Saturday, May 21, 2016

MNC-supported Jaipur Literary Festival begins in London following unprecedented "outrage" against Vedanta

Poster calls for boycotting festival
By Our Representative
The top British metals and mining company Vedanta Resources-sponsored Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) began on Saturday in London following a growing number of writers and activist groups showing their displeasure with the sponsorship, calling for a boycott of the high-profile event.
While an open letter, signed by over 100 writers, called upon participating writer to keep away from the festival, questions were being raised about whose ‘freedom of speech’ was being prioritised over others, and about the legitimacy and relevance of the festival itself.
Earlier years’ festivals were sponsored, among others, by DSC Limited, Tata, Shell, Rio Tinto and Coca Cola. The Jaipur festival, set up in 2006, attracts thousands of guests every year to the Indian city of Jaipur, and is billed as the largest free literary festival in the world. JLF has travelled to London for the third consecutive year.
This year’s festival in London has been directed by writers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple, “exoticising Jaipur as the colourful city of Maharajas, elephants, dance and music”, wrote Kavita Bhanot, a top literary expert, ahead of the festival in a scathing article ahead of the meet. ‘James Joyce meets Monsoon Wedding,’ is how Dalrymple described JLF.
Two speakers pulled out of the JLF's London edition just three days  back. They are scientist and broadcaster Aarathi Prasad and K Satchidanandan. The organizers, however, declared, "While we appreciate the concerns of those who have posted the open letter, we remain an open platform that allows for free thought and expression."
Said filmmaker Surya Shankar Dash in a social media post, “So Adivasi writers and activists can’t go to London to speak but all the useless Savarna writers will assemble at Southbank for Vedanta’s shit fest.” Dash was referring to Gladson Dungdung, a Jharkhand based human rights activist who has long been asking ‘difficult questions’ about illegal land acquisition in Adivasi areas.
Dungdung, author of seven books, including “Mission Saranda: A War for Natural Resources in India…”, was on his way to attend a workshop on Environmental History and Politics of South Asia at University of Sussex, when his passport was impounded and he was offloaded from a Delhi-London Air India flight.
Dungdung in his book has questioned what he considers as illegal land acquisition by the state and by multinational companies, such as Mittal, Jindal and Vedanta in India, saying it has led to displacement, pollution of land, air and rivers, and industrial waste, as well as murder, torture, violence.
“Is it a coincidence that Vedanta signed an MoU with the Jharkhand government for an investment of Rs 5,000 crore, and just two days later I was offloaded from Delhi-London Air India Flight?”, Dungdung asked.
Vedanta has reportedly been offered 700 hectares of forestland in Dhobil Ankua reserved forest for iron ore mining, which is one among seven hundred hills in Saranda Forest. “After Niyamgiri Hill”, apprehends Dungdung, “Vedanta is ready to destroy the Saranda Forest, which is the largest Sal Forest in Asia and needs to be preserved to sustain the ecology. We cannot allow them to destroy the forest anymore in the name of economic growth.”
This is likely to happen as, following the successful campaign of the Dongria Kondh tribals in Odisha, Vedanta has been forced to abandon its alumina project in Niyamgiri Mountain.
“How can Vedanta claim to promote Indian literature and culture, when it doesn’t even respect the human rights of Adivasis and ecology?” asks Dungdung. “Vedanta intends to manufacture consent in its favour in order to ensure the loot of the natural resources of India.”

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