14th May 2016. On May 21st the high profile Jaipur Literature Festival will take place in Southbank London with Vedanta as its key sponsor*. Foil Vedanta and Roundtable India have authored this open letter to the many renowned authors taking part, asking them to boycott the event in view of Vedanta’s criminal activities.** The letter has been signed by eminent writers, academics, activists and people directly affected by Vedanta’s criminal activities. A protest will also be held outside the event from 10am to 1pm at the Southbank centre, SE1 9PX, London.
*JLF have now removed Vedanta’s logo from their website. Please see the original page with Vedanta logo on the internet archive.
** Please see the update to this post as authors are pulling out.
Lingaraj Azad, Convenor of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (Niyamgiri Protection Council) made this statement:
“In the name of promoting Indian literature and culture Vedanta is trying to loot our resources. All its hired writers, intellectuals, actors, sportspersons, etc. will not be able to hoodwink anyone. The so-called ‘illiterate’ have seen through this eyewash from day one. The Dongria Kondh of Niyamgiri have not been fooled by all this and have resisted every attempt of the predator to snatch their resources. It is a shame that these intellectuals and writers have allowed their conscience to be bought off by Vedanta. Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti condemns this Vedanta sponsored literature festival and make an appeal to one and all to boycott all such dubious programmes by Vedanta and rather join the movement of the Dongria Kondh Adivasi against Vedanta.”
Open letter to the writers attending Vedanta JLF London 2016:
from Niyamgiri mountain to the river Kafue calling Vedanta to justice
12th May 2016
We were surprised to hear that you have agreed to participate at the Jaipur Literature Festival, claiming to be “The Greatest Literary Show on Earth”, which has ‘the world’s most hated company’ Vedanta as its key sponsor. Are you aware that Vedanta’s activities are destroying the lives of thousands of people in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Punjab and also in Zambia, South Africa and Australia? Are you also aware that Zambian villagers are currently taking Vedanta subsidiary KCM to court in the UK, accusing it of consistently poisoning their water over the last decade?
In 2011 Zambian High Court Judge Phillip Musonda said he wanted to make an example of Vedanta for their ‘gross recklessness’ in polluting the River Kafue – which provides 40% of Zambians with drinking water – without remorse, and highlighted ‘KCM’s don’t-care attitude whether human life, which is sacrosanct in our constitution, was lost or not.’ In 2014 Vedanta 69% owner and Chairman Anil Agarwal was caught on video bragging to businessmen at a Bangalore conference, that he had bought the Zambian copper mines at a fraction of their value and was making $500 million each year despite declaring a loss in Zambia. The Zambian government reacted by auditing the mines, and discovered vast tax evasion schemes and asset stripping.
In Korba, Chhattisgarh, India between 40 and 100 workers died at Vedanta subsidiary BALCO’s aluminium smelter complex when a chimney under construction collapsed on them in September 2009. The subsequent judicial inquiry into the incident found Vedanta guilty of negligence and using sub-standard materials and construction methods. However, Vedanta’s lawyers suppressed the report, which was leaked by activists in 2014.
In Odisha, in India, a nineteen year struggle by indigenous communities, Dalits and farmers led to a historic victory in 2014 when Vedanta was stopped from mining the sacred Niyamgiri hills, home to some of East India’s most vulnerable indigenous people – for bauxite. Vedanta’s attempt to secure the mountain through State Owned OMC was again recently rejected by the Supreme Court on May 6, 2016. “The great writers going to Vedanta’s literature festival should first know of the reality of Vedanta,” writes Subash Kulesika, Youth Leader of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti. “All its claims of developing our land and the Adivasi Dalit communities of Lanjigarh-Niyamgiri is a big lie. The first thing that Vedanta snatched from us was our Dignity and then our land, air and water. They used criminals to intimidate us and our activists and leaders. They molested our mothers and sisters. They used the police to torture and detain us under false cases. They have treated us worse than animals. They have contaminated our river and air with never ending pollution. They have stolen our water from beneath the ground. They have found great allies in the Brahmin babus who also don’t want our development and look at us like animals.”
Meanwhile in Goa, Vedanta’s iron ore mining subsidiary Sesa Goa (now Vedanta Limited) was the largest company that was indicted by the Shah Commission in 2012 for illegal mining, including failure to obtain leases or environmental clearance, and exporting 150 million tonnes of iron ore from Goa in 2010/11 while only declaring 76 million, their agreed export allowance.
