Kondh Lady

Kondh Lady (Photo credit: ramesh_lalwani)

RAM JETHMALANI– in Sunday Guardian

A woman from the Dongria Kondh tribe watches a gathering near the Niyamgiri hills to protest against plans by Vedanta Resources to mine bauxite from that mountain near Lanjigarh in Orissa on 23 February 2010. (REUTERS)

he low, flat-topped hills of south Orissa have been home to the Dongria-Kondh tribe before there was a country called India or a state called Orissa. The Kondh worshipped and watched over the hills as living deities; the hills made their life possible. The Niyamgiri hills are covered by cool forests which induce moderate rainfall, and provide water for the rivers and rivulets that flow from them and irrigate the lands below. The hills, ancient and only home of the Kondh, have been sold to a company, called Vedanta, British, but owned by Anil Aggarwal, the Indian billionaire who lives in London in a mansion that once belonged to the Shah of Iran.

Vedanta is after the tribes of Orissa, their hearth and home and their pots and pans. The destruction of ecology, disturbance of environmental harmony and the death and destitution of lakhs of Dongra-Kondh are imminent.

Vedanta’s response is cruel: Why not? It is only the price of progress. America, Europe and Australia have a history of killing indigenous populations: why not India?

The Niyamgiri hills have been sold for their bauxite while Government has announced an Operation Green Hunt, a war purportedly against the Maoist terrorists headquartered in the jungles of Central India. In reality, it is a cruel, avaricious and corrupt war against the landless, the Dalits, workers, peasants and weavers of the region. These weak, downtrodden, almost-forgotten people are pitted against a juggernaut of injustice by a cruel society and corrupt politicians. I regret that even the Supreme Court, presided over by a Dalit Chief Justice is unwittingly supportive of a policy which involves wholesale corporate takeover of these people’s land and resources.{ Maoists draw their power from the atrocities perpetrated on the poor. Corrupt Governments are not the solution. They are the problem. Society has to reform itself and eliminate insane, caste-ridden cruelty.

ear what Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has had to say. Two and half years ago he said, “Maoists are the single largest internal security threat to the country.” On 6 January 2009 he thought that Maoists had only modest capabilities. On 18 June 2009, at a meeting of state Chief Ministers and in Parliament he was more forthright about what he really felt: “If left wing extremism continues to flourish in parts which have natural resources of minerals, the climate for investment would certainly be affected.” Does it not sound like a sell-out to crony capitalism?

Of course one condemns the  violence of the Maoists. The recent atrocity which killed more than 70 of our guardians of law and order must be condemned. But let us not forget that in 2004, when the ban on the Peoples’ War Group (the earlier incarnation of Maoists) was lifted in Andhra Pradesh, their rally was attended in Warangal by 15 lakh Indian citizens. Maoists draw their power from the atrocities perpetrated on the poor who, decimated by overwhelming force, have been forced to flee into the jungles of Chhattisgarh and join the comrades already working there.

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