A two day event bringing international activists and academics together to reflect on academic pursuit and forms of knowledge production, and establish working links between those working against the impacts of neoliberalism, the extractive industries, including damage to communities, ecology, democracy and governance.
Hosted by the Centre for World Environmental History (CWEH) University of Sussex.
Contact: email@example.com or BOOK HERE
Places are limited. Please book as soon as you can. Last booking date is 1 September 2014.
Miriam Rose, Samarendra Das, John McDonnell MP and Richard Solly in the House of Commons
Speakers from Foil Vedanta and London Mining Network yesterday presented evidence in the House of Commons on the criminal behaviour of some London Listed mining companies, and called for better accountability measures and the de-listing of criminal companies. Focusing on contentious UK miner Vedanta Resources, they exposed new evidence of tax evasion, illegal land grabs, displacement, major pollution and water poisoning, as well as the UK’s role in promoting and protecting the company, and called for its immediate investigation and potential de-listing in London.
In a packed meeting hosted by John McDonnell MP in the House of Commons speakers told MPs, journalists, diplomats and members of the public attending that high risk mining companies like ‘the world’s most hated company’ Vedanta Resources are bringing shame on the London Stock Exchange, and demanded better accountability measures and the de-listing of criminal companies. MPs attending were Jeremy Corbyn, Eric Joyce and John McDonnell.
Tuesday 22nd April. On Monday night the world lost a brilliant and dedicated political activist, people’s movement leader and socialist thinker. Sunil Gupta, better known as Sunilbhai was the general secretary of the Samajwadi Jan Parishad (the Socialist People’s Council), a political party founded by the deeply respected socialist Kishen Pattnayak, and dedicated to supporting people’s struggles across India. As a political activist and people’s economist Sunil succeeded in sustaining the movement of the Adivasis, Dalits and other oppressed caste people’s movement for 32 years from 1984 till his untimely death in 2014.
Sunilbhai trained as an Economist from Jawaharlal Nehru University, but rather than follow a career in the city, settled in the remote Keshla village of Hoshangabad district, Madhya Pradesh in 1984, and organised the locals against oppression under the banner of Kisan Adivasi Sangathan (KAS). He was associated with Samata Yuba Jan Sabha, Samata Sangatahan and Samajwadi Jan Parishad since its inception in 1995.
A pamphlet written by Sunilbhai
He rose to prominence leading agitations for rehabilitation of Tawa Dam oustees in 1995 and established India’s most successful adivasi fishing cooperative in the Tawa Dam area. 44 tribal villages were displaced by the Tawa dam, and another 34 by an Army Proof Range Establishment and ordnance factory. Sunil organised them in a struggle for rights and proper rehabilitation, coordinating rallies dharnas and chakka jams which demanded that the fishing rights in the reservoir be given to the displaced tribals. Finally the Madhya Pradesh government conceded the demand and the Tawa Matsya Sangh (Tawa Fishermen Cooperative) was formed in 1996 with the right to fishing and marketing its product for five years. It was later broken up when the catchment area was absorbed by the Satpura Tiger Reserve.
Sunil was a mentor for many activists, some of whom have become prominent socialist lawyers and politicians. Sunilbhai will be deeply missed by his family, friends, colleagues and comrades, and by the thousands of farmers, fishermen and Dalits whom he worked tirelessly in service of.
Please see films of his speeches and interviews below
and read his dedication in the Hindu newspaper and on Anaarkali blog.
One of his articles on the ‘Socialism of the New Century’ is copied below.
Anil Agarwal and Priyanka Chopra at Our Girls Our Pride launch on NDTV
2nd September 2013. On the same day that the last of twelve villages voted Vedanta out of Niyamgiri for good, Vedanta announced a new major Corporate Social Responsibility and PR campaign to save its tattered reputation. The campaign, in partnership with the Vedanta funded station NDTV, entitled ‘Our Girls, Our Pride‘, will focus on nutrition, education, health, foeticide and infanticide affecting girl children in India. Miss World 2000, Bollywood superstar and UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador for child rights – Priyanka Chopra, will be the face of the campaign. The idea that Vedanta could be an ambassador for the well being of India’s poorest girl children is beyond farcical. Vedanta’s mining and processing operations have displaced, poisoned and polluted thousands of families. Their low pay, anti-union activities and worker’s deaths have deprived hundreds of young girls of their parents and plunged their families into poverty.
