The South Asian Life & Times - SALT   
  Spring 2014          



 Spring 2014


Editor's Note

 Arctic to Antarctic
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India Art Fair 2014

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 Magic of Sorcars

 Tino Sehgal

  Nina Davuluri

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 Threatened Tribes

 Tribal Victories 2013

 - Dongria Kondh

 - Jarawas

 - Soliga

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 And the Mountains

 A God in Every Stone

 Beloved Strangers

 I Am Malala 












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Dongria Kondh
Unprecedented triumph for tribal rights

“To the Dongria, Niyam Dongar hill is the seat of their god, Niyam Raja. To Vedanta it is a $2billion deposit of bauxite.”

The Dongria Kondh of India’s Niyamgiri Hills in the state of Odisha have fought a heroic battle against mining giant Vedanta Resources to save their sacred mountain. There are over 8000 members of the tribe, living in villages scattered throughout the Niyamgiri Hills. Vedanta’s plan to mine bauxite on their land would destroy the forests, disrupt the rivers and spell the end of the Dongria Kondh as a distinct people. The Dongria Kondh grow over 100 crops and harvest almost 200 different wild foods, which provide them with year-round, rich nutrition even in times of drought.

The Dongria Kondh have lived in Niyamgiri for thousands of years and their lifestyle and religion have helped nurture the area’s dense forests and unusually rich wildlife. The Dongrias worship the top of the mountain as the seat of their god and protect the forests there. Vedanta Resources wants to mine the bauxite from the top of the same mountain.

Vedanta has been trying to mine Niyamgiri’s bauxite since 2003. The company built a refinery at the foot of the hills before getting legal clearance to mine. Kinari village was completely destroyed to make way for the refinery. Over one hundred families were moved to a settlement known locally as the ‘rehab colony’ - a walled compound of two-room concrete houses, circled with barbed wire. The villagers lost both their land and their means of supporting themselves. Pollution from the refinery caused health problems, livestock diseases and crop damage. The Odisha government’s pollution control board found emissions from the refinery to be ‘alarming’ and ‘continuous’. In 2012, the refinery was closed due to lack of bauxite.

In April 2013 the Supreme Court of India ordered consultations amongst the tribal members and told Vedanta that the Dongria would decide whether to allow mining or not – on the basis that their religious, cultural and social rights would be jeopardized if mining were to go ahead.

 In August 2013 the Dongria Kondh overwhelmingly rejected plans by Vedanta Resources to mine bauxite in their sacred Niyamgiri Hills. Twelve Dongria villages voted unanimously, against Vedanta’s bauxite ambition.  It was an unprecedented triumph for tribal rights. The results of the consultations will now be considered by India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests, who will have the final say on the mine.

The Dongria have been praised for their resilient determination to save their Hills. Survival International and its supporters have backed the Dongria’s fight by staging protests, recruiting the support of celebrities such as Joanna Lumley and Michael Palin, and bringing the tribe’s struggle to worldwide attention. Vedanta’s treatment of the Dongria was slammed by the British government, amongst others, and several shareholders such as the Church of England pulled out of the company on ethical grounds.



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