Tribals of Kalahandi district, resisting bauxite mining in the ecologically sensitive Niyamgiri Hills, sought Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi’s intervention as the AICC general secretary kicked off his four-day visit to Orissa on Friday.
The tribals met Rahul in a specially-built hut at Ijurpa village in Lanjigarh block for nearly 40 minutes as elite commandoes and Special Protection Group (SPG) personnel stood guard outside.
“I will take up their problems with the Congress president,” Rahul said after meeting the tribal leaders.
Many villagers from surrounding areas also thanked Rahul for the UPA’s loan waiver for farmers.
Jeetu Jakesika, a college student from the Dongaria Kondh tribal community, who attended the meeting, told Hindustan Times, “We told him about our problems and sought his help to save Niyamgiri Hills. He assured us he would help us. He was truly concerned and asked all leaders accompanying him to leave the hut so we could have an honest interaction with him.”
“As one of the important leaders of the country’s largest political party and as an enlightened citizen, Rahul Gandhi’s support will be great help to tribals fighting to save the Niyamgiri Hills,” said Ajay Maken, AICC in-charge for Orissa.
Gandhi also sought to know from the tribals whether they have been benefited from the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
The Amethi MP later addressed a public meeting at Bhawanipatna, the district headquarters of Kalahandi. He recalled how Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had visited Kalahandi in the past and how he was keen to keep this relationship intact.