Vedanta used the launch of the Our Girls Our Pride programme to promote another PR campaign which they have run since 2008 to make India ‘a child malnourished free nation’. To achieve this goal they promote their take-over of 14,000 Anganwadi (child day care) centres – as part of a mass privatisation programme. This privatisation has been opposed by Anganwadi workers who claim centres are being shut down and jobs lost as a result. Karnataka Anganwadi teachers held a protest in August which demanded an end to Vedanta’s privatisation or a state wide strike would be held.
Vedanta also emphasised their widespread promotion of Self Help Groups which they claim have ‘transformed 14,900 women into Rural Entrepreneurs’, plus health camps, a Heart Hospital in Rajasthan and a 350 bed Cancer Hospital in Raipur. These health centres will be necessary for those living near or working in Vedanta’s plants which have repeatedly polluted and poisoned their locality. Just this year Vedanta’s Sterlite copper smelting subsidiary in Tamil Nadu released toxic gases (thought to be largely sulphur dioxide) which choked thousands of local inhabitants leading to ongoing health impacts and one death. Self Help Groups on the other hand have been effective in reducing mass dissent against Vedanta’s operations, as women receiving money as part of the scheme sometimes feel unable to criticise the company despite the obvious health impacts on their children and themselves. Not in every case however, as even Vedanta’s CSR darling village of Phuldumer on the Niyamgiri mountain adamantly opposed their proposed mine despite the Self Help Groups they had set up there. This article looks at a few specific cases in which young girls have suffered as a result of Vedanta’s activities and aims to demonstrate the total incompatibility of Vedanta’s style of operation with the well being of communities and their girls.
Foil Vedanta is coordinating a mass letter to Priyanka Chopra signed by women’s orgamisations urging her to pull out of the campaign and avoid helping to clean Vedanta’s rightly sullied reputation.
Please sign a public petition asking NDTV to pull out their support for the campaign here, and a petition asking Priyanka Chopra to pull out here, or contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org if your organisation wishes to be a signatory to the letter (which can be found at the end of this post).
1st August 2013. Foil Vedanta’s report with pictures:
An inflatable monster representing Vedanta with the subsidiaries as snake like heads
Today protesters from Foil Vedanta and other organizations held a loud carnival demonstration at the AGM of controversial FTSE 100 mining company Vedanta at the Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square London. A parallel demo was held in Johannesburg. Yesterday in Delhi almost a hundred people braved rains to raise their protest at Odisha Bhawan. Meanwhile, the majority of tribal village meetings given legal power by the Supreme Court of India have unanimously voted against Vedanta’s flagship Niyamgiri mine.
Please see the video of the London demo here, video of the Delhi demo here, pictures here, and details of coverage of the demo’s in South Africa, Delhi and London below.
Vedanta’s London AGM was again disrupted today by protesters from Foil Vedanta and other organisations who raised a number of human rights concerns. Chanting and singing was continuous throughout the two hour protest and could be heard inside the AGM. Protesters held placards painted with defiant anti-company quotes from the Dongria Kond tribe in Odisha, India, where the company has been trying to mine illegally for ten years, and has now been stopped. Another group performed street theatre holding a giant inflatable monster with Vedanta Resources painted on it, and snake like heads bearing the names of Vedanta’s subsidiaries. Some Sri Lankan protesters played Parai drums (a Tamil drum of revolution) outside the Mayfair venue. Vedanta subsidiary Cairn India is drilling in the fragile Mannar basin off Sri Lanka. At the peak of the protests a sit in was staged as the Vedanta monster was used to block the road.
