Open letter to the writers attending Vedanta JLFSouthbank 2016 : Boycott Vedanta JLF Southbank London
On May 21st the high profile Jaipur Literature Festival will take place in Southbank London with Vedanta as its key sponsor. Foil Vedanta and Roundtable India have authored this open letter to the many renowned authors taking part, asking them to boycott the event in view of Vedanta’s criminal activities. The letter has been signed by eminent writers, academics, activists and people directly affected by Vedanta’s criminal activities. A protest will also be held outside the event from 10am to 1pm at the Southbank centre, SE1 9PX, London.
Lingaraj Azad, Convenor of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (Niyamgiri Protection Council) made this statement:
“In the name of promoting Indian literature and culture Vedanta is trying to loot our resources. All its hired writers, intellectuals, actors, sportspersons, etc. will not be able to hoodwink anyone. The so-called ‘illiterate’ have seen through this eyewash from day one. The Dongria Kondh of Niyamgiri have not been fooled by all this and have resisted every attempt of the predator to snatch their resources. It is a shame that these intellectuals and writers have allowed their conscience to be bought off by Vedanta. Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti condemns this Vedanta sponsored literature festival and make an appeal to one and all to boycott all such dubious programmes by Vedanta and rather join the movement of the Dongria Kondh Adivasi against Vedanta.”
Open letter to the writers attending Vedanta JLF London 2016:
from Niyamgiri mountain to the river Kafue calling Vedanta to justice
12th 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.
To sign this open letter, click here.
Photo Courtesy – Flickr