GroundXero: Two persons were reportedly killed and over 30 injured at Vedanta Alumina refinery in Lanjigarh town of Kalahandi district in Orissa. According to reports, hundreds of displaced people from Rengalpali and two other nearby villages were holding a protest in front of the refinery demanding jobs in the unit. Violence erupted when the security guards of the refinery resorted to brutal lathi-charge to disperse the villagers.
The agitating villagers had lost their land when Vedanta set up the refinery at Lanjigarh in the foothills of Niyamgiri. The locals also accuse Vedanta of repeatedly flouting many mandatory norms and carrying on operations in contravention of court orders.
According to the local administration the situation spiraled out of control when the protesting villagers tried to enter the refinery premises and the security personnel of Odisha Industrial Security Force (OISF) deployed at the unit resorted to brutal lathi-charge to stop the agitators.
One of the deceased has been identified as Dani Batra. Aged about 40 years, Dani was from Khambeshi village in Niyamgiri Hills. He is survived by his wife and three children.
It is still unclear as to how many people have died with locals claiming at least five people having being killed. Angry villagers accused the OISF forces of unleashing brutality on peaceful protestors without any provocation. According to latest reports hundreds of angry villagers have surrounded the refinery gate and are agitating with Dina Batra’s dead body.
The struggle of the adivasis against Vedanta in Niyamgiri has been going on since 2003, when Vedanta set up the alumina refinery unit at Lanjigarh and commenced operations. Niyamgiri Hills has about 88 million tones of bauxite reserves. Vedanta wants to mine the hills of Niyamgiri for bauxite required for its Lanjigarh refinery. But the more than 9000 Kondhs (Dongria and Kutia) who live in the region consider ‘Niyam Raja’ as sacred and worship the mountain. They launched a historic struggle to save Niyamgiri from Vedanta.
On April 18, 2013, the Supreme Court ordered that mining clearance in Niyamgiri can only be given if Gram Sabhas, comprising Dongrias, agreed to the project. In what was perhaps India’s first environmental referendum, all 12 affected gram sabhas voted against the project. Recent attempts by the Orissa government and Vedanta to hold another referendum was rejected by the Supreme Court.
The Dongrias opposition to mining by Vedanta has led to them being perceived as a ‘roadblock’ to development. The local leaders of the struggle have since then been persecuted by security forces. They are accused of being ‘sympathetic’ to Maoists in the area. Very recently, Lingaraj Azad, one of the leaders of the struggle was arrested for leading protests against Vedanta but was later released on bail.
Today’s incident is another example of how people centric issues- such as those of adivasis, workers and dalits are not only sidelined but also crushed by brutal state power.
An ambulance driver who has a bystander during the violent crackdown by security forces today at Vedanta’s factory in Lanjigarh describes the brutal assault. He was attacked by forces as well.
An ambulance driver who has a bystander during the violent crackdown by security forces today at Vedanta's factory in Lanjigarh describes the brutal assault. He was attacked by forces as well. #KickOutVedanta
Posted by Save Niyamgiri on Monday, 18 March 2019
Cover and all other Images and video courtesy Save Niyamgiri page on Facebook.