Global protests against Vedanta (January 11): A Report

People across the globe have registered their protests against Vedanta once again. On January 11, parallel demonstrations took place in Orissa, London and New York where activists in hundreds raised slogans and upheld placards to denounce the corporate annexations of  indigenous peoples’ lands.

From Niyamgiri hills, more than 500 people turned up at a rally which covered about two kilometers in the Bhawanipatna town. Resistance movements in Lanjigarh have also inspired tribal representatives of Karlapat region whose mountains are now being targeted by the mining companies. In this rally, several people who were cheated of their lands narrated the atrocities and tortures they faced from Vedanta highhandedness in Lanjigarh. They also gave an account of how the company goons and the local police routinely harass the women in the afflicted areas.


In solidarity with the indigenous peoples of Orissa, a loud group of protesters from Foil Vedanta and other grassroots groups mobbed the company’s Mayfair headquarters in London the same day. Holding a banner that read “FCA: de-list Vedanta”, the demonstrators called for the Financial Conduct Authority to remove Vedanta from the London Stock Exchange for poor corporate governance and human rights crimes.


Likewise, in New York City, protesters gathered outside the United Nations headquarters to highlight the company’s human rights crimes, displaying placards that read: “Our Mountain! Our Rights! Vedanta: Give Up!” and “Dongria Kond’s Niyamgiri: Hands Off!”

New York

Simultaneously, the Supreme Court of India has deferred its final verdict on Vedanta’s planned mega-mine until 21st January. If permission to mine is denied Vedanta is likely to close its Lanjigarh refinery due to lack of bauxite costing them billions. On Sunday the Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh plans to visit the threatened mountain to visit the Dongria Kond.

Various grassroots groups including Phulbari Solidarity Group, Japan Against Nuclear, Tamil Solidarity and London Mining Network, along with Foil Vedanta gathered at Vedanta’s London headquarters to add their voice to recent pressure for Vedanta to be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange for its poor corporate governance, illegal operations and major human rights violations. They shouted ‘Vedanta out of London’ and blew horns and whistles. Several parliamentarians and the former CBI Director Richard LambertLondon have highlighted how Vedanta’s listing is used for legal immunity to hide their corporate crimes.

At the Supreme Court in Delhi today lawyers for Vedanta dwelled on the ongoing demonstrations in London, asking why people are protesting there, and claiming that India is suffering because of this. Judges noted that this is not relevant to the case and pointed out that people have a right to protest. Foil Vedanta’s spokesperson reacted:

“Vedanta is a London listed company and profits from this affiliation. It is typical of Vedanta to assume they are above the law and above public accountability. We will continue to draw attention to their corporate crimes here in London”.

Activists at the rally in Bhawanipatna chanted “Vedanta go back: water, land and forest ours. We are Supreme people of the supreme court” while dalit leader Surendra Nag spoke about the loss of land and livelihood for local people, some of whom have ended up as beggars. One man spoke of how his whole family had been tortured by company goons and they had lost 6 acres of land to the company without compensation.

The project has been racked with controversy from the start, as a spate of recent coverage points out: The Lanjigarh refinery built to process the bauxite from the hills was illegally constructed, the court case presided over by a judge with shares in the company, and the refinery should never have been given permission without including the associated mega mine in impact assessments. The Delhi High Court is also currently investigating the large donations from Vedanta to India’s two main political parties which could be deemed illegal as Vedanta is a foreign (British) company.

A cover story in major Indian glossy Open Magazine in December details evidence of corruption and collusion between Vedanta and the Orissa state government, local officials, judges and the police to force the project through. Meanwhile Vedanta’s chairman and 56.7% owner Anil Agarwal has launched a rare PR crusade claiming that Vedanta ‘have not cut one tree’ and respects and preserves the rights of the protesting indigenous tribe living on the threatened mountain. He sets out his extractive philosophy for India – suggesting that exploration should be drastically increased and regulation decreased to provide for the domestic market for metals and oil.

If Vedanta loses the case to allow state owned company Orissa Mining Corporation to mine the mountain on their behalf they may have to close the dependent Lanjigarh refinery costing them billions. Under enormous pressure from Vedanta the Orissa government has suggested alternative bauxite supplies from a deposit located in a major wildlife sanctuary and tribal area at Karlapat arousing anger and opposition from grassroots groups.

The court’s decision rests on whether the Green Bench of India’s Supreme Court rules the rights of forest dwellers to be ‘inalienable or compensatory’. In view of this, India’s Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo has asked the Environment Minister to ensure the rights of forest dwellers is protected in the spirit of the Forest Dwellers Act.

Speaking about the verdict, Dongria Kond activist Lado Sikaka states: “We will continue our fight even if Vedanta gets permission. Are these Judges above the Law? In effect, they act as if they are. Niyamgiri belongs to us. We are fighting because We are part of it. Our women are harassed and we are called by the police and threatened not to go to rallies. Last month they have been working like Vedanta’s servants.”

Foil Vedanta’s Samarendra Das says:

“Vedanta is not the only mining company that should be de-listed for their corporate crimes. Infamous London listed offenders Lonmin in South Africa, Monterrico in Peru, GCM in Phulbari and Bumi in Indonesia should also be investigated for extensive human rights atrocities.”

