NATIONAL POLITICS: INDIA GOES TO BHARAT, BHARAT GOES TO INDIA – for when Rahul comes to Darjeeling ?!!
From The Telegraph
By Ramakant Kushwaha
August 26, 2010: Rahul Gandhi went to Kalahandi in Orissa on Thursday to stand by tribals and celebrate the “victory” against Vedanta without uttering the company’s name.
Rahul, who said development did not mean stifling the voice of the poor, was given a musical instrument by two of the 10,000 people who assembled at Lanjigarh, where Vedanta’s refinery is located.
The Congress MP told them: “Your voice reached Delhi.”
Around the same time, another voice rose in Delhi — that of 20,000 farmers who swept in from Uttar Pradesh and gathered near Parliament.
Their leader Ajit Singh’s target was Mayavati but he also took potshots at the Prime Minister and Rahul.
Himal News special news correspondent adds:
Darjeeling, August 27, 2010: Jharkhand Journalist and Congress Youth leader Sanjay K Paswan came to Kalimpong on June 8, 2010 and spoke of Rahul Gandhi’s impending arrival in Darjeeling.
Unfortunately he was pho-phooed by the Darjeeling District Congress leaders for not having consulted them earlier on what the exact consensus was in the hills before he spoke.
“Paswan spoke about Rahul Gandhi’s concerns about the need for employment for the youth of Darjeeling, but entirely missed out or was totally unaware, or pretended to be, about the deep-rooted ambition of the entire population of the Hills and Plains for the need for their cultural identity and recognition as well as respect towards political self determination,” said an irate Congress spokesperson in Kalimpong.
Lord saved, tribals thank ‘demigod’ – Progress not at cost of poor: Rahul – quick to seize the larger national interests, but can Rahul sustain its momentum or will it backfire and ultimately be his undoing ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY SUBHASHISH MOHANTY
Lanjigarh (Kalahandi), Aug. 26: Hundreds of tribals worshipped the Niyamgiri hills this morning before descending its slopes to reach Jagannathpur and thank Mahapuru (demigod) Rahul Gandhi for protecting their land and their Lord.
“It is your victory. It’s a victory of tribals. Your voice was heard in Delhi and you have saved your land and Niyamgiri. I did whatever I could do,” Rahul told them, two days after the Centre had vetoed Vedanta’s bauxite-mining project in the Niyamgiri hills.
The Congress general secretary, who had visited the region in 2008 and promised to take up the tribals’ cause with the Centre, said: “My work has not ended. It has just begun. If you need me any time, I will come to you and I will stand by you.”
A cheering crowd of nearly 10,000 Dongria Kondh tribals, who worship the Niyamgiri hills as the god Niyam Raja, cheered him.
Rahul had been garlanded when he got off a helicopter this afternoon to address the rally, organised by NGO Green Kalahandi near Vedanta’s alumina refinery to celebrate the day as “Tribal Rights Day”.
Dongria Kondh girl Lindaja Samri, 21, who had garlanded Rahul at the helipad, said she was happy there would be no mining. “Kaan paini ki mo jami chaddbi (why should I leave my land)? No one can take away our land. We are happy that he (Rahul) has fulfilled his promise,” she said.
Rahul complimented the tribals for keeping their agitation non-violent and fired a few indirect shots at the state’s ruling Biju Janata Dal, which had launched a counter campaign. “Some people are saying that we are against development. Development does not mean stifling the voice of the poor, downtrodden and tribals and Dalits. We had promised to provide a government of the aam aadmi (common man) and to us, development is to listen to the voices of all and move towards progress together,” the Amethi MP said.
Development did not mean “to oppress people and snatch away their rights”, he added.
“We will fight for the voice of the poor. Today’s India is clearly divided between the rich and the poor. The voice of poor India hardly reaches anyone. Your voice reached Delhi. It’s a victory of your voice.”
Rahul said that during his previous visit, he had been told the local people worshipped the Niyamgiri hills and wanted to protect their Lord. “That made me think about my religion. And my religion is that India is one. Be they rich, poor, tribals or Dalits, everyone is equal. When the voice of the poor is stifled, it is my duty to raise my voice in their favour,” he said.
Unlike his previous trip when other Congress leaders were absent, today’s meeting was virtually a party show.
All the Congress politicians who matter in the region — such as state party president K.P. Singh Deo, former chief ministers Giridhar Gamang and Hemananda Biswal, former state unit chief Jayadev Jena, local MP Bhakta Charan Das — were on the dais. In their speeches, they all praised Rahul for taking up the cause of the tribals.
