Ignoring tribal rights devastates lives, is financially reckless: Survival International

Activists of several rights groups held a protest here on Tuesday calling for mining group Vedanta Resources, an FTSE 100 company, to be struck off from the London Stock Exchange because of its controversial trade practices and human rights record.

Carrying banners and raising slogans against its policies, the protesters gathered outside the venue of the company’s annual general meeting in central London and booed its shareholders as they arrived.

Senior Labour MP John McDonnell also joined the protest.

Message from Dongria Kondh tribe

Campaign group Survival International released a message from representatives of the Dongria Kondh tribe protesting against Vedanta’s mining project in the Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa: “Even if Anil Agarwal [Vedanta’s CEO] himself comes here, we won’t leave our land. We will use all our strength to make them leave this place. Let us live our lives in peace,” the message said.

Stephen Corry, Director of Survival, said: “Ignoring tribal rights does not pay: it devastates people’s lives, and — as Vedanta has found — is financially reckless. The Dongria have the right to be consulted, and to give — or withhold — their consent. If Vedanta had talked to them first and respected their fundamental attachment to their land, they would have saved themselves and the Dongria a lot of trouble.”

The South Asia Solidarity Group (SASG) demanded that the British government must end its “support” to Vedanta-sponsored projects.

“This year the list of Vedanta’s atrocities is longer than ever before and there are massive popular struggles against it in India and Zambia. Like the notorious Lonmin in South Africa, Vedanta is bringing shame on the London Stock Exchange. Isn’t it time they were deleted from it? We call on the British government to stop backing it,” said SASG spokesperson Amrit Wilson.

The protest, also backed by Foil Vedanta and Save Goa Campaign, coincided with parallel demonstrations in Goa, Tamil Nadu and Orissa.

‘Glossing over record’

Amnesty International accused Vedanta of attempting to “gloss over” criticisms of its human rights record by publishing what it described as a “meaningless and hollow” account of its operations in India.

“Amnesty believes ‘the Vedanta’s Perspective’ report is an attempt to calm investor fears over its controversial operations in India as it seeks to expand them,” it said, accusing the company of ignoring the impact of its policies on the human rights of local communities in Orissa.