Dongria woman demonstrates how CRPF attacked them (video excerpt)
Foil Vedanta Press Release, Friday 7th June 2013
Reports from the Niyamgiri hills have confirmed that CRPF special forces have been targeting villages who are opposing Vedanta’s proposed mine, threatening them not to do so, and destroying grain stores and items of worship in their homesteads. One incident involved unprovoked firing on a group of women and children bathing in a waterfall at Batudi village. A Dongria woman has been filmed reporting these abuses. Meanwhile in London, a group of UK members of parliament have expressed their concern over the Palli Sabha process, alerting UK authorities to monitor the behaviour of British mining company Vedanta Resources, who are attempting to mine the mountain with Odisha state support.
Dongria woman tells the story of CRPF raids
Interviews with Dongria Kond people taken yesterday evening confirm recent reports that Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have been active in the Niyamgiri hills carrying out ‘combing operations’ and threatening villages. They have allegedly set up a base in a cotton market yard in Muniguda (a nearby town) and make frequent trips to the mountain, in particular to Jarpa, Khambeshi and Lacpadar villages(1). The reports, sent by local journalists, claim that CRPF forces have told the tribals not to oppose the mine, asked to see their leaders, spilled their food stores, and taken their traditional weapons and guns which are kept to protect them from elephants. Even NGOs and other service providers – who had gone to Niyamgiri to try to assist in the current gram sahba process which will decide the fate of the mountain vis a vis Vedanta’s proposed mine – are leaving the area afraid for their lives following the harassment, they state.
In a film, now posted on the internet a Dongria woman (who did not want to reveal her name for fear of retribution by the forces) states;
“Few days back we were gathering forest products near our village. At that time so many armed forces arrived and they pointed guns at us and surrounded us. They started asking “where is Lada (the tribal leader)? Where have you hidden the maoists ? Where have you hidden the weapons? Why are you opposing mining?” Some one from the behind yelled – ‘If you resist the mining you will be killed like dogs’.”
Local activist Satya Mahar of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti has now made a statement on the harassment online.
A letter from social activists who reported these abuses to the Human Rights Commission of Odisha is also posted below.
When the Supreme Court announced its verdict to hand the decision on Vedanta’s Niyamgiri mine back to the Dongria Kond and other affected people via a complex process of legal claim filing, gram sabhas and a final MoEF nod, both Vedanta and their opposition celebrated. The court judges knew what they had done. Rather than giving a yes or no verdict they had taken the path of least resistance and delivered such a loosely worded judgement that it was wide open to interpretation and abuse – pitting the Odisha government and Vedanta, and the affected people and their supporters against each other once again.
Now, as the Odisha state finally launches the gram sabha (village council) process after six weeks of deliberation, the weak nature of the Supreme Court’s vaguely worded judgement has become even more evident. This article documents some of the ways in which the judgement, which has been hailed as a precedent bottom-up democratic process, is being manipulated in an attempt to prevent the strong anti-Vedanta opinion on Niyamgiri from being properly heard.
Amitabh Patra (left) and others injured by police attack
On Monday 29th April more than 10 platoons of police attacked a peaceful gathering of around 2000 people who were sitting on the bed of the threatened Suktel river, which is being dammed for another major aluminium project in Odisha. In a brutal lathi charge 16 people were arrested and others injured. Most seriously injured was Amitabh Patra, an activist film maker who had been documenting the protests and the police brutality. His head and camera were smashed and he was unconscious for two hours before being taken to hospital where he regained consciousness. Another journalist and poet Lenin Kumar was also injured and arrested. The 16 are now in Bolangir jail where demonstrations are being held demanding their release.
The arrested farmers, tribal women and journalists are: Bhadrasen Chatria, Manchand Sahu, Minaketan Chand, Narayan Swain, Cheturam Rajput, Phula Pradhan, Nilakanti Sahu, Girija Pradhan, Panchali Pradhan,Sukanti Bariha, Bhanumati Bariha, Sarojini Bhua, Sushila Bariha, Subhakeshi Bariha, Amitabh Patra, and Lenin Kumar.
The attack can be seen on this footage which was saved from the scene.
More about the Lower Suktel project below.