Martin Horwood MP, Chair of the all-party parliamentary group for tribal peoples, also attended the AGM, whilst former Monty Python star Michael Palin sent a message of support: ‘I’ve been to the Nyamgiri Hills in Orissa and seen the forces of money and power that Vedanta Resources have arrayed against a people who have occupied their land for thousands of years, who husband the forest sustainably and make no great demands on the state or the government. The tribe I visited simply want to carry on living in the villages that they and their ancestors have always lived in.’
Vedanta’s AGM was the same day that British Prime Minister David Cameron met Indian PM Dr. Manmohan Singh. Martin Horwood MP wrote to David Cameron urging him to raise the issue of the plight of the Dongria Kondh at the meeting.
The Dongria Kondh tribe have been described as ‘the real Avatar tribe’ because their plight closely parallels that of the aliens in James Cameron’s blockbuster.
Vedanta Resources is majority-owned by billionaire Mayfair resident Anil Agarwal.
In the past month Vedanta has suffered three major blows to its mining plans. India’s Environment and Forests Minister ordered an investigation into the Dongria’s rights to their forest; the Chief Secretary of Odisha state ordered a separate probe on the same topic; and leading Dutch investment firm PGGM announced it had sold its stake in Vedanta over human rights concerns.
Previous shareholders who have sold their stake include the Norwegian government, the Church of England and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.