Lord saved, tribals thank 'demigod' Progress not at cost of poor: Rahul

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By SUBHASHISH MOHANTY
  • Published 27.08.10
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Lanjigarh (Kalahandi), Aug. 26: Hundreds of tribals worshipped the Niyamgiri hills this morning before descending its slopes to reach Jagannathpur and thank Mahapuru (demigod) Rahul Gandhi for protecting their land and their Lord.

“It is your victory. It’s a victory of tribals. Your voice was heard in Delhi and you have saved your land and Niyamgiri. I did whatever I could do,” Rahul told them, two days after the Centre had vetoed Vedanta’s bauxite-mining project in the Niyamgiri hills.

The Congress general secretary, who had visited the region in 2008 and promised to take up the tribals’ cause with the Centre, said: “My work has not ended. It has just begun. If you need me any time, I will come to you and I will stand by you.”

A cheering crowd of nearly 10,000 Dongria Kondh tribals, who worship the Niyamgiri hills as the god Niyam Raja, cheered him.

Rahul had been garlanded when he got off a helicopter this afternoon to address the rally, organised by NGO Green Kalahandi near Vedanta’s alumina refinery to celebrate the day as “Tribal Rights Day”.

Dongria Kondh girl Lindaja Samri, 21, who had garlanded Rahul at the helipad, said she was happy there would be no mining. “Kaan paini ki mo jami chaddbi (why should I leave my land)? No one can take away our land. We are happy that he (Rahul) has fulfilled his promise,” she said.

Rahul complimented the tribals for keeping their agitation non-violent and fired a few indirect shots at the state’s ruling Biju Janata Dal, which had launched a counter campaign. “Some people are saying that we are against development. Development does not mean stifling the voice of the poor, downtrodden and tribals and Dalits. We had promised to provide a government of the aam aadmi (common man) and to us, development is to listen to the voices of all and move towards progress together,” the Amethi MP said.

Development did not mean “to oppress people and snatch away their rights”, he added.

“We will fight for the voice of the poor. Today’s India is clearly divided between the rich and the poor. The voice of poor India hardly reaches anyone. Your voice reached Delhi. It’s a victory of your voice.”

Rahul said that during his previous visit, he had been told the local people worshipped the Niyamgiri hills and wanted to protect their Lord. “That made me think about my religion. And my religion is that India is one. Be they rich, poor, tribals or Dalits, everyone is equal. When the voice of the poor is stifled, it is my duty to raise my voice in their favour,” he said.

Unlike his previous trip when other Congress leaders were absent, today’s meeting was virtually a party show.

All the Congress politicians who matter in the region — such as state party president K.P. Singh Deo, former chief ministers Giridhar Gamang and Hemananda Biswal, former state unit chief Jayadev Jena, local MP Bhakta Charan Das — were on the dais. In their speeches, they all praised Rahul for taking up the cause of the tribals.