Thousands of Protesters Hold Public Meeting at Talaampadar in Odisha and Declare Bauxite Mining in Sijimali Hills Illegal!

The protest against proposed Bauxite mining in Sijimali Hills in Odisha continues unabated despite severe crackdown on protesters by the Biju Janata Dal led Odisha government. It is not the first time that the Odisha government is shamelessly giving out environmentally sensitive land inhabited by the indigenous population of the state to multi national corporations. Following the glorious legacy of people’s resistance against corporate plunder of our resources, destruction of land, water and forest as well as displacement of native population of Odisha, the people of Rayagada are fighting a united battle against the leasing out of land of Sijimali Hills to Vedanta.
A huge public meeting was held on 29th October at Talaampadar of Thuamal Rampur Block in Kalahandi district of Odisha. More than 2000 people participated in the meeting. Along with leaders of Niyamgiri movement, representatives of left trade unions and progressive section of the society participated in the meeting. The meeting passed the following resolutions-
1.    In Scheduled areas like Kashipur and Thuamal Rampur, without the consent of Gram Sabha the government has illegally leased out Sijimali and Kutrumali hills to companies for mining. Further, the process of inviting claims both individual and community, and grant of patta to claimants, have not been carried out, which is a violation of Forest Rights Act, 2006. Hence, we demand that the government should first withdraw the mining lease. Thereafter, the government should immediately start the procedure,as per the Forest Rights Act 2006, of distributing land records to villagers.
2.    The public hearings held at Sunger and Kerpai on 16th October and 18th October  were stopped due to public protest. Contrary to this, the District Administration declared that the public hearings were completed peacefully. In each public hearing thousands of women and men from the affected villages were present. Whoever was given a chance to speak in the public hearing, each of them highlighted how the proposed mining is going to destroy their life and livelihood along with creating irreparable damage to the water streams, forest and environment. Drawing attention to the illegality of allotment of mining lease even without seeking environment clearance, each speaker has demanded for cancellation of mining lease.
3.    In order to protect our life, livelihood, our ancestral property, the abode of our gods and goddesses and above all to protect our environment we have been carrying out our struggle in a peaceful and democratic way. However, the government and administration have slapped many false cases against our people, arrested and locked up our people in jails. Hence, we demand that the government and administration immediately and unconditionally release our people  who are incarcerated in jail, and withdraw all police cases against the villagers.
4.    In today’s public meeting the members had again reiterated their viewpoints and demands as presented at the public hearings. They also took a resolution of not ceding an inch of land to the proposed mining project.
5.    A proposal was also made in the public meeting to send copies of the resolution letter to honorable Governor, Chief Minister, the Expert Appraisal Committee of MOEF, District collectors of Rayagada and Kalahandi, Sub-collectors of Rayagada and Kalahandi, Block Development Officers of Kashipur and Thermal Rampur. n