Monday, August 04, 2008

Anti Mining Activist branded Naxalite

Is being called a naxalite, a compliment ?

Is this a new form of measurement by which social workers can judge the effectiveness of their work , withbeing branded a naxalite as the
highest compliment a social worker can aspire for ?

Sebastian Rodrigues and GAKUVED's blog can be found at

Is Sebastian Rodrigues a Naxalite?

Activists like Sebastian Rodrigues, involved in creating awareness and fighting to protect the ecology have been branded a Naxalite by the local politicians acting on behalf of the mining companies, a charge vehemently denied by them..

CALL THEM lungs of Goa or by any other name, the rugged slopes of the Sahyadri mountains form an integral link of Goa. The state located on the western Indian coastline of the Arabian Sea is about 250 miles south of Mumbai. The state has three different geographical areas: The rugged slopes of the Sahyadri mountains, the Midland region and the coastal region. The foothills region is famous for the Dudhsagar waterfall and provides most of the state’s fresh water and is the source of all of Goa’s seven main rivers.

But in recent time, this very region -- Western Ghats -- is under threat from the mining lobby with large scale mining denuding forests and threatening the water resources in the region.

And activists like Sebastian Rodrigues involved in creating awareness and fighting to protect the ecology of the place have been branded Naxalite by the local politicians acting on behalf of the mining companies, a charge vehemently denied by them.

Gawada, Kunbi, Velip and Dhangar Federation (GAKUVED), which is fighting for the rights of the villagers in the region has expressed shock and have strongly condemned and denied the charge levied on their coordinator as Naxalite, levelled by the Goa opposition leader, Manohar Parrikar against Rodrigues.

Pandurang Kukalkar, secretary, of GAKUVED has vowed that the statements of the leaders will not deter the movement.

“GAKUVED warns the mining lobby that this effort also will be a failure because neither GAKUVED nor Rodrigues is involved in any such activity. GAKUVED has started the movement within the framework of the Constitution. GAKUVED has always respected the Constitution and prevailing laws and will work within the framework of the Constitution,” Kukalkar said.

He added, “GAKUVED will always remain steadfast in its support to people fighting land and mining issues at all costs without paying heed to either fascist Manohar Parrikar or terrorist mining industry in Goa.”

And the need to form a blog arose as the traditional news media in Goa was reluctant to give due coverage for mining related issues in the state, Kukalkar says in blog entry

Kukalkar continued, “Sebastian Rodrigues is working with GAKUVED for the last four years in their activities. GAKUVED has formed a unit called ’Mand’, an Adivasi-rights resource centre and he is the coordinator of the same. Because the news agencies in Goa do not take any interest in publishing our news there was a need for us to go for other media and GAKUVED has formed the blog where all the information about day-to-day activities carried by GAKUVED is posted for the information of general public.”

Besides updating the blog with pictures and write ups on a regular basis, Rodrigues, who worked for a brief period as correspondent of Herald newspaper from Goa is working on his PhD on land related issues.

GAKUVED’s local unit in Rivona panchayat in Sanguem Taluka based at Colomb is involved in safeguarding and protecting their agricultural and plantation land, which is threatened by mining companies. Out of total village land of 1929 hectares, 1510 hectares is under 23 mining leases granted during colonial Portuguese regime that ended in 1961 but was continued by the free Indian state.

“The state is very small in comparison to other Indian states; it is only 62 miles long and approximately 30 miles wide. It is, however, one of India’s leading producers of iron and manganese: Four per cent of India’s iron ore reserves and eight per cent of its manganese ore reserves are in Goa,” says a report compiled by the Centre for Science and Environment on the Indian environment. It further reveals, “the state has about eight per cent of its total area under mining, the highest in the country. Some 400 mining leases have been granted in Goa till 2002-03, covering approximately 30,325 hectares — this works out to almost five per cent of the total area leased out for mining major minerals in the country. Of these, 222 mining leases have been granted for extracting iron ore: this accounts for 56 per cent of the total area under mining.”

The villagers in Colomb are fighting for their survival and GAKUVED is supporting their struggle over the past one year. As a co-ordinator of ’Mand’, sometimes Rodrigues visits the mining areas at the request of the local villagers during their protest against the illegal mining and prepares the report with photographs and publishes it on the blog.

He has never been involved in any Naxalite activities and the members of GAKUVED have always remained with him. GAKUVED never noticed Rodrigues being involved in any Naxal activities. It is only Manohar Parrikar’s daydreaming at the instance of mining companies. In fact, it is the mining companies that are involved in terrorising the villagers by employing goons and Parrikar is supervising the activities of the mining companies, charges Kulalkar.

Parrikar has never helped and supported the GAKUVED community. He has only used this community as a vote bank to secure his position in power, he adds.

This he has proved during his reign as chief minister by raising tuition fee in all the professional colleges and made it economically beyond reach for the general members of the GAKUVED and other backward classes to take admissions in professional colleges. Because the general members of the GAKUVED and other backward classes (OBC) cannot think of the fee when they are half fed.

GAKUVED questions Parrikar: Has he ever met the affected tribal people who are struggling to protect their livelihood? Has he ever shown them sympathy and expressed his solidarity? The villagers of Colomb cannot think any other activity than to safeguard their livelihood, preserve their agriculture, plantations and their village. We know it is not Parrikar who is terming the villagers as naxalites but behind him is the strong mining lobby.

“The mining lobby has tried to break the unity of the Colomb villagers by applying all the means.

They have even tried their best to dissuade GAKUVED from helping and supporting the Colomb villagers by offering unexpected perquisites but failed in all their designs. And, therefore, they have brought Parrikar to make allegations against our coordinator, Rodrigues as Naxalite and to penalise and crush our movement”, say the villagers.

The area under mining in Goa is all set to zoom in coming years.

As per the government, under the Right To Information Act, there are as many as 825 mining lease applications, covering an area of 67,822 hectares under various stages of processing. If these leases are granted, more than one-fourth of Goa’s land area will come under mining — a recipe for ecological disaster.

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