Discussion And Reading Team of Socialists, Bhubaneswar (Second meeting) – A report

Discussion and Reading Team of Socialists (DARTS)

On Commodity Fetishism

The second meeting of DARTS was held on 30-12-2011 from 5:00p.m to 7:00p.m. at XIMB, Bhubaneswar. Prof. Raju Das of York University began his talk with a Power Point Presentation on Marx’s theory of ‘fetishism of commodities.’ Fetishism of the commodity, according to Marx, means that ‘the relationships between producers, within which the social characteristics of their labourers are manifested, take on the form of a social relation between the products of [their] labour’. In his talk he explained this idea with a simple example using export-oriented shrimp production in Orissa. The conditions of the shrimp producers, as that of numerous other workers, in Orissa (as elsewhere), are simply bad. The work they perform in producing the shrimp as a global commodity not only fails to fetch them enough money for their daily maintenance. The production process oriented towards producing the maximum amount of exchange value (profit) for the shrimp producers/traders is inscribed on their labouring bodies: chemicals used in the process affect the (women) workers’ fingers so badly that they cannot even eat with their hands. When the shrimps are in the market, every buyer, including the buyer in advanced countries, wants to get the maximum counts of shrimps for every rupee/dollar she has in her pocket. Doing this is in her own material interest. The buyer (who is also a producer of other commodities, be it a service or a physical commodity) does not care about the conditions under which shrimp workers work. And the buyer does not care because her own conditions of work and wage-level, like those of the shrimp-worker, are beyond her own control. So, it is as if shrimps and other commodities start talking in the market. The actual people who produce those commodities are not directly and socially interacting. It is immaterial whether or not people know the conditions of shrimp producers because given their own position they have to command a maximum amount of the commodity (e.g. shrimp) they want for every unit of the commodity they own (or its money form). There exists, in the words of Marx, ‘the social relation between commodities’ and ‘material relation between men.’ In Prof. Das’s words: “commodities rule over us instead of ourselves ruling over articles of use to us.” Relations between commodities replace – or at least, become much more important than – relations between people, i.e. people-as-producers of things-for-use.

Then Prof. Das explained the aspects of Ideology using I.I.Rubin (author of Essays on Marx’s Theory of Value), Terry Eagleton (author of Ideology) and Slavoj Zizek (author of Sublime Object of Ideology). Marx’s ideas of fetishism are connected not only to his ideas about alienation (partly in the sense that fetishism – the rule of commodities over us — happens because of the absence of democratic social regulation over production) but also ideology: the objective reality is such that we think that things for use necessarily have a money-tag and have to be bought and sold (for a profit) and we behave accordingly. The reality – and not (just) our discursive inability to comprehend it – is such that it makes us think that our needs can only be satisfied through commodity exchanges. Commodity fetishism is not our failure of intelligence. It is an intelligent failure. The commodity form hides the real social relations from us. It acts as a veil. And, in the words of Marx: ‘The veil is not removed …. until [the production process] becomes production by associated [producers], and stands under their conscious and planned control’ (Marx). The question is what is to be done to make this happen. Marx, of course, ends Capital Vol 1 with his most definitive answer to the question. Marx’s discussion of the commodity (dealt with in the inaugural meeting of DARTS) and of fetishism clearly shows that if we want to understand the capital and the society it dominates we must understand Marx (and his Capital).

There was an audience from several disciplines – students and teachers of Technology, Literature, Economics, Business Studies, etc. A number of political and civil rights’ activists were also present. Interesting questions were raised and discussed in the meeting. The questions included: ‘What is the distinction between objective and intrinsic in the context of value?’; ‘In a particular village, where people know each other and produce agricultural products and consume them, how is the theory of ‘fetishism of commodities’ relevant?’. What is the distinction between concrete labour and abstract labour, and why is such a distinction important? One perceptive member of the audience and a senior scholar explicitly linked the idea of fetishism to alienation, building on early Marx’s writings.’

There was an active participation as each participant found Marx relevant in her/his field of work and/or area of interest. All the questions posed could not be addressed properly due to the lack of time, which meant that there was a great need for several rounds of discussion on such concepts as the commodity and fetishism.The discussion had to be limited to commodity fetishism; there was no time for a discussion of the other form of fetishism in Marx’s work: capital fetishism.

The DARTS provisional organizing committee has decided to meet on the 29-01-12. The topic to be discussed was proposed to be ‘Labour-power as commodity.’ The time and venue will be conveyed by e-mail.

We collectively hope that we will continue to discuss important ideas of Marx both from the standpoint of their theoretical value and from the standpoint of their ability to shed light on contemporary issues facing the humanity. We also hope that there will be reading teams such as ours in many other cities and towns of Orissa and India.

