One of India’s most isolated tribes, the Dongria Kondh, is preparing to stop British FTSE 100 company Vedanta from mining aluminum ore on their sacred mountain, after police and hired thugs forced protesters to dismantle a barricade over the weekend. About 150 people had blocked the road in Orissa state Oct. 8 when hearing that Vedanta intended to start survey work for the planned mine which would destroy an ecologically vital hill, and the Dongria Kondh’s most sacred site. Vedanta employees visited the blockade repeatedly, threatening the protesters. On Oct. 10 the villagers gave in and took down the barricade, but about 100 are still at the side of the road, blocking traffic when Vedanta vehicles approach.
Vedanta is majority owned by London-based Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal.
Today, Dongria Kondh from all over Niyamgiri, the hill range that would be decimated by Vedanta’s mine, are making arrows and preparing their axes to stop Vedanta reaching their sacred mountain. One Dongria man said, “Now our people are very angry. We have to show the Dongria Kondh power to Vedanta.”
When India’s Supreme Court gave Vedanta the green light in August to mine on Dongria land, around 40 Dongrias used tree trunks to block a road leading into their hills, and held banners reading, “We are Dongria Kondh. Vedanta can not take our mountain.”
The mountain that Vedanta wants to mine is not only the Dongria Kondh’s most sacred site, it is also integral to the entire ecosystem of the hills, enabling the numerous streams and lush forests which sustain the Dongrias to continue to thrive.
Survival International’s director, Stephen Corry, said, “The Dongria Kondh are protecting their land from invaders, who are only interested in plundering the mountain for their own gain. The Dongrias will get nothing from the mine, except destitution and ruin, and Survival will continue to support their resistance to Vedanta.”
From Survival International, Oct. 13
See our last post on tribal struggles in India.