There is growing criticism of fossil fuel companies sponsoring arts and cultural organisations. Recently, the Tate Gallery, under pressure of sustained campaign by the coalition Liberate Tate over the last few years, agreed to give up on its sponsor BP. For years now, Vedanta has been attempting to create favourable public opinion by sponsoring the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), the NDTV Our Girls Our Pride gender project and even the oxymoronic Mining Happiness campaign, using celebrities and media houses to hush up its liabilities. But each of these attempts has been exposed by grassroots groups and people’s movements pointing out Vedanta’s corporate crimes using social media and letter writing.
The Vedanta JLF at Southbank is yet again another cynical attempt to distract attention from Vedanta’s crimes at a time when it stands exposed across India and internationally. Vedanta’s interests are directly opposed to the Dalit, Adivasi, Bahujan Samaj and black communities it claims to be helping.
Literature doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We believe that writers and artists, as public figures, also have responsibilities. It makes little sense to discuss books and ideas and the problems of the world in abstraction, while being funded by and publicising a company that has been and continues to be a gross violator of human rights across the world. We hope that you agree, and will withdraw from involvement in this discredited and damaging PR campaign, rather than lending your name to it.
Anu Ramdas, Editor, Round Table India
Naren Bedide (Kuffir), Editor, Round Table India
Akash Poyam, Founding Editor at adivasiresurgence.com
Dr. Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, Medical doctor and author, Jharkhand, India
Gladson Dungdung, activist, author
Surya Shankar, Filmmaker, Video Republic
Arao Ameny, Founder of Association of African Journalists & Writers
Kavita Bhanot, writer
Courttia Newland, writer
Manju Rajak, artist
Akshay Pathak, Writer
Rafiq Kathwari, poet
Hemant Divate, poet, editor, publisher and translator
Samantha Asumadu, Media Diversified
Ruby Hembrom, Founder & Executive Director, adivaani
Sridhar Gowda, Literary Agent
V.Divakar, Editor, The Baroda Pamphlet
Thongam Bipin, Ambedkar Students Association (ASA), UoH
Tariq Mehmood, writer, Assistant Professor, American University, Beirut
Nabina Das, poet and writer
James Michael, writer
Koonal Duggal Researcher, Department of Cultural Studies, EFL University, Hyderabad
Vijay Chandra, Telugu poet
Firoze Manji former Editor, Pambazuka News
Rollie Mukherjee, artist & writer, Vadodara.
Dharma Teja, Dalit Camera
Sruti Bala, Asst. Professor, Theatre Studies, Univ of Amsterdam Netherlands.
Vinita Damodaran, Director, CWEH, University of Sussex
Subash Kulesika, Youth Leader, Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti
Ganesh Digal, Odisha Research Scholars for Social Justice (ORSSJ)
Roshan, Odisha Research Scholars for Social Justice (ORSSJ)
Rajesh Bagh, Odisha Research Scholars for Social Justice (ORSSJ)
Selma James, writer and activist, Global Women’s Strike.
James Nyasulu, community activist and pollution affected person, Chingola, Zambia.
William Chitundu, KCM former miners, Zambia.
Jonathan Mbewe, Residents of 1st Street against Pollution, Chingola, Zambia.
Miriam Rose, Foil Vedanta
Samarendra Das, Foil Vedanta
Zuky Serper, artist, Foil Vedanta
Devangana Kalita, Foil Vedanta
Amarjit Singh, activist
Satwinder Kaur, activist
Amrit Wilson, writer, activist
Asad Zaidi, writer and publisher, Three Essays Collective
Sufi Hussain, Anthropologist & Coordinator DST at Dalit Sujaag Tehreek
Mangalesh Dabral, The Public Agenda (Hindi fortnightly), poet, journalist
Atul Anand, Researcher & Documentary maker
Alex Lubin, Professor, University of New Mexico
Nitasha Kaul, author academic and activist
Aflatoon, All India Organisational Secretary, Samajwadi Janaparishad
Ashley Tellis, writer, lecturer, activist
Sir Julian Rose, author and President of International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside.
Ujjwal Bhattacharya, Journalist and Writer.