Bhubaneswar: Discussion And Reading Team of Socialists (DARTS) – December 30

The second meet of ‘Discussion And Reading Team of Socialists'(DARTS) is to be held on the 30-12-2011 at Xavier Institute of Management (XIMB), Bhubaneswar Room No. 229 from 5p.m to 7p.m. In the first meet Prof. Raju Das from York University, Toronto delivered a short talk on the relevance of Marx’s Capital and on Marx’s Labour Theory of Value followed by discussion among the participants. Marx’s Capital is an essential read for activists and intellectuals alike. The analysis of the commodity in the first chapter ‘Commodities’ is, as Marx claims, the point from where he begins his analysis/critique of capitalism (see Marx’s Introduction to first edition of Capital). It requires more effort understanding this chapter than the rest of Capital. Prof. Das, in the second meet of DARTS will deliver a small talk on the last section of this chapter ‘the fetishism of commodities and the secret thereof’ after revisiting the initial section of the chapter. We request you to be present for discussion.

P.S: In the third meet the discussion team is supposed to meet after reading Chapter I (or a part of it — this shall be decided in the second meet). The date, time and venue will be let known via e-mail.

Please send your suggestions to

A Report from ground zero: Preliminary report of the DSU fact-finding visit to Narayanpatna

Democratic Students’ Union (DSU)

A team of students from DU, JNU and IGNOU belonging to the Democratic Students’ Union (DSU) visited Narayanpatna Block in the Koraput district of Odisha from 11 April to 16 April 2011. The objective of the visit was to study the ground situation at present in the region where a militant mass struggle is going on for the last few years, and according to the media reports, has faced extreme forms of state repression. The aim was also to study the socio-economic aspects of the social life of Narayanpatna region, and to look into the factors that have contributed to the emergence of this important peasant struggle in contemporary South Asia.

Narayanpatna is inhabited by sixteen tribal communities including Kui, Parija, Jorka, Matia, Doria and others, of whom the Kuis are numerically predominant. The adivasis, who constitute more than 90 percent of around 45,000 people of Narayanpatna block, are interspersed with Dalit communities such as Mali, Dombo, Forga, Paiko, Rilli, etc. Dominant castes such as the Sundis and Brahmins are numerically small but are powerful and influential. Though the incursion of non-adivasis has a long history going back to the establishment of the Narayanpatna Raj centuries back, the Sundis have entered the district after they were driven away from Coastal Andhra during the Srikakulam armed struggle in the 1960s. The Sundis as well as a small section of Dalits from the Dombo and Rilli castes too have made money by exploiting the adivasis and selling them liquor. The non-adivasis are around 5000 in number, and the ruling elite of Narayanpatna belong to this group. It was also clear to us that the identities such as that of landlord, liquor trader, money-lender and politician are not separate or mutually exclusive, but usually coexist in the members of the dominant classes of the region.

Over the last few years, the poor and landless peasants of Narayanpatna, Bandhugaon, Simliguda, etc. have organised themselves under the banner of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS), and fought back their tormentors the Sundi-Sahukar-Sarkar nexus. Even though CMAS was working in the region for more than fifteen years, it was only in the last three to four years that its anti-liquor movement took a decisive turn. It reached a flashpoint in January 2009 when the rural masses of Narayanpatna not only drove away the liquor traders from their villages, but mobilized themselves in thousands to pursue them to their stronghold, the towns. Four thousand people went to Narayanpatna town and destroyed liquor factories and wine shops, including shops selling foreign liquor. By late 2010, only two liquor shops were running in the entire region, and that too in the block headquarters of Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon where state’s armed forces are stationed. In January 2011 more than 3000 CMAS members destroyed the shop in Bandhugaon town as well. In villages like Baliaput, Mahua trees from which cheap liquor was produced were destroyed under a political programme of CMAS and BAMS (Biplabi Adivasi Mahila Sangha), and today not a single Mahua tree is to be seen in Narayanpatna’s villages. The prohibition in the sale and consumption of liquor was almost total by 2009. The mass upsurge led to the fleeing of landlords and liquor traders from the region, leading to the collapse of this parasitic trade. The villagers narrated how Jairam Pangi, the incumbent BJD MP from Koraput, tried to dissuade the people from the anti-liquor agitation by claiming that it was a part of adivasi culture, custom and worship, to which the people retorted that the very instrument which destroyed their lives cannot be a part of their devotion and sacrifice that is conducted for their common wellbeing.

The success in the anti-liquor movement encouraged the masses to intensify the land struggle. The CMAS led the reclamation of agricultural land from the landlords and sahukars which were tricked out of the adivasis. Within months, we are told, more than 3000 acres of such land were recaptured and distributed among the villages. As a reaction to the growing tide of mass struggle, ‘Shanti Committee’ was formed by the landlords and liquor traders with the active support of the state administration on 4 May 2009. After the successful culmination of the anti-liquor struggle and the intensification of the land struggle by 2009, and particularly after the NALCO raid by the Maoists in April that year, the state repression on the people and their movement was also scaled up. One such incident of state repression was the murder of Wadeka Singana and Nachika Andru at Narayanpatna police station on 20 November 2009, followed by wanton attacks, raids and combing operation in the region, establishing a reign of state terror. Entire village populations are often forced to take shelter in the forests and hills as fugitives. The government has now virtually imposed a seize of Narayanpatna by deploying more than 5000 paramilitary troops including BSF, IRB, CRPF, and hundreds of Special Operations Group commandos, Odisha police personnel and Shanti Committee vigilante forces and closing off all the important entry and exit points to and from Narayanpatna. Rather than addressing the demands of the people, it is mobilising more and more troops to crush the movement.

