Renowned writers, activists and people directly affected by the activities of British mining company Vedanta Resources have signed a letter calling for the participating authors to boycott of the Jaipur Literary Festival at Southbank in London on May 21st in view of Vedanta’s human rights abuses and criminal activities worldwide. A protest organised by Foil Vedanta and Roundtable India will also be held outside the event.
Please contact roundtableindia.co.in (+91 9866940520) or firstname.lastname@example.org (+44 7941475103) for more information.
Open letter to the writers attending Vedanta JLF London 2016:
from Niyamgiri mountain to the river Kafue calling Vedanta to justice
14th May 2016
We were surprised to hear that you have agreed to participate at the Jaipur Literature Festival, claiming to be “The Greatest Literary Show on Earth”, which has ‘the world’s most hated company’ Vedanta as its key sponsor. Are you aware that Vedanta’s activities are destroying the lives of thousands of people in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Punjab and also in Zambia, South Africa and Australia? Are you also aware that Zambian villagers are currently taking Vedanta subsidiary KCM to court in the UK, accusing it of consistently poisoning their water over the last decade?
In 2011 Zambian High Court Judge Phillip Musonda said he wanted to make an example of Vedanta for their ‘gross recklessness’ in polluting the River Kafue without remorse, and highlighted ‘KCM’s don’t-care attitude whether human life, which is sacrosanct in our constitution, was lost or not.’ In 2014 Vedanta 69% owner and Chairman Anil Agarwal was caught on video bragging to businessmen at a Bangalore conference, that he had bought the Zambian copper mines at a fraction of their value and was making $500 million each year despite declaring a loss in Zambia. The Zambian government reacted by auditing the mines, and discovered vast tax evasion schemes and asset stripping.
In Korba, Chhattisgarh, India between 40 and 100 workers died at Vedanta subsidiary BALCO’s aluminium smelter complex when a chimney under construction collapsed on them in September 2009. The subsequent judicial inquiry into the incident found Vedanta guilty of negligence and using sub-standard materials and construction methods. However, Vedanta’s lawyers suppressed the report, which was leaked by activists in 2014.
In Odisha, in India, a nineteen year struggle by indigenous communities, Dalits and farmers led to a historic victory in 2014 when Vedanta was stopped from mining the sacred Niyamgiri hills for bauxite. Vedanta’s attempt to secure the mountain through State Owned OMC was again recently rejected by the Supreme Court on May 6, 2016. “The great writers going to Vedanta’s literature festival should first know of the reality of Vedanta,” writes Subash Kulesika, Youth Leader of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti. “All its claims of developing our land and the Adivasi Dalit communities of Lanjigarh-Niyamgiri is a big lie. The first thing that Vedanta snatched from us was our Dignity and then our land, air and water. They used criminals to intimidate us and our activists and leaders. They molested our mothers and sisters. They used the police to torture and detain us under false cases. They have treated us worse than animals. They have contaminated our river and air with never ending pollution. They have stolen our water from beneath the ground. They have found great allies in the Brahmin babus who also don’t want our development and look at us like animals.”
Meanwhile in Goa, Vedanta’s iron ore mining subsidiary Sesa Goa (now Vedanta Limited) was the largest company that was indicted by the Shah Commission in 2012 for illegal mining, including failure to obtain leases or environmental clearance, and exporting 150 million tonnes of iron ore from Goa in 2010/11 while only declaring 76 million, their agreed export allowance.
There is growing criticism of fossil fuel companies sponsoring arts and cultural organisations. Recently, the Tate Gallery, under pressure of sustained campaign by the coalition Liberate Tate over the last few years, agreed to give up on its sponsor BP. For years now, Vedanta has been attempting to create favourable public opinion by sponsoring the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), the NDTV Our Girls Our Pride gender project and even the oxymoronic Mining Happiness campaign, using celebrities and media houses to hush up its liabilities. But each of these attempts has been exposed by grassroots groups and people’s movements pointing out Vedanta’s corporate crimes using social media and letter writing.
The Vedanta JLF at Southbank is yet again another cynical attempt to distract attention from Vedanta’s crimes at a time when it stands exposed across India and internationally. Vedanta’s interests are directly opposed to the Dalit, Adivasi, Bahujan Samaj and black communities it claims to be helping.
Literature doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We believe that writers and artists, as public figures, also have responsibilities. It makes little sense to discuss books and ideas and the problems of the world in abstraction, while being funded by and publicising a company that has been and continues to be a gross violator of human rights across the world. We hope that you agree, and will withdraw from involvement in this discredited and damaging PR campaign, rather than lending your name to it.
