The petition urges the MHA to retract the statements made about the NSS in its report, to stop the intimidation of the adivasis and attempts to restart the mining, and to allow the Dongria Kondh and other communities of the Niyamgiri hills to live a dignified life of self-determination for their present and future.
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Leading citizens, lawyers and activists have strongly protested the Ministry of Home Affairs, which has linked the Niyamgiri Surakshya Samiti (NSS) with ‘Maoist’ organisations. The Annual report (2016-17) of the MHA states that Maoists ‘guide’ the activities of the NSS. A strongly worded petition addressed to the president, Pranab Mukherjee, prime minister, Narendra Modi , the ministry of tribal affairs and the chief minister of Orissa, Naveen Patnaik has protested this stand of the MHA.
The Niyamgiri Surakshya Samiti is a collective of the Dongria Kondh tribal people and other local communities who have been organizing themselves against bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hills (Odisha), which is their only home, for more than a decade.
The petition raises a pertinent issue of whether, the continued targeting of the Dongria Kondh community (with a population of less than ten thousand people) in reports like these (and in continued state actions on the ground) raises serious doubts: is this being purposely done to break their continued resolve to oppose the mining of the Niyamgiri hills, and fragment their movement?
Further, the petition sees as devious the attempts by the state government to surreptitiously introduce the proposal to start mining from the backdoor, despite the Supreme Court having ordered that the Dongria Kondh need to be consulted about mining in the region in April 2013. Following the Supreme Court order, “and the complete and overwhelming rejection by the Dongria Kondh gram sabhas of the mining in the hills thereafter, “ the petition observes that these backdoor efforts continue. Recently, the Odisha Mining Corporation filed a petition in the Supreme Court to reopen the mining. The Supreme Court has refused to admit the petition and has asked the government to make the 12 gram sabhas that had earlier rejected the mining parties in the petition.
Besides, apart from these attempts, there has been constant intimidation and violence on the community by security forces. In the last 2-3 years, several Dongria Kondh youth and elders have been arrested, harassed, and killed, and one has committed suicide after repeated harassment and alleged torture by security forces. In none of these cases, have the forces been able to produce evidence linking them to so-called Maoists. One young adivasi was charged with arson, murder, attacking security forces, etc, and with absconding … the last one a blatantly false claim given that he was picked up from the main market of Muniguda town!
The Ministry of Home Affairs appears to have ignored the overwhelming response of the Dongria Kondh, when Maoist organisations told them to oppose or boycott the gram sabha meetings organised by the state at the behest of the Supreme Court order of April 2013. Hundreds of Dongria Kondh had flocked from village to village to take part in the meetings, openly defying this call.
The Government should also pay heed to the wisdom of the Supreme Court expressed in the case of Nandini Sundar and Ors vs The State of Chhattisgarh (Writ petition no 250/2007), also referred to as the Salwa Judum Judgement. In this reiterated that the current social order which treats any person speaking for human rights and questions the current paradigm of the State, as a maoist or a maoist sympathiser, has become a serious problem affecting our nation and that any peaceful dissent or dissatisfaction which is a positive feature of democracy, is often not recognized by the authorities and is met with severe repression.
The petition urges the authorities to use their responsibility of upholding the Constitution, and in particular the safeguards for Adivasis contained in it, to direct the MHA to retract the statements made about the NSS in its report, to stop the intimidation of the adivasis and attempts to restart the mining, and to allow the Dongria Kondh and other communities of the Niyamgiri hills to live a dignified life of self-determination for their present and future.