All-India Congress Committee general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Thursday told the Dongria Kondh tribals living in and around the Niyamgiri hills in Orissa that his work as their “sepoy” in New Delhi had just begun.
Mr. Gandhi was speaking at a rally at Jagannathpur in Kalahandi district.
He congratulated the tribals on emerging successful in their fight against the proposed mining of the Niyamgiri hills by Vedanta.
“My job as your sepoy in New Delhi has just started. Whenever you require my support, call me. I will be there with you,” he said.
With the majestic Niyamgiri hills in the background, Mr. Gandhi expressed his solidarity with the tribals, who were opposing Vedanta's plans to extract bauxite from the hills for use in its aluminium refinery here.
Referring to the rejection of clearance for the project by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, he said it was a victory for the tribals, who worshipped the Niyamgiri hills as their presiding deity.
Mr. Gandhi, who assured the tribals during his trip to the area two years ago that he would work as their “sepoy” in Delhi, said he had done whatever he could and would continue to support their cause.
Complimenting the tribals for running their movement in a non-violent way all these years, Mr. Gandhi expressed happiness that their voice was heard by the Central government.
Countering the allegation that the Union government's order was against development, he said he believed in the principle of treating all people as equals and fighting against violation of people's rights.
Reiterating that he was not against development, he said he believed in development that did not ignore the genuine voices of people.
Citing examples of development in Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi, Mr. Gandhi said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi were working for development in which people's voice was not suppressed.