Stage set for bigger role – Rahul still searching for an identity image and a cause that will move the nation to surge forward ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY SANJAY K. JHA
New Delhi, Aug. 26: Rahul Gandhi’s decision to address a rally of tribals in Orissa’s Niyamgiri Hills today is being viewed as an important landmark of his nascent political career amid a strong buzz that he might be given a new assignment in the impending AICC reshuffle.
The new assignment is expected to have bigger political challenges than refurbishing the Youth Congress and party student wing NSUI, which Rahul looks after as general secretary now. The shuffle is expected any time after September.
Party leaders feel Rahul has worked hard and brought radical changes in the two front organisations, which is reflected in their enhanced appeal in most states, and now want him to try to strengthen the parent organisation. His decision to venture into the rough terrain of tribal politics signals “a coming of age”, they say.
“He first tried to understand India’s complexities through serious interactions with social scientists and academicians. Then he took up the cause of the poor and the downtrodden. He visited different parts of the country, went to villages and understood ordinary people’s problems. Then he identified himself with the youth of the country. He has gone through the rigours in the last five-six years,” a senior leader said.
That today’s Orissa visit was part of a well-thought-out plan was made clear when Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said this afternoon that Rahul’s initiatives are proof of the party’s sensibilities and commitments. Unrest in tribal areas and land acquisition are the country’s biggest concerns at present, he said.
Rahul had last week visited Aligarh to express solidarity with farmers protesting against forcible land acquisition by the Mayavati government. Today, he said in Niyamgiri that he is the tribals’ voice in Delhi.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had in the recent past stressed the need for development in tribal areas and advocated a holistic approach to the Naxalite problem. Now, explicit support to the Manmohan Singh government’s decision to veto Vedanta’s mining project in Orissa and the demand for a new land acquisition act are being seen as part of a plan to project Rahul as the party’s most authoritative spokesperson on national concerns.
A senior leader said Rahul was now ready to move up the ladder. The party, however, is vertically divided on the next course. While one section wants him to join the government and gain administrative experience, the other would like him to continue with party work.
The first group argues that there is not much time left for him to understand the complexities of governance and establish his hold on the bureaucracy if the party wants to contest the 2014 general election under his leadership.
This section is in complete disagreement with those in the party, including some ministers, who feel Rahul should not think of becoming Prime Minister till the Congress wins a simple majority. These leaders would rather that Rahul gain political experience by taking charge of states where the Congress is weak.
THE IMMEDIATE POSITIVE FALLOUT
First Bengal Maoist avails surrender package – someone to listen and act judiciously, but nasty backlash if perceived as only an apathetic ruse ?!!
From The Indian Express
Kolkata, Fri Aug 27 2010, 05:06 hrs: Almost a month after the West Bengal government notified a surrender policy for Maoists in the state, a senior Naxal commander, Sobhan Karak of the Gaoltore squad, surrendered at the Midnapore police lines on Thursday.
He surrendered with a single barrel gun and 14 rounds of ammunition to the Superintendent of Police, West Midnapore, Manoj Verma.
IG, Western Range, Zulfiqar Hassan said Karak’s surrender showed the process of Maoists giving themselves up had started. “There are several other Maoists who have indicated that they are willing to surrender. We are looking forward to the success of the policy.”
A resident of Sundarpur near Patharpara village in the Goaltore Police Station, Karak is said to be have been the third in command in the Maoist squad led by Sidhu Soren, who was killed recently. He has 14 cases, including murder charges, registered against him in West Midnapore district, said a senior police official.
Karak is believed to have had a hand in the attack on a police camp in Ramgarh in West Midnapore, and in almost all the encounters between security forces and Maoists in Bhalukbasa.
Trinamool Congress MP Suvendhu Adhikary, however, said the surrender ceremony was staged. “The state government has fabricated the details. There is no Maoist called Sobhan Karak. He was presented to the police as a Maoist.”
‘First surrender’ by Maoist in West Bengal – the snowball effect only if true consensus understood and acted upon ?!!
From The Hindu Special Correspondent
KOLKATA, Friday, Aug 27, 2010: The first formal surrender of a Maoist militant since the West Bengal Government notified its surrender and rehabilitation policy for left wing extremists on July 28 took place at Midnapore, headquarters of the State’s Paschim Medinipur district, before senior police officers on Thursday.
A Maoist squad member of the Goaltore area of the district and accused in 13 criminal cases including murder and sedition since 2009, Shobhan Karak alias Bijoy was also associated with the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC) and another outfit supported by the extremists, the Sidhu Soren Gana Militia.
