Kondh, Kutia Kandha and others) religious rights, especially their right to worship their deity, known as Niyam Raja, in the hill top of the Niyamgiri range of hills, that right has to be preserved and protected.
In its April 18 order on the Niyamgiri bauxite mining project, the Supreme Court held that if the mining, in any way, affects the religious rights of ttribals, especially their right to worship their deity Niyam Raja atop the Niyamgiri hills, it has to be preserved.
Earlier, inhabitants of ten villages, five in Rayagada and five in Kalahandi, had rejected the proposal. The state government had selected 12 villages for holding gram sabhas, following the apex court directive. The remaining one gram sabha would be held at Karapar village in Rayagada district on August 19.

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@CRPF opened fire near Lakhpadar village yesterday during a combing operation while Gram Sabha was underway at Khambesi #India, to be confirmed
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