(Translation of his speech at the Gai Parab (beef festival) on 9th Dec, 2019)
The Modi Govt. is persecuting people for eating beef and therefore for the last 3 years we have been observing ‘Gai Parab (beef festival)’ to tell the world we will not give in to the Brahminical hegemony. They can jail us and torture us but we will continue with eating beef as we have for generations. Like Birsa Munda who fought against the British and Brahmin zamindars we will fight till the end, not only for us but for future generations as well. We are not Hindu or Christian or Muslim, we are Adivasis. We will resist the Modi Govt, we will resist the Imperialist forces, we will resist the Capitalists. If they put one of us in jail we must go and tell them to arrest each and every one of us. We cannot be afraid of them.
They abducted me in Lanjigarh and tortured me in Muniguda police station but I will not give up the fight. The police will be rewarded genrously if they kill our leaders and therefore they target us. But if we remain united they cannot harm anyone. All 112 Dongria Kondh villages must participate in meetings and rallies.
Some people in certain villages say they want highways but we can’t neither stop them nor the consequences of the highway. We have always maintained that we need 5 feet roads not an inch wider than that. We dont drive SUVs but have only bicycles and motorbikes. Whom are they building the highway for? The Govt plans to build CRPF camps every 3-5 km once the highways are built. They want to create a reign of terror in Niyamgiri hills. In Trilochanpur they have built a CRPF camp inside the Panchayat office and the villagers are too terrified to protest. Tomorrow when they have CRPF camps every few kilometres will we be able to live fearlessly?
When we opposse the highway they say we are Maoists and torture us. They have guns so what can we do to them? The Police has guns and the Maoist have guns but we are ordinary people with axes and sticks, there is nothing we can do in their fight. But we will continue to resist peacefully and unitedly. We will preserve our language and culture. We will eat what we want to even if the Modi Govt. persecutes us or the Sanghis attack us. We will worship Niyamraja and protect our land, forest and water. Our life is sustained by Niyamgiri, its medicinal plants, the air and the water.
Some say our medicinal plants are ineffective and unscientific but the reason is that ever since our people have started eating the rice provided by the Govt. their immunity is no longer the same and our traditional medicines sometimes fail. It is because of the pesticide laced, hybrid, nutritionless grains that we are falling sick.
We must unite and resist, we must ask ourselves if activists come from far away to fight with us then why should some of us not stand up for ourselves. We were born here in this land and we live off it, if we don’t fight who will? Niyamgiri is home only to the Kui and Dom people. No Brahmin or any other caste or community stays here. But the Brahminical Odisha Govt wants the Domb and Kui to fight between themselves so that they can plunder Niyamgiri. We don’t want any conflict here between ourselves. We will resolve our problems peacefully.
In the history of Niyamgiri no Dom has been asked to leave the hills, no Dom has remained landless. We Kui people have always shared the land with the Dom. Go to Kurli and see hill after hill where pineapple, turmeric, etc. is being cultivated by the Dom and the Kui have no problem about it. It is rather the Dongria Kond Development Agency (DKDA) and Odisha Tribal Empoerment and Livelihood Programme (OTELIP) that has contantly worked towards dividing the Kui and Dom people. The Kui won’t get rich if the Dom get poor or vice versa.
Why is the DKDA & OTELIP only working for the development of the Kui people and not the Dom people? When the DKDA gives us saplings we share it with our Dom neighbors and then they ask why are we doing so. Firstly it is our decision what we do and then I want to remind them that the Dom and Kui are not Odias. The Dom and Kui speak the same language, worship the same Gods and we have lived together from the earliest times. The DKDA has been working here for decades now but can they point out what excalty have they done in all these years?
What have we gained from the DKDA? We must call their officers and demand an explanation. We must demand that they show us what they did with the crores of rupees they spent on our development. Why doesn’t every village have a teacher who can teach our children in Kui? They say there no roads so we cant send teachers but all these years they had no problem coming to our villages without any roads. Why do they suddenly need roads? Then they say the Maoists will kill the teachers but can they show if a single teacher has been ever harmed here?~
Speech Recorded by Upendra Bhai. Translation from Kui to English by Nabin Nundruka and Surya Shankar.
Lado Sikaka is a Dongria Kondh leader and the president of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti which is spearheading the fight to protect Niyamgiri hills from mining by private companies aided by the state.