Anu Ramdas, Editor, Round Table India
Naren Bedide (Kuffir), Editor, Round Table India
Akash Poyam, Founding Editor at adivasiresurgence.com
Dr. Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, Medical doctor and author, Jharkhand, India
Gladson Dungdung, activist, author
Surya Shankar, Filmmaker, Video Republic
Arao Ameny, Founder of Association of African Journalists & Writers
Kavita Bhanot, writer
Courttia Newland, writer
Manju Rajak, artist
Samantha Asumadu, Media Diversified
Ruby Hembram, Founder & Executive Director, Adivaani
Sridhar Gowda, Literary Agent
V.Divakar, Editor, The Baroda Pamphlet
Thongam Bipin, Ambedkar Students Association (ASA), UoH
Tariq Mehmood, writer, Assistant Professor, American University, Beirut
Nabina Das, poet and writer
Sruti Bala, Asst. Professor, Theatre Studies, Univ of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Koonal Duggal Researcher, Department of Cultural Studies, EFL University, Hyderabad
V.Divakar, Editor, The Baroda Pamphlet
Firoze Manji former Editor, Pambazuka News
Rollie Mukherjee, artist & writer, Vadodara.
Ganesh Digal, Odisha Research Scholars for Social Justice (ORSSJ)
Priyabrata Mahapatra, IT Professional
Dharma Teja, Dalit Camera
Vinita Damodaran, Director, CWEH, University of Sussex
Subash Kulesika, Youth Leader, Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti
James Nyasulu, community activist and pollution affected person, Chingola, Zambia.
William Chitundu, KCM former miners, Zambia.
Jonathan Mbewe, Residents of 1st Street against Pollution, Chingola, Zambia.
Miriam Rose, Foil Vedanta
Samarendra Das, Foil Vedanta
Zuky Serper, artist, Foil Vedanta
Devangana Kalita, Foil Vedanta
Amrit Wilson, writer, activist
Amarjit Chandan, Poet
Mangalesh Dabral, The Public Agenda (Hindi fortnightly), poet, journalist
Vijay Chandra, Telugu poet
Ashley Tellis, writer, lecturer, activist
Ashutosh Wasnik, senior human resources analyst at SaskPower, Govt of Saskatchewan,Canada
Akshay Pathak, Writer
Gaurav Somwanshi, Entrepreneur
Rafiq Kathwari, poet
Hemant Divate, poet, editor, publisher and translator
Sruthi Herbert, Doctoral Candidate, SOAS
Murali Shanmugavelan, Researcher, Media and Anthropology, SOAS
Vaibhav Wasnik, postdoctoral researcher, Saarland University, Department of Physics
Sukant Chandan, Malcolm X Movement
Gouri Patwardhan, filmmaker
Cathal Healy-Singh, Environmental Engineer, Trinidad & Tobago
Atul Anand, Researcher & Documentary maker
Alex Lubin, Professor, University of New Mexico
Aflatoon, All India Organisational Secretary, Samajwadi Janaparishad
Vinay Shende, HR Professional
Nilesh Kumar, PhD Researcher, TISS
Rebecca Oliner, Artist
Taru Dalmia , the Ska Vengers
Samara Chopra, the Ska Vengers
Mohinder Singh, Assistant Professor, Political Science JNU
Vinita Damodaran, Director, CWEH, University of Sussex
Pinak Banik, Artist and Teacher
Sir Julian Rose, author and President of International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside.
Priyadarshini Ohol, artist
Stalin K. Director, Video Volunteers
Abhiyan Humane, Artist and Teacher
Madhusree Mukerjee, writer
Professor Patrick Bond – Centre for Civil Society, Johannesburg
Charu Soni, independent journalist & writer
Pamela Gonsalves – Save Goa Campaign
Dr. Rashmi Varma, University of Warwick
John Hutnyk, Professor, National Chiao Tung University
Anandi Ramamurthy, University of Central Lancashire, School of Journalism Media & Communication
Eye Art Collective
Siddhartha Deb, author
Biswajit K. Bora, Assistant Professor, Dept. of English, Shyama Prasad Mukherji College (for Women), University of Delhi
Roshan, Odisha Research Scholars for Social Justice (ORSSJ)
Rajesh Bagh, Odisha Research Scholars for Social Justice (ORSSJ)
Stefan Kaye, The Ska Vengers
Asad Zaidi, writer and publisher, Three Essays Collective
Sufi Hussain, Anthropologist & Coordinator DST at Dalit Sujaag Tehreek
Sumit Mahar, Community Media Student, TISS Mumbai
Raghavendra Rao, Srishti, School of Art, Design and Technology, Visual Artist
Manohar Naga, Ex teacher, University of Hyderabad
Shiv Prasad Joshi, Poet-Writer, Translator, Media Teacher, Journalist
Ujjwal Bhattacharya, Journalist and Writer.