Open letter to the writers attending Vedanta JLF London 2016

 

Open letter to the writers attending Vedanta JLF London 2016

from Niyamgiri mountain to the river Kafue

calling Vedanta to justice

12th May 2016

 Dear All,

We are deeply shocked and dismayed 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 and 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?

calling vedanta to justice

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 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, 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 rejected by the Supreme Court again on May 6, 2016. Vedanta Aluminium Ltd had built the 1 mtpa Lanjigarh refinery at the base of the Niyamgiri hills in 2004, and even expanded it six fold, despite having no permission to mine bauxite from the hills above. Vedanta's launch on the London Stock Exchange in 2003 was based on the impression given to financiers that they had permission to mine Niyamgiri.

lingraj azad commentIn Goa, India, Vedanta's iron ore mining subsidiary Sesa Goa (now Vedanta Limited) was the largest company 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.

Not far from Jaipur itself Vedanta is accused by an employee's union of casualising and de-unionising the labour force at Hindustan Zinc Ltd by reducing permanent workers to only 2,500 of 18,000 workers. The Maton Mines Mazdur Sangh (Maton Mines Workers Union) is also opposing Vedanta for poor working conditions and destruction of crops and houses around their phosphate mines. Meanwhile, on 11th May 2016 Anil Agarwal promoted Sterlite Technologies announced its successful bid to to run a second 'smart city' project in Jaipur.

Vedanta has been attempting to create favourable public opinion by sponsoring International Film Festival of India (IFFI), the 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.

subash kulesikaThe 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. As public figures, we believe that writers and artists 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.

Yours sincerely,

~ Anu Ramdas, Editor, Round Table India

Naren Bedide (Kuffir), Editor, Round Table India

Courttia Newland, writer

Dr. Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar
Medical doctor and author, Jharkhand, India

Firoze Manji, former Editor, Pambazuka News

Gladson Dungdung, Activist, Author

Arao Ameny, Founder of Association of African Journalists & Writers

Neetisha Xalxo

V.Divakar, Editor, The Baroda Pamphlet

Sruthi Herbert, Doctoral Candidate, SOAS

Ashley Tellis, writer, lecturer, activist

Akash Poyam, Founding Editor at adivasiresurgence.com

Surya Shankar, Filmmaker

Ashutosh Wasnik, senior human resources analyst at SaskPower, govt of Saskatchewan, Canada

Gaurav Somwanshi, Entrepreneur

Akshay Pathak, Writer

Cathal Healy-Singh, Environmental Engineer, Trinidad & Tobago

Atul Anand, Researcher & Documentary maker

Alex Lubin, Professor, University of New Mexico

Rafiq Kathwari, poet

Hemant Divate, poet, editor, publisher and translator

Amrit Wilson

Murali Shanmugavelan, Researcher, Media and Anthropology, SOAS

Madhusree Mukerjee, writer

Shiv Prasad Joshi, Poet-Writer, Translator, Media Teacher, Journalist

 Wayne Kublalsingh, writer

 Anitha Thampi, Poet

 Hartman de Souza, writer, theatre director, teacher

 Sukant Chandan, Malcolm X Movement

Kavita Bhanot, writer

Manju Rajak, Artist

Gouri Patwardhan, filmmaker

Aflatoon, All India Organisational Secretary, Samajwadi Janaparishad

Vinay Shende, HR Professional

Nilesh Kumar, PhD Researcher, TISS

Vijay Chandra, Telugu poet

 Sruti Bala, Asst. Professor, Theatre Studies, Univ of Amsterdam Netherlands

Dharma Teja, Dalit Camera

Satwinder Kaur, activist

Mangalesh Dabral, The Public Agenda (Hindi fortnightly), poet, journalist

Asad Zaidi, writer and publisher, Three Essays Collective

Sufi Hussain, Anthropologist & Coordinator DST at Dalit Sujaag Tehreek

Sir Julian Rose, author and President of International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside

Ujjwal Bhattacharya, Journalist and Writer.

Professor Patrick Bond – Centre for Civil Society, Johannesburg

Charu Soni, independent journalist & writer

Pamela Gonsalves – Save Goa Campaign

Amita Kanekar

Ananta Dash

Rollie Mukherjee, Artist & writer, Vadodara.

