Orissa: Mining company’s scare tactics against human rights NGO
Posted by Admin on December 15, 2009
Metals giant Vedanta Resources’ Indian subsidiary has launched an unprecedented attack on Survival International, apparently to drive its researchers out of an area where the company is planning to mine.
The mining company has falsely accused Survival of ‘forcedly interacting’ with the Dongria Kondh tribe who live around the area earmarked for mining, and of causing ‘unrest.’ Vedanta has prompted a police investigation into Survival, with officers making a late night visit to a hotel where they believed Survival researchers were staying.
Survival researchers were in the Niyamgiri area of Orissa, east India, to talk with members of the Dongria Kondh community whose future is threatened by a proposed Vedanta mine on their sacred mountain.
Pavan Kaushik, Vedanta Group’s head of corporate communications, wrote to journalists alleging that ‘foreign NGOs including Survival International… are provoking innocent tribal’s to defame the government and the company’. In the letter, he attacked ‘foreigners’ for ‘freely moving in the region’ and alleged that they were circulating ‘false information’. The letter also invites journalists to contact the regional Superintendent of Police, who is named as available for interview.
In September the British government ruled that Vedanta had repeatedly failed to respect the human rights of the Dongria Kondh, demanding a change in the company’s behaviour. The government asked Survival to report back on what steps Vedanta had taken to implement these ‘essential’ changes before the end of the year.
Gordon Bennett, a London barrister who represented the Kalahari Bushmen in their historic win over the Botswana government, has been acting on behalf of the Dongria Kondh in their complaint over Vedanta’s behaviour, and accompanied the Survival researchers.
He said today, ‘We have not circulated any false information about Vedanta’s mining activities. All the information we have given the Dongria has been culled from Vedanta’s own mining plan, which it has never troubled to discuss with the Dongria itself. We have not ‘forcedly interacted’ with the Dongrias: on the contrary we have been warmly welcomed by all those we have been able to meet.
‘We have not provoked ‘innocent tribals’ to defame either the government or Vedanta. It is true to say however that feelings run high in Niyamgiri and that many Dongria regard Vedanta with suspicion and distrust. They believe that their way of life is under serious threat.
‘We have done nothing to create ‘misunderstanding’. It is Vedanta which has done this, both by its refusal to meet with us, and more importantly by its repeated failure either to consult the Dongria about its plans for their sacred hills, or to pay any regard to their views.’
He added, ‘If Vedanta has nothing to hide, it is difficult to understand why it has gone out of its way to obstruct our inquiries. Their press release is entirely without foundation.’
Survival researcher Dr. Jo Woodman is available for interview in India on +91 9953 409 060. For other media enquiries please contact Miriam Ross on +(44) (0)20 7687 8734 or mr