In the six days of our visit from 11 to 16 April 2011, we interacted with the residents of above twenty villages spread out in the adjacent blocks of Narayanpatna, Bandhugaon, Simliguda, Lakhmipur and Potangi, and visited about twelve of them. Our first stop was Dimtiguda village in the Alamanda panchayat of Bandhugaon block. We passed through the village Jangri Walsa in Kabribari panchayat, where we met the family of Kondahara Kasi who was arrested in 2010 for allegedly being a Maoist. The plea of his wife to meet him in prison has been repeatedly turned down. 14 persons associated with CMAS are presently in jail from this village alone. The next village we visited was Silpalmanda where we were told that Ratnal Madhava was arrested in March 2011 by the Bandhugaon police and a false kidnap case was slapped on him. Village Karaka Itiki under Borgi panchayat was the first village we visited in Narayanpatna, where we heard stories of atrocities committed in the region by landlords, liquor traders, the police and now the Shanti Committee. There we came to know from the villagers that eight out of the thirty houses in Masarimunda village were burnt down by the CRPF in January 2011 after an encounter with the Maoists in the vicinity of the locality. Just a month before this, CRPF personnel destroyed houses in Goloknima village as well after another battle with the Maoists, and looted Rs.8000 from the villagers.

The team could also talk to villagers from Jangri Walsa village. Madan Merika, Poala Malati, Polla Bhima and Seena Mandangi described the attacks from ‘Shanti Committee’ and Bandhugaon CMAS under the leadership of Kedruka Arjun of CPI ML (Kanu Sanyal) party in 2009. They attacked their village in thousands wearing police uniforms and with firearms on the suspicion that the villagers have started to align themselves with the CMAS Narayanpatna Area Committee under its president Nachika Linga. Nariga Poala, Aashu Pirika, Bhima Kedraka, Kasi Kondagari, Muga Poala, Penta Kondagari, Acchanna Poala and Enkanna Poala of this village, many of whom are teenagers, were arrested by the police later that year for allegedly being Maoists, and kept in prison for almost 1½ years, and only recently were they released on bail. K. Suhabsh and K Raman of Keshbhadra village of Bandhugaon block testified to the atrocities committed by the police, the Shanti Committee as well as by the CPIML (Kanu Sanyal) led by Arjun.

In Upar Itiki village we were told that the people have collectively undertaken developmental works under the leadership of CMAS, and rejected the government schemes. Though the pace of the land struggle has been reduced of late due to the intense state repression, the villagers have continued to undertake developmental works with their own initiative. They have completed 7 big irrigation projects in the last two years, and three are under construction as one we witnessed at Boriput village. The Block Development Officer (BDO) tried to distribute money to the villagers for these works, but was refused by the people. In February and March this year the CMAS gave a call to stop all governmental projects in Narayanpatna in protest against the continued atrocities by the state’s forces including arrests, torture, forcible detention, etc. and demanding a halt to Operation Green Hunt and withdrawal of armed forces. As a result of the call, all projects such as NREGA, PDS, Indira Avash Yojana came to a halt in the entire region for two months. The influence of NGOs, which was rampant till the CMAS movement became popular, has also considerably waned, with very little presence now in Narayanpatna block.

The land reclaimed by the CMAS in Manjariguda village under Borgi panchayat was shown to us, where the villagers have collectively cultivated 14 acres of irrigated land. We are told that in this village individual plots have not been distributed to the landless peasants so far, but will be done in the near future. Subbarao Somu, Sitala and Kanta from Langalbera village who belong to the Dombo Dalit caste, testified that poor people from both adivasi and dalit communities have benefitted from the peoples’ struggle against liquor and for land. He said that dalits inhabit two of the nine panchayats of Narayanpatna – Borgi and Langalbera panchayats. They said that there was no truth in the misinformation campaign that the struggle has harmed the dalits, and that there has been an exodus of dalits from villages in the wake of the movement. Somu said that around 50 families from only two villages of Gumandi and Podaradar have fled after the land struggle started. He said that most of them were involved in the liquor trade and were working against the interests of the adivasis. Dinabandhu and Simadri from Borgi village informed that the six landless Dalit families in their village have received 3 acres of land in March 2011 from CMAS, and have irrigated the land by putting community labour. Simadri said, “Those among Dalits who have garnered wealth and become politicians tried to instigate a contradiction between adivasis and dalits, but the poor have no contradiction. The poor dalits of entire Narayanpatna supports CMAS are in the struggle.” Gumpa Vidika, a dalit worker who is presently the spokesperson of CMAS and is hiding from the state in fear of arrest, also talked of the class unity between the adivasis and dalits forged by this struggle in spite of the repeated attempts to pit one against the other.

