‘Has the government created Niyamgiri that you can do whatever you like with it?’ a banner hanging from a tree outside the Odisha Bhawan enquired on Wednesday. Few paces away, a group of people had gathered and among them were numerous students from the Capital’s colleges, political organisations, and civil society groups both “protesting” against Vedanta Aluminium Limited and “celebrating” the resistance of the Dongria Kond.
The timing of the demonstration was planned in the lead up to a major annual demonstration in London being held by the international solidarity group ‘Foil Vedanta’ outside the all general meeting of Vedanta Resources which will be held on Thursday. “The reason for the demonstration today is that on August 1 in London there is going to be an all general meeting of Vedanta,” said one of the organisers, Devangana. “The government should remember they have no right over Niyamgiri. Every gram sabha has said a loud no to mining.”
Following the Supreme Court’s April judgment on mining, eight gram sabhas have been held so far in the villages of Serkapadhi, Kesarpadhi, Tadijhola, Kunakadu, Palberi, Batudi, Phulumer and Ijurupa. Among these, two villages have been targeted by Vedanta for its CSR ventures, said Devangana, adding: “We are against Vedanta as a global, capitalist company.”
Writer Arundhati Roy said the results of the gram sabha are a temporary victory with the Dongria Kond at the centre and rays of support around it extend from the mountains of Niyamgiri to London. “Even before the mining lease was legalised they have built a refinery there which has caused vast destruction and displacement. Till they (Vedanta) fill it with bauxite they won’t rest. We should demand that they demolish the refinery,” she said. “Take your goddamn refinery and leave!”
Anthropologist Felix Padel who co-authored the book ‘Out of this Earth: East India, Adivasis and the Aluminium Cartel’ said: “Vedanta made a very great mistake when it tried to take a mountain. What has happened in the last few weeks shows that it’s a victory for democracy not just for them but for all of India.”