In a way, the story of what's going on around Niyamgiri is the classic story of India. Only we aren't used to seeing dark skinned tribals who have never seen an air-conditioned room as "people like us". Yet, they are stuck in the middle of the most typical melodramatic soap opera that Indian protests could wish for.
If you simply read the details of the case, you'd wonder what the big deal was. Big corporate illegally built a refinery, so wake up law enforcement. Shut it down. The end.
Not so fast.
This is India.
Here, if someone breaks laws and they are rich, a cottage industry springs up to fix it. Usually at the cost of those who won't boost the economy by creating such jobs. So.... [cue dramatic music]
The illegal refinery maker gets a quick makeover, hops onto a convenient white horse brought around by the new liveried stable boy and goes charging in a haze of dramatic lighting, soft focus and a haze of surrealism you only find in films.
Said knight SAVES the wicked people who want to kill him in a classic demonstration of Gandhism. The contrast is ramped up a bit. The wicked tribals must be Maoist supporters or something (at least one TV anchor believes this to be so and went requesting for Lal Salaams).
But no film finishes in the first five minutes, right? So we have the tribals, miraculously rescued from their wretched lives still plotting against the white knight. You know what happens when the bastiwalas are out to lynch the hero. We are a socialist state, and no one buys the film if you call the Bastiwalas the villains. You need a real villain.
This is whoever agrees that the tribals have rights. They are inciting the bastiwalas, who normally would never want to keep their homes when the builder comes with the bulldozers. I mean, doesn't everyone walk out when evicted from their homes? Everyone who are decent folks, that is, not the people who take homes on rent and refuse to vacate.
So anyway, back to these squatters occupying National Property. They should go back to wherever they came from.
Tribals say they came from here. Vedanta came from outside. Now what?
Enter the script writers. Director is screaming "You can't talk about these things. We need to talk development.
D'uh of course.
While they work on the script, let me confess this is a tedious metaphor, because what's going on in Niyamgiri is sinister and not really ending with the credit roll.
What is really happening there is that there is an entity who has simply convinced a lot of powerful people that it is in their interest to declare them the rightful owners of that land. In a manner of speaking. The original inhabitants are now treated as encroachers delaying the true owner from fulfilling the destiny of that land. And there is no one these tribals can trust beyond the few people who agree that they have rights. And those people are being undermined too.
At this point, I don't think who funds the people endorsing the tribal rights is an issue. If they are not Indians, it is a pity that the largest democracy of the world did not have people who believe in rights of citizens and someone had to come from outside to help those people. If the cause is right, the cause is right.
The government is choking funding to NGOs helping its own people, because the NGOs are opposing government sponsored exploitation of the people. They are spreading canards about NGOs running publicity campaigns against the government. As if a government that can get free and unlimited coverage in National media can be "out publicized" by an NGO - no matter how well funded - if they have a clear and reasonable point to make.
But it doesn't work like that. Vedanta is funding political parties. It is funding enough journalists and media houses that they see an encroachment of the environment as the right thing, and not agreeing to being evicted from their irreplaceable home as the wrong thing. It is purchasing bauxite from the government owned corporation. These are a lot of powerful people who only have to murmur for it to echo across the country.
When motivated "reporters" actively go organizing scenes to video and show the world, the tribals are too stupid to understand that they are being framed in a media trial. The tribals do as they are requested - either from the inherent amicability of those living close to nature, or because they are hoping that these big journalists from the city will help them by bringing attention to their cause. Instead, big journalists are there to engineer scenes to show them as enemies of the state.
A government that should care about the rights of its citizen is blatantly helping the encroacher enslave them. We have one ex-lawyer f Vedanta in the Parliament. We have the state government doing all it can to sabotage the hard earned gram sabha hearings by choosing a few villages that give their client the least hostility. And client it is, if Vedanta is paying vast amounts of money to them.
In spite of this, when the first gram sabha categorically refused Vedanta for the entire region, the state representatives tried to return the status quo to a limited area during the hearing itself.
When all 12 gramsabhas refused Vedanta, you had ministers saying that they would figure out Vedanta's bauxite from other places, while Vedanta was scoring publicity points as champions of girls rights, in collaboration with NDTV, whose anchor was setting up scenes to discredit tribals by REQUESTING them to do as she told them to. And they did it, for her. And she broadcast it as their anti-state inclinations.
You have eminent economists waxing eloquent about how Orissa needs Vedanta for development, when Orissa currently has highest revenues from mineral resources out of all states. If mining were to bring development to Orissa, it would have happened already. It doesn't. What those eminent economists say when they are not talking about Niyamgiri and recommending manufacturing as an urgent need to save Indian economy is true. If you sell raw materials and consume finished products, you will stagnate in poverty. Unless your raw good is oil, I suppose. Then you'll be saved by the largest military exporter of democracy in the world. But that is another story.
But here's the deal. A population of sheep fed the "right ideas to think" over a period of time thinks those ideas to be right. If people are not informed that Orissa leads the country in mining and they are simply told that evicting these tribals for mining will finally bring progress to a horribly poor state, they look no further before staunchly going around endorsing the eviction of these tribals for mining. Simple.
Not all that different from telling people that the Kudankulam plant will fix the power shortage in Tamil Nadu, when the total capacity of the built AND INTENDED plants is less than the deficit. When renewable power sources could have covered the deficit completely by now in a fraction of the investment and risk of Kudankulam. Naturally, people who don't know that Tamil Nadu is one of the places in India with the highest potential for wind power (which also installs rapidly) are told that the place cannot progress (there's that word) without a nuclear plant, it is people who *want* the best for the place who get conned into endorsing a highly inefficient solution that hurts the interests of the people they care about.
This is how exploitation takes place. Not all that different from some politician recommending women stay at home to prevent rape, knowing full well that it isn't the solution, but it really works for misogynists to push women back under control in the name of "caring" for them.
I have an ongoing war against disinformation as a tool for exploitation. Know this. 90% of what you see on TV has been put there to control what you think. This is a rape of your rights too. Your "free choice" is only as free as the information you have access to.
Whenever you come across an important issue, discard all current news about it. Go to google news archives, start reading. Don't trust anyone but yourself, or you become a part of the knife collection in the back of these poor tribals who have been stabbed in the back by every single authority who had any power to help them. The government abandoned them. The government conspired to take away their rights. Media abandoned them. Media created mass opinion against their rights. Media even exploited their hospitality and cooperation to get them to unwittingly pose for evidence against themselves. People who should have cared and had the power to add their urban (and thus heard more) voice in protest chose to not examine why their compatriots were being seen as against the progress of the country.
These aren't single knives, but entire categories of knives, repeatedly stabbed in the backs of those simple people who are too stupid to need money at the cost of foregoing living their lives in healthy, clean surroundings, among their extended communities, with some of the most progressive attitudes on gender, conservation and nurture of our planet.
Here is a video. Notice the chubby kids, gender equal society and healthy animals in the fields.
Here is the story of that knife.
At the end of the day, there are people who profit if they can get the rich wealth of these tribals. There are people who don't care enough to ask why someone would give up a better life because some outsiders told them to. It is one thing to incite a mob in a momentary protest. What would it take for someone to deprive themselves and their loved ones for years? And there is you. The one with the internet connection. The one who has nothing to lose if you spend some time idling around finding out why people are so keen on convincing you that other people who refused development for themselves (and no other) are wrong and need to be somehow overcome?
Does your gullibility make you an unwitting soldier against your bretheren?
Will you claim the freedom of your mind?