Stop Vedanta sponsored State Repression and Deception in Niyamgiri

November 14, 2010

By Lingaraj Azad (Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, Kalahandi)

13 Nov 2010

While a large section of the media was glossing over a PIL filed by some vested interests in the Orissa High Court yesterday a contingent of more than 40 CRPF personnel were carrying out combing operations in the Niyamgiri hills at exactly the same time. Not only villagers were harassed and intimidated by the security force but two innocent villagers have been picked up for supposedly being involved in Maoist activities. Name of arrested villagers is Paiku Sikaka and Bamuna Sikaka and it is yet to be known where they have been detained. Our fears are that like in the case of Dongria Kondh leader Lado Sikaka, Paiku and Bamuna will be tortured and pressurised to not oppose Vedanta. While innocent tribals suffer at the hands of a brutal security force Vedanta is stage managing a big media circus of the PIL in the High Court.

The PIL filed in the High Court yesterday against the MoEF’s decision to ban Vedanta from expanding its refinery in Lanjigarh by the so called tribal leaders and NGOs from Kalahandi and Rayagada has been totally engineered by Vedanta. One NGO, Kui Bikash Parishad that is involved in Vedanta’s CSR programmes has duped members of the Dongria Kondh tribe from Parsali area into travelling with them for a workshop in Berhampur on using solar energy but instead took them to Cuttack in order to make it seem that the PIL has popular support from the tribe. This was done with active support from the Dongria Kondh Development Agency whose Multi Purpose Workers helped the NGO in reaching the Dongria villages and convincing the people that indeed they would be taken to the workshop on solar energy. These MPWs have gained the trust of the Dongrias over several years and with this one act they have proved that their loyalty lies not in the interest of the tribe but with Vedanta.

In fact all the NGOs who have petitioned to the High Court are Vedanta’s creations facilitated by well known Vedanta agents like the Pesnia brothers of Lanjigarh, Srimati Majhi (wife of BJD member Balabhadra Majhi) and Jitu Jakesika. Earlier on 30th October they had tried to counter the massive demonstration held by the people against the refinery by getting Jitu Jakesika and a handful of misguided tribals into submitting a petition to the District Collector. A section of the media is reporting that hundreds of tribal people are involved in this petition which is absolutely untrue. This section of the media has not reported about the thousands of protestors demanding the closure of the refinery on 30 October ’10. The eight organisations that have appealed to the High Court have been created by Vedanta and did not exist earlier and have never been known to raise issues other than advocating for Vedanta.

With such acts Vedanta is trying to divert the attention from the several violations it has committed and create artificial pressure on the MoEF to revoke its decision on the expansion of the refinery. We have already seen how Vedanta can influence the Supreme Court to make favorable judgements and in this case it can be expected that the company will try its best in swinging the court’s verdict on the PIL in its favour. At a time when the local people are demanding the closure of Vedanta’s refinery such a PIL is clearly a desperate attempt by Vedanta to create an illusion of local support. The so called leaders and NGOs, the media, and the DKDA are all partners of Vedanta in this condemnable act of tricking locals into going to Cuttack and making it seem that there is some support for Vedanta from the Dongria Kondh and other tribes. The DKDA is a Govt. agency created for tribal development but it has been reduced to misleading tribals for Vedanta. But the DKDA is not the only tribal welfare organisation working as an agency of Vedanta. The Scheduled Caste & Scheduled Tribe Research Institute of the state government led by Mr. A. B. Ota has been working as a full time research and publication wing for Vedanta. Mr. Ota is also the man behind promoting Jitu Jakesika as an ambassador of the Dongria Kondh. In fact Mr. Ota’s son Mr. Anil Ota has been working with Vedanta for about a year. It is time that all such fraudulent organisations and individuals operating in the Niyamgiri area to mislead the people be exposed to the world.

The names of these deceptive organisations is:
– Niyamgiri Vedanta Nagar(Rehabilitation Colony)
– Lanjigarh Anchalika Bikash Parishad
– Nabin Vikash Trust
– Lanjigarh Unnayan Anchalika Samiti
– Alumina Refinery Labour Union
– Niyamgiri Adivasi Vikash Parishad
– Shakti Organisation
– Kui Bikash Parishad

Vedanta was carrying out illegal expansion of its refinery and has caused massive pollution in the area which has been highlighted in great details by the N C Saxena report as well as many other independent reports. But Vedanta has been trying to divert attention from its misdeeds by engineering acts like yesterday’s PIL and at the same time it has been suppressing genuine local voices by using goondas and the police. It is clear that such combing operations like yesterday are carried out exactly at the time when it would suit Vedanta the most. The forces also target key leaders and activists of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti like Lado Sikaka.

We demand for the immediate release of Paiku Sikaka and Bamuna Sikaka; the withdrawal of all paramilitary forces from the Niyamgiri area and that such regular combing operations in the name of fighting Maoism to suppress anti Vedanta tribal activists be stopped.