Bratindi started the campaign in 2003, when Vedanta Sterlite – a UK based company - tried to extract bauxite from Niyamgiri. Niyamgiri is an ecologically sensitive and biodiversity rich zone in Odisha, India.
"Niyamgiri bauxite would come at the cost of clean water and pristine forest in an otherwise drought-hit district. It also represents an outright assault on the culture and religion of the indigenous people who live there." "Permitting mining would pave the way for persecution of a minority community and deny legal protection for their religious beliefs," she adds.
The campaigning team worked with more than 8000 most vulnerable primitive tribal communities - Dondria kondh and Kutia Kondh- who have been living in Niyamgiri peacefully for generations. Their life got disturbed when Vedanta acquired the land to set up a bauxite refinery at Niyamgiri foot hill.
"We mobilised people on the ground, fought in court of law – through lawyers, and brought it to the notice of national, international environmental bodies and individuals like Bianca Jagger from UK. We facilitated demonstrations in front of Annual General Body Meetings of Vedanta in the UK for three years. We mobilised media coverage and pressure on Vedanta and both governments (UK and India).
As a result, The Government of India is not able to give mining lease to Vedanta. Niyamgiri and its people are ‘Still Alive’.What is the impact of your action?
People are united to save Niyamgiri. Now they are informed and educated about their situation and future threat. They are more organised to deal with any kind of oppression from outsiders. They are empowered to raise their voice in any forum to protect their rights.
Each time any team (Indian or Foreigner) comes to their village to understand their current situation, and they are able to explain things on their own (through an interpreter). Beforehand, people used to run away at the sight of a vehicle approaching their village. Now they come and ask numbers of questions.
How do you maximise your opportunities?
We took opportunity of contact and network with a wide range of people, movements and struggle groups at local, national and international level. We sensitised and got support and cooperation whenever required.
I am associated with ActionAid, working globally. ActionAid is known for its stand in favour of rights of the poor and the marginalised.
I remained updated on latest developments and acted as a bridge to share all informations related to legal cases, media coverage, and Vedanta strategy to acquire community land, and the public hearings planned with the community.
Through international linkage, I facilitated filmmakers, international visitors and media visits to Niyamgiri and this helped to highlight the plight of the community internationally.
Major shareholders have been influenced to see the reality on the ground, and then make decisions about their investment in Vedanta.
I am a part of Niyamgiri Surakhya Samity at local level, which is a national campaign for survival and dignity, and an associate with Amnesty International. I maximise my work with those associations and cooperations.
BRATINDI JENA | ActionAid India | India