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Niyamgiri – An Unending Struggle for Livelihoods and Habitat: Kamal Nayan Choubey

Guest post by KAMAL NAYAN CHOUBEY

On the 6th of May, 2016 the Supreme Court rejected Odisha government’s petition for conducting Gram Sabha meetings for a second time in villages near Niyamgiri hills for the extraction of bauxite. Earlier, in August 2013, following Supreme Court directions, the Dongria Kondh tribals of Niyamgiri clearly decided in 12 Gram Sabha meetings that they would not give any permission for mining in their place of worship. The Odisha government filed an interlocutory application in February 2016 and argued that situation had changed in that area because mining was now proposed to be done by Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) instead of a joint venture project between OMC and Vedanta. The Odisha government filed the petition to help the Anil Agrawal-owned Sterlite (formerly Vedanta Alumina) company, which wants to extract bauxite from Niyamgiri hill in Kalahandi for its Lanjigarh refinery. The Supreme Court, however, rejected the arguments of Odisha government and accepted the validity of August 2013 Gram Sabha meetings. Now, the Odisha government can claim that it wants to ensure the development of all groups of the state and create more alternatives for marginalized groups like Dongria-Kondhs. The question, however, is whether the Odisha government can claim, on moral grounds, that it has not been working as an agent of corporate capital? What can a marginalized group do when it finds that a democratically elected government is relentlessly working against its interest and violating constitutional provisions? Indeed the Niyamgiri experience has raised many questions not just about the violence caused by dominant ‘development’ model against marginalized adivasi groups, but also about the crisis of constitutionalism and the role of democratically elected government in using/misusing state apparatus for the benefit of capitalists.

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