Professor Patrick Bond – Centre for Civil Society, Johannesburg
Charu Soni, independent journalist & writer
Pamela Gonsalves – Save Goa Campaign
Rebecca Oliner, Artist
Sara Caldwell, Women of Colour in Global Women’s Strike
Taru Dalmia , the Ska Vengers
Samara Chopra, the Ska Vengers
Sruthi Herbert, Doctoral Candidate, SOAS
Murali Shanmugavelan, Researcher, Media and Anthropology, SOAS
Vaibhav Wasnik, postdoctoral researcher, Saarland University, Department of Physics
Priyadarshini Ohol, artist
Abhiyan Humane, Artist and Teacher
Madhusree Mukerjee, writer
Shiv Prasad Joshi, Poet-Writer, Translator, Media Teacher, Journalist
Wayne Kublalsingh, writer
Anitha Thampi, Poet
Hartman de Souza, writer, theatre director, teacher
Amarjit Chandan, Poet
Sukant Chandan, Malcolm X Movement
Gouri Patwardhan, filmmaker
Cathal Healy-Singh, Environmental Engineer, Trinidad & Tobago
Richard Solly, London Mining Network.
Alfredo Quarto, Executive Director, Mangrove Action Project
Kofi Mawuli Klu, PANAFRIINDABA Grassroots Pan-Afrikan Community Advocacy, Research and Think Tank, London, United Kingdom.
Rabinarayan Pradhan, Sr.sub editor, The Prameya, Odisha
Rumana Hashem, Bangladesh National Committee.
Lyla Mehta, Professor , Institute of Development Studies, UK
Ananya Chakravarti, Assistant professor of history, Georgetown University
Vinay Shende, HR Professional
Nilesh Kumar, PhD Researcher, TISS
Mohinder Singh, Assistant Professor, Political Science JNU
Saransh Gautam, IT Professional
Prameya M, Ph.D student
Pinak Banik, Artist and Teacher
Rohith Jyothish, Student, JNU
Gaurav Somwanshi, Entrepreneur
Ashutosh Wasnik, senior human resources analyst at SaskPower, Govt of Saskatchewan,Canada
Priyabrata Mahapatra, IT Professional
John Hutnyk, Professor, National Chiao Tung University
Anandi Ramamurthy, University of Central Lancashire, School of Journalism Media & Communication
Eye Art Collective
Siddhartha Deb, author
Biswajit K. Bora, Assistant Professor, Dept. of English, Shyama Prasad Mukherji College (for Women) University of Delhi
Sushil Kumar Jain
Stefan Kaye, The Ska Vengers
Sumit Mahar, Community Media Student, TISS Mumbai
Raghavendra Rao, Srishti, School of Art, Design and Technology, Visual Artist
Shyamolie Singh, MA student, JNU
Manohar Naga, Ex teacher, University of Hyderabad
Shreya Sinha, Doctoral Candidate, SOAS
Stalin K. Director, Video Volunteers
Dr. Rashmi Varma, University of Warwick
Gunjan Jain, Textile Designer, Vriksh
Satabdi Mishra, Walking Bookfairs
Surya Vahni Priya Capildeo, Poet, Cambridge, UK
Ifrah Javaid, University of Delhi
Gowhar Fazili, Delhi School of Economics
Karen Coelho, Madras Institute of Development
Ms. Yanbeni Yanthan, Assistant Professor, Naga Tribal Language Studies, Nagaland University,?Bela Bhatia, Activist, Social Researcher
Zeeshan Hasan Akhtar, Theatre practitioner and filmmaker
Idris Bhat, Ph.d Philosophy, Jawahar Lal Nehru University.
Jamminlian Vualnam, Manipur Tribals Forum Gowhar Fazili Researcher from Kashmir Dept. of Sociology, DSE, University of Delhi Asmita Chaudhuri Sushmita, actiivist and researcher, CPDR and Aaghaaz
Kalpana Wilson, London School of Economics
Saunvedan Aparanti, South Asia Solidarity Group
Ananya Rao Middleton, Cambridge University
Sarbjit Johal South, Asia Solidarity Group
Nirmala Rajasingam, South Asia Solidarity Group
Shruti Iyer, South Asia Solidarity Group
Chandra Shekhar A.K
Ajin K Thomas
Hazel Jordan, Manager, Alcohol and Drugs Services