We were informed that 171 villagers connected to the CMAS have been arrested so far, out of the 637 adivasi political prisoners jailed in entire Orissa. We heard narrations of recent attacks by the paramilitary and police forces deployed in the region on the villages. The police entered Dakapara village on the night of 4 April 2011and beat up villagers including Sirka Sika and Sirka Rupaya whom we spoke to. They looted Rs.5000 and Rs.2500 respectively from the two villagers. On a previous occasion, the government’s forces attacked Sirka Bina’s house on 1 January 2011, detained him and forcibly took him to the police camp, tortured for many hours and released him the next day. His wife’s gold ornaments were also taken away by them. The team members interviewed Sonai Hikoka of Dumsili village whose husband Sitanna Hakoka was taken away by policemen from Lakhimpur police station in November 2010 along with two others. While Kaila Taring and Sodanna Himbreka, the other two villagers have been released by police, there is no trace of Sitanna as yet. The police denied that they arrested him. She filed a Habeas Corpus application in the Odisha High Court, but her plea has been rejected recently by the court reposing full trust on the police’s affidavit. Sonai says that her crops, grain, and cattle were looted by the goons of Shanti Committee when she went out to attend the court hearings. We visited Baliaput village where we saw the dilapidated houses of Nachika Linga and Nachika Andru which were burnt and destroyed by Shanti Committee goons. We met Nachika Taman who spent more than a year in jail for allegedly being a Maoist, and were released in bail just a week ago, while Nachika Sanjeeva of his village is still languishing in Koraput jail. In addition, two of the undertrials were killed by the police through third-degree torture, and later it claimed that they have committed suicide! Other prisoners are being subjected to regular beating and harassment, and many have sustained grievous injuries at the hands of the police and paramilitary forces. And these are only a few instances which were brought to us by the villagers of the region during our six days’ of interaction.

The team interviewed Nachika Linga, the president of CMAS Narayanpatna Area Committee, and the ‘most wanted’ person for the police at present. He informed us that the movement has moved beyond the narrow limits of fighting for economic demands, and have held the present political system to be responsible for the marginalization of adivasis and the poor peasantry. We were told that the election boycott call given by the Sangha during the assembly elections in 2009 was highly successful in Narayanpatna, with very few votes being cast. He also informed us that CMAS has been able to form its organisation in every village of Narayanpatna block, and is spreading its base to the adjoining blocks as well. Linga told that in spite of severe repression, the people have been able to defend the gains of the movement by resolutely depending on their collective strength, by fortifying self-defence mechanism through the formation of Ghenua Bahini, the mass militia of CMAS, and by educating the people in political struggle. We also talked to the president and secretary of BAMS, who told us about the overwhelming response of the women of the region to the anti-liquor struggle waged by CMAS, which enthused them to form a separate women’s organisation. BAMS have fought against the patriarchal relations and customs within the adivasis such as the two-wives system, and have achieved considerable success in their endeavor.

The presence and role of the Maoists in Narayanpatna have also come under discussion in the media in the past, and this was one of the aspects we wished to investigate. From our interaction with the political activists of the region, we learnt that the Maoist movement started in Koraput from 2003, and soon garnered support from the poor peasantry of the district. We are told that the movement has grown to the extent of giving shape to embryonic forms of peoples’ power to take place of the exploitative state power by forming Revolutionary Peoples’ Committees (RPCs) covering two panchayat areas of Narayanpatna block. The RPCs are presently concentrating their energies in three heads: self-defence, agricultural development, and health & education. The Maoist party seemed to have roots among the working masses, and have so far been successful in withstanding the armed assault of the state. The state, alarmed by the spread of the movement, has sought to use brute force, and thereby further isolating itself from the people.

The Narayanpatna struggle, we came to realise, is one of the most important but least known movements of our times, and the corporate media as well as the statist academia has played their roles in presenting it in a distorted form. We appeal to the media, academics and the people at large to visit Narayanpatna and expose the crimes committed by the Indian state on its people, fighting for their inalienable right to land, livelihood and dignity. The fact-finding team wishes to bring out its experiences in Narayanpatna in a detailed report in the coming days, so as to act as a corrective to such media misinformation, to give voice to the peoples’ concerns and bring out the reality which the Indian state so desparately wishes to hide.

The DSU Fact-finding team reiterates its solidarity with the peoples’ movement of Narayanpatna, and makes the following demands to the Indian government:

1. All the 171 prisoners associated with the Narayanpatna struggle must be released unconditionally and immediately. The state must ensure that the illegal arrests, torture and killings of people in custody must be stopped in Narayanpatna.
2. Cases against the office-bearers, activists, members and sympathizers of CMAS, BAMS and other mass organisations must be withdrawn, and these organisations must be allowed to work freely without fear of attack or persecution. The ‘Most Wanted’ warrant on Nachika Linga by the police must be withdrawn, and he be allowed to perform his duties as the president of CMAS freely, without any fear of intimidation and arrest.
3. The personnel of the state’s armed forces who are responsible for the loss of lives and property of the people of Narayanpatna must be punished, and the people who suffered their atrocities must be compensated by the government.
4. The paramilitary and police camps in Narayanpatna must be withdrawn immediately.
5. The vigilante organisation called Shanti Committee must be disbanded, and their members be punished for their crimes.
6. The land reclaimed by the adivasi people of Narayanpatna under the leadership of CMAS must be recognized by the government.
7. The rights of the adivasis over their land, water, and forests and minerals must be ensured, and they must be provided with the basic necessities such as healthcare, education, drinking water, etc.
8. Journalists, intellectuals, academics, activists and all those who are interested to visit Narayanpatna and interact with the people must not be prevented from doing so by the government, and it must ensure their free movement to and from any part of Narayanpatna and Koraput.

