An Appeal to Adivasi-Dalit-Bahujan & International Indigenous Student Community from the Birsaite-Ambedkarite Students & Young Intellectuals of Niyamgiri
We, the Adivasi students of Niyamgiri studying in Bhubaneswar as well as other parts of Odisha and the country, want to bring urgent notice to one and all that our homes and families are in grave danger today. Paramilitary forces are carrying out widespread ‘area domination’ and ‘combing’ operations that is terrorizing our people. We believe this is to suppress our opposition to the bauxite-mining project that the Govt. is trying to establish for a private company, Vedanta Aluminium. Bauxite mining will destroy the pristine environment of Niyamgiri and force us to leave our traditional homelands.
For centuries our ancestors have lived in these hills and created a glorious civilization that made remarkable contributions to the Kalingan and Buddhist civilization of Odisha. But British & Brahminical colonization snatched our rights and resources and our ancestors fought valiantly to protect as much as they could.
Our area is designated as a Scheduled area under fifth schedule and it is our Constitutional right to reject any project or policy by the State or any private player that we consider harmful or unnecessary. In 2013 a referendum was held in 12 villages of Niyamgiri where Gram Sabhas unanimously rejected the mining project as well as demanded an immediate halt to the militarization of Niyamgiri hills. Instead of respecting the decision of the Gram Sabha, which was also validated by the Supreme Court of India, the Odisha Govt has increased the deployment of paramilitary forces in our area.
This increased militarization has led to deep antagonism amongst our people and our mothers and sisters can no longer roam the hills freely. There have been several instances of sexual violence, abductions, torture and imprisonment of our people. Now the Police has jailed a leading activist of the Niyamgiri movement against mining, Lingaraj Azad, under fake charges and has announced it will imprison many other Adivasi leaders and activists like Lado Sikaka, Drenju Sikaka and others. To us it seems like a pre-election stunt to create fear in the minds of our people and earn more support from Vedanta. The Manubadi forces are also afraid of Birsaite-Ambedkarite consciousness that is spreading rapidly in the area.
The current atmosphere of hostility towards Adivasi people is obvious with attempts being made to evict millions of Adivasi people from their customary lands. The Dongria Kondh claim to Niyamgiri as our traditional habitat, a claim that is supported by the Forest Rights Act is yet to be accepted by the Govt. We urge everyone to pressurize the Govt. to fulfill our rightful demands.
We want an atmosphere of equality, liberty and fraternity which is not possible as long as Vedanta’s illegal refinery remains there and there is such heavy militarization. We are now torn between focusing on our studies and giving all our time and energy to protest against this injustice. We are the first generation of students from Niyamgiri who are pursuing graduation and post-graduation so we cannot afford to neglect the responsibility of being educated for our society. But, because we are educated we also see through the lies of the company and the Govt. and feel compelled to act upon it. We also realize it’s a deliberate attempt by Manubadi forces to derail our education.
Therefore we appeal to one and all to raise their voice against the injustices our people have to go through every day. We want the world to know that we are unanimously against the mining project and the illegal refinery of Vedanta in Lanjigarh that is creating terrible misery for the people displaced and now living in a polluted and contaminated environment. We are worried that the river Vamsadhara is being killed by release of toxic effluents from Vedanta’s refinery.
Our future is unsafe and we request the Adivasi-Dalit-Bahujan student community of the country and the Indigenous students across the world to stand by us and be united to stop this injustice. We request everyone to write letters to the Governor of Odisha that the Constitutional Rights of the Dongria Kondh people of Niyamgiri be upheld and those violating it be held accountable for their crimes. We also demand immediate and unconditional release of Lingaraj Azad, withdrawal of cases against our people and removal of all paramilitary troops and camps in and around Niyamgiri.
Jai Bhim! Jai Birsa! Jai Niyamgiri!
Setru JakesikaNabin Nundruka
Date – 10 March 2019