26 Aug : Making a visit at Lanjigarh in Orissa against the backdrop of the Centre rejecting environment clearance for the bauxite mining project of Vedanta, Rahul Gandhi on Thursday hailed the decision as a victory for tribals of the area and vowed to fight for their cause.
“True development takes place by respecting interests of the poor and tribals and not by muffling their voice,” he said refuting charges that Centre’s action in negating bauxite mining in Niyamgiri was against development and progress.
Two days after the Union Environment Ministry rejected environment clearance to UK-based Vedanta’s USD 1.7 billion bauxite mining project in the Nyamgiri hills citing serious violation of forest and environment laws, Gandhi arrived at Lanjigarh in Orissa on a brief visit to show solidarity with the tribals.
Addressing a tribal rally marking “Adivasi Adhikar Diwas” (Rights Day) in Jagannathpur village at the foothills of Niyamgiri hills close to Vedanta’s alumina refinery, he said he would be their “soldier” in Delhi and continue their fight.
“In my religion, all are equal — whether it is rich or poor, dalits or adivasis. Wherever an individual’s voice is being stifled, that is against my religion,” he said addressing the tribals but made no direct reference to the Vedanta project.
There has been criticism of the project to mine bauxite in the tribal dominated hills which the locals and the activists say would deprive them of their livelihood.
“This is your victory. It is a victory of your voice, it is a victory of the adivasis,” Gandhi said to the loud cheers of the assembled gathering which shouted slogans hailing him.
Citing examples of Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and New Delhi, he said development in Congress-ruled states was taking place rapidly by hearing the voice of the poor and weaker sections.
Reaching out to the tribals, Gandhi said though he extended constant support, the tribals of bauxite-rich Niyamgiri have tasted victory by saving their land, habitat and rights through their own peaceful battle.
Maintaining that his job as a soldier of tribals was not over, he said it was only a beginning as he along with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi would continue to fight for the rights and interests of the tribals.