Members of the DSU Fact-finding Team:

Kuldeep, DU,
Kundan, IGNOU,
Manabhanjan, JNU
Ritupan, JNU
Sourabh, DU

POSCO: A Lie Repeated Three Times Does Not Become The Truth


Odisha Government Repeats the Same Old Lies in “Assurance” to Environment Ministry

Today the Odisha government sent a “categorical” assurance to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, claiming that no one in the proposed POSCO project area is eligible under the Forest Rights Act. The Ministry’s request for a “categorical assurance” came after two Committees had already exposed that the Odisha government had lied on this matter.

The latest “assurance” repeats exactly the same lies that were told and exposed before – as if there had never been any enquiry committees. The Odisha government has also challenged the Ministry’s interpretation of the law as well as the Ministry’s own orders.

For instance:

– The government continues to say that the area was “wasteland” and therefore the people are not forest dwellers. The Odisha government’s own revenue maps of 1928-1929 and the Survey of India in 1929 all clearly show the area marked as “dense jungle” and “miscellaneous jungle.” These were brought out by the POSCO Enquiry Committee. Does the Odisha government believe that its own maps are forgeries?

– The government claims that it “implemented” the Forest Rights Act by calling palli sabha meetings in March 2008; and, in just one meeting in each village, apparently the Act was explained, the forms and records supplied and the people trained. But, as per their own records, the required legal quorum was not met in a single one of those villages, again as exposed by the Enquiry Committee. One of the meeting “records” attached to the assurance – that concerning the village of Govindpur, where a large part of the forest land lies – shows a total of 34 people attending this meeting. Is this what the Odisha government has to show for implementation? A single meeting of 34 people, which is not a valid meeting under any law and certainly not under the Forest Rights Rules?

– Moreover, what has happened to the claims filed since by the people of the area? Who gave the Collector the unilateral power to decide who is eligible in this area? In what sense is this within the law?

– The Odisha government not only has contempt for the law – it also has contempt for the Environment Ministry. Despite being explicitly instructed in the January 31st order that people are not required to be cultivating for 75 years to be eligible, it says they do. It has tried to act as if the Ministry’s own orders and conditions do not exist, saying that FRA implementation and consent of the gram sabhas are not required – when, in addition to being required by law, the Ministry itself made these an explicit condition for this project. Finally, the government has not bothered to reply to a single one of the legal points made in any of the representations forwarded by the Ministry to it, except for disputing the validity of some resolutions.

Every single claim that the Odisha government makes in this assurance has been proven false by us, by political leaders, and by two official Enquiry Committees. There is not a single shred of new evidence in this “assurance”. Moreover, the proof that it is a bunch of lies is already with the Ministry.

The question now before the Environment Ministry is simple. Is it going to continue colluding with a State government that has demonstrated its utter contempt for law, truth and people’s rights? Is it going to grovel before a State government that challenges its interpretation of law and ignores its orders? Is it going to tell the nation that it will ignore lies when they stare it in the face?

Less than a week after claiming that it is going to battle corruption and remove scams, is the UPA government now going to yet again throw the law to the winds for the sake of vested interests and a private company? Is it going to show again that it is just a front for money and muscle power? Whatever the answer may be, the struggle of the people will go on.

Prashant Paikray
Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti

Documents: Discussion between Orissa Govt and the Maoists

PDF Copies of the Documents

1. Discussion_with_Maoist_Interlocutors
2. Discussion_with_Mediators1
3. Discussion_with_Mediators2

The POSCO “Green Signal”

Campaign for Survival and Dignity

On January 31st the Environment Ministry finally gave its long delayed decision on the POSCO project. The brazen chicanery of this decision is already well known. It asks the Orissa governmen,t already caught lying, to lie again, and promises a forest clearance in exchange; it imposes wonderfully meaningless conditions, such as the craven request that the company “voluntarily sacrifice” water which does not belong to it; and it violates the Forest Rights Act, the Forest Conservation Act and the Environment Protection Act. All this is hardly surprising from a government that has shown time and again that it cares a fig for the rights of people.

But the true message of this decision has nothing to do with the “environment” alone. It is quite simple: when a government is faced with real democracy, when it confronts organised people’s power, it will brush aside law, constitution and environment to destroy it. POSCO, the government and the business media all agreed on one point – how could they possibly accept that people themselves could decide on the fate of a project? How could they tolerate the idea – now required by law – that the project could not take forests and forest lands without the consent of the local community? Bring on the guns and the numbers – 51,000 crores, etc. etc. – to justify brazen illegality. Never mind that an international study exposed that this project will destroy far more livelihoods than it creates. Never mind that an official enquiry committee said “such attempts, if allowed to succeed, will result in neither development nor environmental protection, but merely in profiteering.” Who needs to know the facts when bigger issues are at stake. The key question that jarred our nation’s “best minds” was – who are these people to say we cannot take their resources? So what if the law is on their side?

