This week I met a lot of interesting people again. One of them was Samarendra Das, an activist from Orissa who single-single handedly is to blame for changing the way UK mainstream media reported about the protests against environmental damage caused by Bauxite mining by Vedanta Resources plc on tribal land in his home state.
I had been watching the developments and was impressed by the support the campaign he was running here in London – Bianca Jagger attended the protest this year, Survival International and Action Aid have started awareness campaigns, and the mainstream media is hugely supportive. How did all of this happen?
And more interestingly, since the owner of Vedanta, Anil Agarwal, is the richest member of the Hindu community and in good standing according to my Hare Krishna friends, why doesn’t anyone talk about this in that community? All I’m aware of from that side is that he’s trying to buy the neighbouring building to the Soho Street temple and convert it into a bigger temple and restaurant. Nobody seems to mind the environmental impact the mining is causing.
There is really good background reporting in the Guardian. Which is interesting, because only 6 years ago, the tone was quite different: “Maoist guerillas and tribal rebels threaten India’s industrial boom”… to this week’s headlines – “Vedanta versus the villagers – the fight for the sacred mountain”
Samarendra brought a folder full of these press clippings, reports, copies of reports… he showed me the letter he wrote in response to this reporting in 2003, which set him on the course which now has him travel the world working to unite the people who are having their environment destroyed by Vedanta.
In the end, I had my questions about the complete disinterest of ISKCON in environmental issues answered, but I had a lot more information than I have space for in this blog. So it all goes here: Niyamgiri Blog
Samarendra Das is speaking today at the LSE – it will also be the launch of the new blog. Watch me get into more trouble.