Tariq Mehmood, writer, Assistant Professor, American University, Beirut

Vinita Damodaran, Director, CWEH, University of Sussex

Saransh Gautam, IT Professional

Prameya M, Ph.D student

Vaibhav Wasnik, postdoctoral researcher, Saarland University, Department of Physics

Pinak Banik, Artist and Teacher

Stalin K., Director, Video Volunteers

Priyadarshini Ohol, Artist

Abhiyan Humane, Artist and Teacher

Priyabrata Mahapatra, IT Professional

Subash Kulesika, Youth Leader, Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti

Rebecca Oliner, Artist

Devangana Kalita, Foil Vedanta

Amarjit Chandan, poet

Taru Dalmia, the ska vengers

Samara Chopra, the ska vengers

Mohinder Singh, Assistant Professor, Political Science JNU

James Michael, writer

Surya Vahni Priya Capildeo, poet

 Nabina Das, poet and writer

Nitasha Kaul, author academic and activist

Balvinder Banga, writer

Samantha Asumadu, Media Diversified

Koonal Duggal, Researcher, Department of Cultural Studies, EFL University

Ganesh Digal, Odisha Research Scholars For Social Justice (ORSSJ)

Roshan, Odisha Research Scholars for Social Justice (ORSSJ)

Rajesh Bagh, Odisha Research Scholars for Social Justice (ORSSJ)

 James Nyasulu, community activist and pollution affected person, Chingola, Zambia.

William Chitundu, KCM former miners, Zambia.

Jonathan Mbewe, Residents of 1st Street against Pollution, Chingola, Zambia.

Miriam Rose, Foil Vedanta

Samarendra Das, Foil Vedanta

Richard Solly, London Mining Network.

Alfredo Quarto, Executive Director, Mangrove Action Project

 Kofi Mawuli Klu, PANAFRIINDABA Grassroots Pan-Afrikan Community Advocacy, Research and Think Tank, London, United Kingdom

 Rabinarayan Pradhan, Sr.sub editor, The Prameya, Odisha

 Rumana Hashem, Bangladesh National Committee

 Lyla Mehta, Professor , Institute of Development Studies, UK

 Ananya Chakravarti, Assistant professor of history, Georgetown University

Zuky Serper, artist, Foil Vedanta

Amarjit Singh, activist

Charu Soni, independent journalist & writer

Swayambar Naik, Researcvh Scholar, ORSSSJ

Rohith Jyothish, Student, JNU

John Hutnyk, Professor, National Chiao Tung University

Anandi Ramamurthy, University of Central Lancashire, School of Journalism Media & Communication

Eye Art Collective

Siddhartha Deb, author

Biswajit K. Bora, Assistant Professor, Dept. of English, Shyama Prasad Mukherji College (for Women) University of Delhi

Ravinder Singh

Sushil Kumar Jain

Stefan Kaye, The Ska Vengers

Sumit Mahar, Community Media Student, TISS Mumbai

Raghavendra Rao, Srishti, School of Art, Design and Technology, Visual Artist

Shyamolie Singh, MA student, JNU

Manohar Naga, Ex teacher, University of Hyderabad

Shreya Sinha, Doctoral Candidate, SOAS

Dr. Rashmi Varma, University of WarwickSonal Chunarkar

Dhanu River

Aditya Sinha

Phiroze Vasunia

Metis Bishwaroopa

Harmony Siganporia

Nagesh Anand

Madhuresh Kumar

Uma Murugan

Teja Pusapati

Pratham Sagar

Alex Steele

Chandra Shekhar A.K

Harsh Punja

Laurel Fredrickson

Tarun Bhartiya

Ujjal Banik

Jeffrey Blehar

Stephen Cowden

Ajin K Thomas

Amla Pisharody

Jeni Hunneyball

Karlijn Arts

Gunjan Jain, Textile Designer, Vriksh

Satabdi Mishra, Walking Bookfairs

Ashutosh Panchbhai

M Galberdi

Anette Schreiber

Samudra Saikat

Hazel Jordan, Manager, Alcohol and Drugs Services

Laurèl Hadleigh

Anni Movsisyan

Aniket Chatterjee

Yusuf Musse

Ishan Banerjee

Shefalee Jain

Anuradha Ramanujan

Ifrah Javaid, University of Delhi

Karen Coelho, Madras Institute of Development

Ms. Yanbeni Yanthan, Assistant Professor, Naga Tribal Language Studies, Nagaland University,

Bela Bhatia, Activist, Social Researcher

Anuj Gupta

Rosheena Zehra

Zeeshan Hasan Akhtar, Theatre practitioner and filmmaker

Idris Bhat, Ph.d Philosophy, Jawahar Lal Nehru University.

Tathagatan Ravindran

Jamminlian Vualnam, Manipur Tribals Forum

Gowhar Fazili Researcher from Kashmir Dept. of Sociology, DSE, University of Delhi

Asmita Chaudhuri Sushmita, actiivist and researcher, CPDR and Aaghaaz

Kalpana Wilson, London School of Economics

Saunvedan Aparanti, South Asia Solidarity Group

Ananya Rao Middleton, Cambridge University

Sarbjit Johal South, Asia Solidarity Group

Nirmala Rajasingam, South Asia Solidarity Group

Shruti Iyer, South Asia Solidarity Group

Mridula Koshy, writer and community organizer

~

Readers who wish to express solidarity with the protest may please add their names etc in the comments.

Update: Please visit the Facebook 'Boycott Vedanta JLF London' page for details on the protest planned on 21 May in London.  

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