Present on the occasion was Superintendent of Police Manoj Verma who said that though Karak was “the first among Maoists to surrender some more are expected to do so within the next seven days”. Karak laid down his arms before the police.
Speaking of some more activists having contacted the authorities and expressed their willingness to surrender, Mr Verma said: “There are some people who are on the boundary line and have some doubts in their mind. I hope they will be encouraged by this act of surrender and more will follow”.
ENVIRONMENT: Battle to save a mountain – now Battle to save the one & only Gorkha State ?!!
From The Statesman
By Andrew Buncombe and Alistair Dawber
25 August 2010: They said they considered the mountain their god, a living deity that provided them with everything they required to sustain their lives. They said they would fight to the death before seeing the pristine mountain destroyed. Remarkably, they won their battle.
The tribal people of the Niyamgiri Hills in eastern India are celebrating after the authorities in Delhi have ruled that a British-based company will not be permitted to mine there for bauxite. Drawing a line under a “David-versus-Goliath” saga, India’s environment minister acknowledged the potential human and social costs of the aluminium project that could have earned billions of pounds for Vedanta Resources. “There has been a very serious violation of laws,” Jairam Ramesh said. “Therefore, the project cannot go ahead.”
In Orissa, where the Niyamgiri Hills are located, Sitaram Kulesika, a senior member of the Dongria Kondh tribe, told activists: “This is a great day for Kondhs. Mining would be the end of their existence and their god. We thank the Indian government.”
Yet the impact of the ruling reverberated far beyond the quiet hills of eastern India, where the 10,000 members of the Dongria Kondh survive as subsistence hunters and farmers. While Vedanta saw five per cent tumble from its share price, activists celebrated what they said was a rare triumph for environmental and social justice against the interests of big business.
“This is a victory nobody would have believed possible,” said Survival International’s Jo Woodman. “The Dongria’s campaign became a litmus test of whether a small, marginalised tribe could stand up to a massive multinational with an army of lobbyists and PR firms and the ear of government.”
The mining industry in India is powerful and campaigners have long argued that it needs tighter regulation. While the government of Orissa, which supported the project, claimed activists were holding back much-needed development in the state, campaigners said they had faced widespread intimidation. “We strongly welcome this announcement as a vindication of the struggle that has been led by the indigenous people. The laws to protect their rights have been vindicated,” said Bratindi Jena, who leads Action Aid India’s work for indigenous people.
The controversy over the proposed mine dates back to 2004 and has involved India’s highest court as well as a series of special committees. Many believed that fierce lobbying by Vedanta, owned by London-based industrialist Anil Agarwal, and the state government, would ensure permission would be granted to the company to proceed with its plans to mine bauxite for a refinery which it already operates close to the Niyamgiri hills using ore trucked in from a neighbouring state.
But last week a government-appointed panel recommended that permission be denied on the grounds that mining in the area would breach environmental laws. The panel also expressed concern that granting permission could boost the cause of Maoist rebels, active across India’s heartland, who have seized on the resentment of tribal people against large industrial projects. “The committee is of the firm view that allowing mining… by depriving two primitive tribal groups of their rights… in order to benefit a private company would shake the faith of the tribals in the law of the land,” the panel said.
Another factor may have been the involvement of Rahul Gandhi. He visited Niyamgiri in March 2008 and said: “I feel mining the hill will destroy the environment, destroy the water supply source and destroy the culture as well as the livelihood of tribals.”
As the issue became a cause célèbre, campaigners attacked Vedanta from every angle. While activists attended shareholder meetings in London and flew in members of the Dongria Kondh to ensure maximum publicity, they also persuaded shareholders from the Church of England to the Norwegian government to get rid of their stakes.
The decision not to allow mining in Niyamgiri is not the only bad news for Vedanta. Mr Ramesh said their refinery, already operational using bauxite from other states, may be breaching environmental laws. It has also emerged that the Indian government may oppose Vedanta’s purchase of a majority stake in Cairn India, a major oil producer.
Vedanta, which says the claims by the pressure groups are “lies and hoax”, rejected any accusation that it has broken the law. It also gave an assurance that it would not mine in the area “until all approvals are in place”.
Pressure groups suggested that the statement hinted that the battle on the Niyamgiri mine might not be over. Meredith Alexander of Action Aid, said that while the ruling was a “massive victory”, the row may not yet be over. “Vedanta could appeal this decision,” she warned. “But the Kondh are asking the company to respect the government’s decision and their clearly expressed opposition to the mine.”
Mr Agarwal has said the economic benefits of the project far outweigh any displacement of the Dongria Kondh, or damage to the environment. He also says that less than three per cent of the tribe would be forced to move because of the mine.