Foil Vedanta & The Carnival of Dirt
The names of the people on the placards are unknown in The City of the London. The office workers who peer out of their high rise buildings at us, walking in the streets in a funeral procession, do not know our names or the names of friends and fellow community workers and activists who have lost their lives in their quest to protect their land from destruction hidden behind a mask called development, and in struggles against the corporate greed that funds these offices, that funds the wealth of governments and corporations in the West.
On June 15, activists from Foil Vedanta joined the Carnival of Dirt to protest against Vedanta, a UK based mining corporation with fingers in other pies: oil drilling in the Sri Lankan sea, privatization of health care in India, operations in Africa.
Vedanta, so ironically named, has throughout its history attracted bad karma to itself.
On 16 December 2000, local police opened fire on protestors in Maikanch, murdering three and injuring others. The Maikanch Three became a symbol for the struggle against mining in Odisha, India, and the use of state violence in the service of mining companies, to repress popular resentment to projects that ‐ under slogans of development ‐ destroy local communities, while profiteering corporations. [1*]
Their names were called at the Carnival of Dirt and we carried their portraits with us along with the portraits of activists of other countries who have lost their lives in struggles against mining corporations.
We remembered 52 workers who were working at the top of 253 meters chimney and about 180 persons who were at the base of the chimney, killed and buried when it collapsed, in a new smelter in Chhattisgarh, 23rd Sept 2009. Their families hastily dispersed away from the area and the union of workers replaced by a new one. Was it done to prevent a proper investigation into the health and safety procedures and compensation to families? [2*]
We walked through the City, stopping at the Bank of England, the London Stock Exchange and the London Metal Exchange, carried their portraits and a big orange banner saying: “Vedanta plc stop the killing, stop the destruction”.
At lunch, our speakers sang to a sympathetic audience two Kond songs of the movement in Odisha, talked about our campaign and invited people to the 28 August protest for Vedanta’s AGM.
We got excellent response from everyone, seemed that even the police were interested in those matters… which is not surprising; Indian Interior Minister read Out of this Earth, a book the shed light on the story of aluminium production and bauxite mining industry.
Anil Agarwal will not have to wait another lifetime to reap the just rewards of his continued sins against the Dhongria Konds of Odisha. Or indeed any of his many workers who continue to lose their lives in horrendous accidents, the latest of which took place on June 18 in the Rajsamand district of Rajasthan where two workers were burnt to death and 13 others injured when 400 degree mud exploded from a boiler. [3*]
Some of us, and others, holding a company share, will ask the CEO Anil Agarwal difficult questions during the August AGM.
Major British investors, such as the Church of England have withdrawn and sold their shares. Vedanta’s shares dropped from £21 to £9 in anticipation of the possible prohibition on them mining the Niyamgiri hills.
But Foil Vedanta’s sights are not solely trained on the mounting crimes against humanity perpetrated by Anil Agarwal. We are concerned that London continues to be the central point of a network of multi‐national corporations operating and being promoted by regional governments on the axis of India and the UK. We are also looking into links between law firms in the UK, corporate clients and NGO’s.
Last month Foil Vedanta delegates picketed at the High Commission of India in London against the construction of a nuclear power plant in Koodankulam, Tamil Nadu in South India. [4*] The Indian government, in collaboration with Russian company Atomsroyexport, has been constructing a large‐scale nuclear power plant there.
The community, has been loud in its objections: to date there are more than 300 people on hunger strike; State authorities intimidated, harassed, imprisoned, and falsely charged non‐violent protesters. From one police station alone, charges have been brought against more than 55,000 people including 6,500 for sedition and ‘war against the state’ in the last eight months.
The government deployed thousands of police and paramilitary forces in order to commission the reactor in a military style operation. The villages around the plant are placed under a prohibitory order under Section 144 which means that they cannot even peacefully assemble.
Terrifying facts are that Koodankulam is in a tsunami and earthquake prone region, which has also experienced small volcanic eruptions and is affected by water shortages. Therefore, the construction violates the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safety Guidelines. Reports on the safety of the construction are being withheld from the public and the media.
The India experiences of Vedanta were echoed in the experience of other activists from around the world who are confronting other corporate giants like Rio Tinto, Glencore, Xstrata and others who are all publicly traded companies in the UK and who daily benefit from their special brand of corporate terrorism in parts of the world that do not receive the attention of media companies looking for stories to tell.
It was good to be part of the event and learn more about parallel struggles. The more we know about each other and the more we know about the anti‐community strategies of corporations and our governments who aid and abet their actions is the stronger we are for the continued fight to dismantle these dangerous and destructive power structures.
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