Attempts to Kidnap Tribal Rights Leader Prafulla Samantara Foiled, Allegations of Corporate Crime

Human Rights Defender, Prafulla Samantara, President, of the  Lok Shakti Abhiyan and Convenor of NAPM was allegedly set upon by goons hired by the Vedanta company on April 6, 2016 and was rescued by the timely intervention of the villagers

There is an appeal to the national media to turn the spotlight on the Koraput district of Odisha where Gram Sabhas of five villages have rejected the proposal of mining of the Niyamgiri hills by Vedanta and where allegations of police-govrnment-criminal nexus is threatening the fundamental rights of Adivasis

This attack on Prafulla Samantara is being seen by human rights activists as a bid to break the back of tribal unity that has stood firm against efforts by the corporate giant to get Gram Sabhas to change their stand on bauxite mining in the region

April 2016
The Supreme Court directed the Odisha government to file a fresh petition on Niyamgiri mining after it had tried the irregular route of filing an interlocutory application to re-open the Supreme Court’s decision on this case without making Gram Sabhas a party. The Odisha government’s move for mining in the Niyamgiri hills received a jolt today with the Supreme Court of India directing it to file a fresh petition making all the affected and interested sides as parties in the application.

February 2016
In February 2016, in a questionable move, Vedanta moved the Supreme to, essentially, re-visit the judgement of April 2013. This application had not even made the Gram Sabhas parties to the application. This move was made through an interlocutory application in the Supreme Court. The historic judgement of the Supreme Court of India, giving primacy to the rights of tribals, the indigenous peoples, can be read here.

November 2015
In November 2015, tribals had united, again to oppose mining in Niyamgiri Hills The Hindu had reported that organisations like Niyamgiri Surakshya Samity (NSS), Lok Sangram Manch (LSM) and All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha (AIKMS) have decided to restart organising people’s movement against alleged attempt of Odisha government to revive proposal of bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hill range. These organisations had played a key role during the agitation of Dongria Kondh tribals against the mining of this hill range. As per some reports in media, the State government is planning to reconvene Gram Sabhas in Niyamgiri region with an aim to get permission for bauxite mining. It may be noted that in July and August 2013, Gram Sabhas had been held in villages of Niyamgiri hill range under judicial supervision because of direction of the Supreme Court. Tribal inhabitants of this region had rejected bauxite mining plan in the region for Vedanta Alumina Limited (VAL).

August 2013
In August 2013, months after the landmark judgement by the Supreme Court, all12 villages in the Niyamgiri Hills of Orissa have rejected Vedanta Resources’s proposal to mine bauxite in the region after a decade-long battle between tribespeople and the London-listed mining company run by NRI Anil Agarwal.All Niyamgiri villages turn down Vedanta’s mining proposal.
April 2013
The April 2013 judgement of the Supreme Court giving tribal rights primacy over corporate mining was hailed as a breakthrough for indigenous people’s rights as well as a step forward for safeguarding the environment, Indigenous (Adivasi) communities will have the final decision on plans for a bauxite mine by a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta Resources in the Niyamgiri hills of Orissa is a landmark victory in recognizing indigenous rights in India, Amnesty International said today. A 670-hectare bauxite mine was due to have been developed on the Dongria Kondh Indigenous community’s traditional lands and habitats which they consider sacred. "The Dongria Kondh community, whose identity is fully dependent on these hills, has been fighting for the survival of their way of life for a decade. The mine would have resulted in violation of their rights as Indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to water, food, health, work, amongst others.

Prafulla Samantara’s Account:

On April 6, 2016, I was returning from village Masiput of Koraput district attending a meeting of people belonging to five villages who have been opposed to mining on a small hill named Dangadeula on which the villagers depend for domestic animal feed, clean water from streams and also fuel for kitchen.

While I was on my way, 10 young goons, allegedly hired by Vedanta Company tried to kidnap me and take me away essentially to prevent me from attending meetings with villagers all opposed to mining by Vedanta. Meanwhile the villagers, after getting information, rushed to the spot and the goons freed me to go.

Again, the same afternoon, some musclemen, known to be involved in antisocial activities came to my room in a hotel in Koraput and threatened me. They warned me against support and solidarity to the local people who have been resisting destructive mining of bauxite on the Dangadeula  hill. I firmly replied that force could not stop me from my active support and solidarity to the people who were once displaced by the Upper Kolab reserviour. The bauxite mining will not only destroy homes and livelihood but will impact on local water streams that will dry up, impacting –not just polluting – the quantity of water in the Kolab reservoir.

I have observed that in many districts of Odisha where my work takes me and where bauxite ore is available, there are repeated attempts from what I believe is the Vedanta Company –and their hired men – to launch attacks on me, physically. This is nothing but a criminalisation of the corporate regime.

This is the fourth time that Vedanta has attempted a physical attack on me and other friends. Meanwhile the government of Odisha is trying to go in for mining in the Niyamgiri Hills, even after the Gram Sabhas of the Donguria tribals had rejected mining after the historical judgement of the Supreme Court in 2013. Simultaneously, police repression is also increasing every day in the Niyamgiri Hills by which innocent tribals who resist Vedanta Company being victimized and even detained and arrested on false charges. There have been even instances of some extra judicial killings.

Each time I have meeting to attend meetings with tribals and their supporters in towns like Bhawanipatna, Koraput, Rayagada, the company’s hired goons and some agents are using intimidation — threats —to conspire to attack me physically. Some top police officers have also been involved in vicious propaganda against me in a bid to mislead other local activists with baseless allegations that I am a Maoist!

This is ridiculous as I take inspiration from the ideology of democratic socialism with ideals Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Rammanohar Lohia, Jayprakash Narayan and Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar. The intention of police officers is to pressurize local activists and populations not to be associated with anti corporate struggle.

This is a cruel example of criminalisation of the police administration for private, corporate profits at the cost of democratic values and constitutional right to life and livelihood.



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