On August 18, a report titled “Corporate Loot and People’s Resistance in Niyamgiri” was released at the CDRO Convention on UAPA and other Draconian Law held in Jalandhar, Punjab. The report is an outcome of a joint fact-finding visit by a 16-member team from April 26-28, 2019 from All India Coordination of Democratic Rights Organization (CDRO) and Ganatantrik Adhikar Suraksha Sangathan, Odisha (GASS) to villages of the Niyamgiri area in both Raygada and Kalahandi districts of Odisha. The team investigated into the death of the contract employee Dani Batra by the OISF on March 18 at the gate of Vedanta Aluminum Limited and also visited villages of the Dongria Kondhs to understand the major concerns of the people opposing mining of bauxite in their area and violation of their rights.
The major highlights of the report are as follows:
- Chapter One covers the death of contract worker Dani Batra who was killed during a lathi charge at the gate of the refinery plant of Vedanta in Lanjigarh. Witness accounts state that on the morning of 18 March around 40 to 70 people largely from villages of Rangapalli, Bandhaguda and Basantpur, had gathered at the gate of the plant with their long pending demands regarding fee-remission of their wards in the school run by Vedanta. A tiff between security guards of Odisha Industrial Security Force (OISF) and workers led to the brutal lathi charge resulting in the death of Dani Batra, who was chased into a pond and left to drown. This chapter also questions the circumstances into the death of security personnel Sujit Minz inside the gate of the plant leading to the arrests of workers and villagers. The roles of the police and the administration have also been highlighted. This chapters ends with a brief overview of Vedanta’s operations in India and abroad.
- Chapter Two covers Vedanta’s Lanjigarh project and its long list of illegalities in the process of land acquisition and also documents procedural lapses in getting environmental clearance, violation of forest rights and how in spite of the Gram Sabha verdict, the Odisha Government persists in helping Vedanta.
- Chapter Three gives a vivid description of the Niyamgiri mountain, its forest and flora and fauna, the people living here and their life and living style and conditions, their agriculture produce and their strong resolve to protect the hills which they worship as their God, Niyam Raja, from corporate mining. The chapter raises serious question on the threats to Dongria Kondhs and the entire eco system of the area with the mining plans pursued by the Odisha Government. The chapter also gives a brief on the resistance of people under the banner of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti.
- Chapter Four covers the incidences of state repression and violation of human rights of the local people. The chapter documents various incidences where the adivasis right to dissent has been met with police harassment, arbitrary arrests and even death in false encounter and branding them as Maoists. Constant surveillance by the setting up CRPF camps has made life hell affecting both social and economic activities of the people.
- The report concludes with reflections of the team members such as the demands of the people from villages near the Lanjigarh refinery, their concerns regarding pollution due to red mud pond, the damage caused by refinery plant to the surrounding villages and forests, rivers and trees. It also sums up the main concerns of the anti-mining movement of the Dongria Kondhs to protect the mountain, livelihood, and the entire ecosystem of the area and how they face the constant violation of democratic rights enshrined in the Constitution. The report questions how the state itself becomes enemy of its own people just for the financial and monetary benefit of corporations.
(DEBARANJAN) (ASISH GUPTA)