We worship the entire range as “Niyamraja,” say villagers at hearing

The Dongaria Kondh tribal people of Niyamgiri on Thursday said an emphatic ‘no’ to the proposed bauxite mining project on the Niyamgiri Hills, which is spread over the tribal-dominated districts of Kalahandi and Rayagada districts in Odisha.

Taking part in the first Gram Sabha hearing held at Sherkapadi village in Sibapadar gram panchayat in Rayagada district, as many as 36 out of the 38 villagers in attendance vehemently opposed the move. The hearing was conducted by ward member Shriram Gardia in the presence of Panchayat Extension Officer Pradhani Sabar. District Judge of Rayagada Sarat Chandra Mishra was present as an observer as per a Supreme Court order.

The villagers, who rejected an inter-departmental inquiry report that detailed the land used by the residents of Sherkapadi, said they worshipped the entire hill range as “Niyamraja.” The 20 men and 16 women who took part said mining would affect their religious rights as well as rituals.

According to sources, two resolutions were passed during the hearing. While in one resolution, the villagers completely opposed the project, in the second they claimed religious rights over the whole of Niyamgiri, which has as many as 112 tribal villages.

The hearing, which lasted several hours, was conducted amid tight security.

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