Long Live Dongria Kondhs’ Struggle to Save Niyamgiri Hills!
New Delhi, April 24: Prafulla Samantara, National Convener, National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements and the leader of Lokshakti Abhiyan, Orissa has been awarded The Goldman Environmental Prize, Asia, 2017. The Goldman Environmental Prize honours the achievements and leadership of grassroots environmental activists for their sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the Natural environment.
He has been awarded the Prize for committing his life for the peoples’ struggle and the hardships that he has faced in the historic 12-year legal battle along with Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti that affirmed the indigenous Dongria Kondh’s land rights and protected the Niyamgiri Hills from a massive, open-pit aluminium ore mine proposed by Vedanta.
Prafulla Samantara, 65, a socialist by thoughts, has been a part of many leading Peoples’ struggles, one of which is Anti-POSCO Movement (POSCO Pratirodh Sangharsh Samiti) in Orissa. POSCO planned to invest in the mining industry, the building of a Steel Plant, captive power plant and a port in Erasama block of Jagatsinghpur District. Along with the activists like Abhay Sahoo, Prashant Paikaray, Manorama, and many others, he stood against the land acquisition process by POSCO; and has fought the legal battle in the Courts.
He has undertaken Satyagraha, hunger fasts, padyatras, rallies against the building of Dams and Barrages and the emerging issues out of it on the upper stream of river Mahanadi. Living on the campus of Lohia Academy, Bhubaneshwar, he has kept its doors open for everyone and movements struggling for equity, justice and rights-based development. Respected by peoples’ movements and academics and intellectuals alike, he has given articulation to a socialist vision for Odisha and is an ardent advocate of the open loot of the natural resources of Odisha by corporations. He has been kidnapped, assaulted and attacked on many occasions by the mining company for his activism, and continues to receive threats for his ‘anti-development’ stance. But He stands strongly against such threats by believing in “We Shall Fight, We Shall Win!”
The National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements (NAPM) welcomes the decision of the Goldman Environmental Prize and congratulates Prafulla Samantara. This is an award for the valiant struggles of the communities to save the environment and secure their right to live with dignity and oppose destruction and loot of land, water and forest by corporations in the name of development.
Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan - NAPM, while, congratulating Prafulla Samantara for winning this award said,“It is the victory and recognition of the struggle of the Dongria Kondh tribe, the people of Niyamgiri Hills and the Comrades like Lado Sikaka and Lingraj Azad against the big Corporates. It is a victory of the movement and everyone who over the years has contributed to this struggle. Prafulla has proved his own commitment and courage to the world and this award succeeds in countering the false propaganda of the agencies who call it an extremist movement. This is a struggle of the poorest of the poor against the biggest corporations in the world. We are proud of and supporter of his work because he is a fighter”
1. Attempts to Kidnap Tribal Rights Leader Prafulla Samantara Foiled, Allegations of Corporate Crime