Tag Archives: Niyamgiri

Niyamgiri – An Unending Struggle for Livelihoods and Habitat: Kamal Nayan Choubey


On the 6th of May, 2016 the Supreme Court rejected Odisha government’s petition for conducting Gram Sabha meetings for a second time in villages near Niyamgiri hills for the extraction of bauxite. Earlier, in August 2013, following Supreme Court directions, the Dongria Kondh tribals of Niyamgiri clearly decided in 12 Gram Sabha meetings that they would not give any permission for mining in their place of worship. The Odisha government filed an interlocutory application in February 2016 and argued that situation had changed in that area because mining was now proposed to be done by Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) instead of a joint venture project between OMC and Vedanta. The Odisha government filed the petition to help the Anil Agrawal-owned Sterlite (formerly Vedanta Alumina) company, which wants to extract bauxite from Niyamgiri hill in Kalahandi for its Lanjigarh refinery. The Supreme Court, however, rejected the arguments of Odisha government and accepted the validity of August 2013 Gram Sabha meetings. Now, the Odisha government can claim that it wants to ensure the development of all groups of the state and create more alternatives for marginalized groups like Dongria-Kondhs. The question, however, is whether the Odisha government can claim, on moral grounds, that it has not been working as an agent of corporate capital? What can a marginalized group do when it finds that a democratically elected government is relentlessly working against its interest and violating constitutional provisions? Indeed the Niyamgiri experience has raised many questions not just about the violence caused by dominant ‘development’ model against marginalized adivasi groups, but also about the crisis of constitutionalism and the role of democratically elected government in using/misusing state apparatus for the benefit of capitalists.

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Let us declare that a state of war exists

“Let us declare that the state of war does exist and shall exist so long as the Indian toiling masses and the natural resources are being exploited by a handful of parasites.” Those are not the words of a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), though the film has that too. These words are of Bhagat Singh, revolutionary freedom fighter who has today been appropriated by everybody for their own purposes.

The most remarkable thing about Sanjay Kak’s new film Red Ant Dream is Punjab. Occupying more than a third of the film, its use of the revolutionary sentiment in today’s Punjab takes forward the debate on the Maoist and other resistance movements in India. Instead of getting into the debates around the Maoist movement in central India, the film makes for a powerful document of the how and why the revolutionary ideal lives in India 2013. Continue reading Let us declare that a state of war exists

Creating Happiness – Rijul Kochhar

Guest post by RIJUL KOCHHAR


It is a minute and a half long, and from the moment you see it, you will know that there is something sinister about it—a scenario of forced forgetfulness. It is displacement incarnate, and what is it doing, this aesthetic of obscenity? Is this retribution or charity, or retribution through charity, the developmental discourse of murderous sustainability through erasure? You will be puzzled and worried, harried and then it will make you sleep again in pious numbness, for isn’t the world—its deep blue sky and crystal fluid and cleansing sunlight, and bright flowery faces, its innocent time—just so beautiful! You will find that you cannot respond to it, physically, humanly, for it is not receptive to the organic. It cannot be mediated. It is a ghoul, perched to haunt and hypnotize us out of the memory of its past terrors. You remember, lenore, and wasn’t it to be nevermore? It is an electrical transmission and nothing more, or is it? It is a triumph of pre-postmodern, oily chic, so cloaked in ancient blood, that the blood has caked and turned black and fallen off, revealing the identical colour of the master’s heart, now you see it, now you don’t. The laceration has been hidden by the three-day apoptosis—the extra-cellular matrix, the forgetful memory’s collagen. But you will need to dig outward and inward from here, and very deep. It is there on my screen, this light of blood-lust, “Vedanta: Creating Happiness”, and every time a new or repeated tale from half way across the world is beamed, news every quarter of an hour, this monstrosity accompanies those facts like some leech feeding on reality. You remember Sontag, and isn’t she who had her way with those words: “Now there is a master scenario available to everyone. The color is black, the material is leather, the seduction is beauty, the justification is honesty, the aim is ecstasy, the fantasy is death.”

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A Twist in the Tale, Or, the New Copernican Revolution

Even as the rejection of Vedanta’s application to mine in Niyamgiri is being widely hailed as a victory for tribal rights, there is of course one set of very predictable voices, which has leapt in to start damage control for their corporate heroes. Thus one such cheerleader of Capital tells us that the ‘real twist’ in the script is that the ‘denial of bauxite mining in Niyamgiri’ can mean disaster for the future of a poor region and a poor state!

On the other hand, a statement by the Campaign for Survival and Dignity – a platform of tribal and forest dwellers’ organizations from all over the country has hailed the decision, arguing that: “The project’s main problem was that it violated the Forest Rights Act’s provisions requiring ‘recognition of habitat and community forest rights’ and the consent of the gram sabha prior to taking forest land. This sounds like technical legalisms. But the basic point is that, under the law, the Dongria Kondhs have the power to protect and manage their forests and lands. Simple, but unprecedented; it has never happened before.”

For our scribe however, the “really nuanced” stories of Niyamgiri are not those of the tribals and forest dwellers. They come from “the likes of Raju Sahu who came from Bihar to Kalahandi 10 years ago and runs four tea/food stalls on the state highway that links Lanjigarh – where Niyamgiri and the Vedanta factory are situated – to Bhawanipatna, the district HQ”.  Sahu apparently told our journalist-investigator that his business has more than trebled in the last four years since Vedanta started operations there. This is true for any big economic enterprise that gets set up – a large number of small businesses sprout up around it. There would be as many stories about poor people who benefited from the life that grew up around say, giant public sector units – the end of which is celebrated by these cheerleaders of Capital.  Will the perishing of those small businesses as a fall-out of the closure of PSU’s be accepted by our nuanced story-teller as a justification for the continuation of PSU’s? Never. For we know that there are always different standards for judging the merits of corporate marauders. You can tell even before you start reading a column by a Shekhar Gupta or a Tavleen Singh or a Saubhik Chakrabarti, what is coming – be it Niyamgiri, Bhopal and Union Carbide, the loot of the Commonwealth Games or the studied silence on matters relating to DIAL and GMR. And sometimes, just sometimes, we happen to know why…

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