Today land and forests are too important to be left to democracy and the rule of law. Even as the resource grabbing proceeds apace, a great charade has been played out in the media between our supposedly “green” Environment Minister and our supposedly “anti-green” industrialists, all of whom, however, agree at the end: they must control the decisions, not the people. Even when they don’t, they will act like they do; thus, after six years of determined people’s resistance to POSCO, the entire media today talks as if the only opponent of POSCO in India was the Minister. January 31st exposed this “debate” for what it always was: a farcical dance between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. On the one side, a Ministry whose only consistent act has been to deny people’s rights; on the other, a big business class that knows only too well that the state is on its side (as a CII representative said, “We know most clearances get through”) but likes to deflect the debate away from the issues and on to personalities.

After the Vedanta mining decision, we called it “a victory for the heroic struggle of the Dongaria Kondhs and for the spirit of democracy; and a betrayal, because the government will not comply with its own words.” That betrayal has come true today. Whatever law, democracy and human rights exist in this country are a reflection of the struggles of people. The “rule of law” is upheld by resistance, not by the state. The same is true of environmental protection; it was people’s resistance that stopped Vedanta and it is people’s resistance that will stop POSCO. At least now let us not hear of “green” Ministries and caring policies; the mask has been torn off to show the face of pitiless greed underneath.

A “Green Signal” for the Rape of Justice and the People: Environment Ministry Decision on POSCO


Jairam Ramesh and the UPA government have shown their true colours with their decision today on the POSCO project. Ignoring the reports of its own advisory bodies and enquiry committees, violating its own orders and the laws of the land, this Ministry has shown that the naked face of corporate greed – not the “rule of law”, the “aam aadmi”, “inclusive growth” or any of these other lies – is what rules this country. The decision today can be summarised in one sentence: “Repeat your lies, give us promises that we all know are false, and then loot at will.”

We repeat: we will not give up our lands, our forests and our homes to this company. It is not the meaningless orders of a mercenary government that will decide this project’s fate, but the tears and blood of our people. Through the road of peaceful demonstrations and people’s resistance we have fought this project, in the face of torture, jail, firings and killings. If this project comes it will come over our dead bodies.

We note the following about today’s decision:

  • The Orissa government has been asked to give an “assurance” that the people of the area are not forest dwellers under the Forest Rights Act, after which the “final forest clearance” will be granted. The Orissa government has already lied on this count on numerous occasions. Indeed, the majority report of the POSCO Enquiry Committee said “The Committee finds that the government’s own records such as census reports and voters list confirm that there are both other traditional forest dwellers (OTFD) and forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes in the project area and the statement of the District Collector of Jagatsinghpur to the contrary is false” (para II.1, Conclusions and Recommendations). Even the dissenting member agreed that the Act had not been implemented. The same finding had been reached by the subcommittee of the Saxena Committee earlier. After the Ministry’s own enquiry committees have found the Orissa government guilty of lying, what is the meaning of saying the project can proceed if the liars repeat their lies?
  • This Ministry has earlier made a song and dance of respect for people’s views and environmental laws. Under the Forest Rights Act, the consent of the gram sabhas of the area is an essential requirement, and this was confirmed by the Ministry’s own order. Three different committees – the Saxena Committee, the POSCO Enquiry Committee and the Ministry’s own Forest Advisory Committee – all therefore said the clearance should be withdrawn. The Minister today claims that the project can go ahead if he and the Orissa government decide they want it to. So much for the law and for people’s rights.
  • On the environment clearance, we recall again the words of the majority Enquiry Committee, which said “Potentially very serious impacts …have not even been assessed, leave alone planned for…. The cavalier and reckless attitude of the concerned authorities to such potentially disastrous impacts is horrendous and shocks the collective conscience of the Committee….There appears to be a pre dominant belief that conditionalities in the EIA/ CRZ clearances are a substitute for comprehensive evaluation and assessment of the environmental impact by the authorities. Imposing vague conditionalities seems to be a way out for the various agencies from taking hard decisions on crucial issues.” Again, it is not us who said this – it is the Ministry’s own Committee! And yet this is exactly what the Minister has chosen to do.
  • Independent reports and studies by reputed academics have confirmed what we have always said – this project will be of no benefit to anyone except POSCO’s profit margins. But yet we find this being called a project of “strategic importance.” To whom?
  • Today the veil stands ripped open; the government stands exposed before the nation, a mercenary willing to put its regulations, officials and security forces at the disposal of the highest bidder. Let the UPA and the Central government answer: where is the rule of law today, in the name of which you crush struggles across the country? Where is your much vaunted love for the people and for the environment? What do you stand for if not for corporate greed?

