This short footage was taken yesterday as Niyamgiri dwellers celebrated the Supreme Court’s verdict, while also cautioning that the company and state officials must stay away from the process. In his interview Kutia Kond activist Kumuti Majhi states:
“When the Orissa chief minister came to lay foundation [of Vedanta’s project], if we were five of us, they were a hundred. The [company] staff and men had stopped local people on the way and threatened them away; they get up to such conspiracies!
The government now thought of giving us also a chance to voice about our rights; we hope that this will help us. But, if they continue to employ police and goons against us, this [verdict] appears to be going in their [Vedanta’s] favour only.”
Indian Supreme Court judges today handed the final decision on Vedanta’s Niyamgiri mine to the Dongria Kond tribe and farmers living around the mountain. Two Gram Sabha’s (village councils) or local self-government within 10km of the proposed mine should announce their decision to the Ministry of Environment and Forests within three months1. The decision will have a major financial and reputational impact on Vedanta and may force them to close their Lanjigarh refinery, costing them billions.
In London, activists from Foil Vedanta and other grassroots groups descended on Vedanta’s nominal Mayfair headquarters later today celebrating what they see as a victory for local self-determination, but calling for thorough independent oversight of the decision making process which they say is wide open to abuse by Vedanta officials and state police. They held a loud noise demonstration, and held a banner stating ‘MoEF: No u-turn on Niyamgiri’ while shouting slogans with a large megaphone. The protesters again called for Vedanta to be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange for poor corporate governance and human rights crimes.
See the video of today’s demo here, and another short clip here.
According to the Indian newspapers and inside information the final verdict on Vedanta’s Niyamgiri mine will be delivered tomorrow morning (Thurs 18th April)! This is a hugely important day following ten years of struggle by the Dongria Kond who live on the mountain, as well as communities across India and the world.
PLEASE join us at 2pm at Vedanta Headquarters, 16 Berkeley Street, London, W1J 8DZ, Green Park tube, for a louder-than-ever noise demonstration to celebrate or denounce the verdict.
Shops, restaurants, taxi ranks and autorickshaws have shut shop in Thoothkudi, Tamil Nadu, today in a bandh (shutdown) called by members of the Anti-Sterlite People’s Struggle Committee demanding permanent closure of Sterlite’s Copper smelter. According to reports only a few medical shops and others selling essentials remain open, and police have been deployed around the town.
Residents have shut their town in response to last week’s Supreme Court order which allowed Vedanta’s Sterlite plant to continue operating but pay 100 crore rupee ($2 million) compensation for environmental violations including a major gas leak on 23rd March. Residents say there is no price for their health and safety and demand the plant is closed.