    Slum dwellers in Bhubaneswar fight the police – A Report


    Two hundred and fifty-nine families (1195 people) resided in sixty year old Narayani Basti (slum near Unit 8 DAV School, Bhubaneswar) till the 29th of January 2011. On the 29th of January 2011, ten platoons of police with 9 platoons armed force and DCP and Commissioner of police went into the region and demolished the slums. Slum dwellers protested and many of them were seriously injured in their struggle against local goons and police who assaulted women. The police arrested hundred slum dwellers which included forty nine women. These women were kept locked in a van and were not allowed to leave the van for any reason. On the 30th of January local goons present did not allow either food or water to reach these people after they forcefully returned to their slums. Food prepared by the people from outside (Basti Suraksha Manch) was also not allowed to reach these people. The people organized themselves and started throwing stones at the local goons to get some time to collect and store food. Dodgers came again but this time failed to oust the organized masses. The people of the slums have now decided to take up arms (anything they have at their disposal, hammers, knives, etc) against anyone who tries to come to attack them.

    Courtesy: The Hindu

    These people living in the slums of Narayan Basti have been attacked by the police without Notice several times before. For the first time it happened in 16th of December, 2009 and since then there has been continuous opposition by slum dwellers against any attack by the forces of the Government. Through protests, they have been able to force dodgers back that had come to demolish the slums and this they have been able to do for about seven to eight times. The recent attacks before the demolition were made continuously from the 10th to 14th January, 2011.

    There are several such slums in Bhubaneswar who fear demolition and the Basti Suraksha Manch of Bhubaneswar is playing a leading role in organizing these people. According to the Basti Suraksha Manch, the demolition of these slums is illegal. According to Orissa Municipal Corporation Act Chapter 21, slums are classified as Tenable (which can’t be moved to other places) and Untenable (which can be moved to other places). The Narayan Basti slum is declared Tenable according to this act with its code being 3301 (every slum has a code). In spite of their having tenable status, the Government doesn’t even give alternative accommodation, rather, has a ‘transit house’ (about three kilometers away in Niladri Vihar) where these people will be given accommodation for 15-30 days only and will be left to their own. One can judge how the Government sees its people when one finds that these transit houses have two toilets for two hundred families.

    The following is a copy of the letter written to Chief Justice of Orissa High Court:

    The Honourable Chief Justice
    Odisha High Court, Cuttack
    Sub: Pray for justice


    49 women of Narayani Basti (Khandagiri PS, Bhubaneswar) are illegally detained in the Khandagiri PS at night(after sunset) on dtd.29.01.2011. Who were forcibly evicted from their slum in spite of High court judgment in writ petition(C) No. 11667/2010 and writ petition(C) No. 12723/2010.

    You are therefore, requested to kindly intervene the matter in the interest of justice.

    Yours faithfully,

    Pramila Behera
    Plot No. 1819 (opp N6/10)
    IRC Village, Bhubaneswar-15

    Nisan Sammelan 2010, Bhubaneswar: A Report


    On the 21st of November, 2010, a meeting was organized in Bhubaneswar by the leading leftist cultural magazine in Oriya, Nisan. The meeting was supported by several other left, Lohiaite and Gandhian groups. It was held under the banner of Nisan Sammelan — 2010 with a discussion on “CULTURAL RESISTANCE: WAR ON PEOPLE IN CORPORATE INTEREST.” Twenty-six tribal organizations participated in the meeting with each of them discussing problems that they are facing in the ongoing struggles in their regions. Incidents of police atrocities, rape, false arrests were made public in the meeting. The police in their bid to stop the tribals from reaching Bhubaneswar harassed them at several railway stations. A group comprising of thirty members which was supposed to come from Kashipur was arrested.

    The groups unanimously decried the attempts by the State and capitalists to displace or alienate them from their resources and they shared their experiences of struggle in front of a gathering of about 5000 people. The tribal organizations called for intensifying solidarity efforts and a close coordination among various organizations to confront the state which has instrumentalised itself as the blatant political wing of corporate capital, branding all struggles for popular self-determination as Maoist.

    The invited speakers included writer-activist Arundhati Roy, revolutionary Telugu poet Varavara Rao, Oriya novelist and short story writer Bibhuti Pattnayak, veteran journalist Rabi Das, poet Kumar Hasan, poet Rajendra Panda, advocate and human rights activist Biswapriya Kanungo and noted Gandhian Prafulla Samantara .

    Arundhati Roy while arriving at the venue was greeted by about 7-10 ABVP cadres with black flags protesting against her visit. Tribals, with their lathis chased them away. It is noteworthy that all prominent local and national bourgeois newspapers have presented this local communal hooliganism against the Kashmiri struggle as a major incident.

    Arundhati Roy

    In her speech Arundhati Roy, after facing the ABVP cadres outside, talked about patriotism nurtured in the struggles of indigenous peoples led by the anti-hegemonic forces of various ideological hues. Varavara Rao too spoke about the relevance of tribal struggles and drew an analogy between such struggles and anti-US imperialist struggles of the oil rich regions of the Middle East. He said that the tribal struggles were results of oppression of the state which wanted to take away whatever means of livelihood they had. He asked not to analyse these struggles just on the basis of their formal contours, rather they must be understood in terms of what provokes them. He spoke about the relevance of revolutionary violence which he interpreted to be a tool to fight structural violence of the system.

    Varavara Rao

    The speakers revealed the truth of peoples’ struggles and their spirit against the state’s insistence to “massacre every revolt that makes sense.”