Good news! The Indian Supreme Court has ruled that the Indigenous communities of Niyamgiri Hills have the right to decide whether or not they want a mine on their sacred land.
This Supreme Court ruling is a landmark victory in recognising indigenous rights in India – and certainly something to celebrate!
Why is this important?
The Adivasi communities of Niyamgiri have been protesting against the proposed mine for many years. The plans come from a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta Resources, who want to build a 670-hectare bauxite mine on the Dongria Kondh – an area the local Indigenous communities consider sacred and vital to their livelihood and way of life.
Amnesty’s research and sustained campaigning by many organisations exposed how the communities’ views had long been ignored. We’re pleased to see Indigenous rights being upheld in India.
What was the Court’s ruling?
The Indian Supreme Court ruled that the communities’ gram sabhas (council assemblies consisting of all adult voters) of two villages located near the proposed mine would need to decide if the mine plans, in any way, affected their religious and cultural rights, including their right to worship, and on all individual and community claims, including fresh ones, to the areas proposed to be mined. The councils will share their decision with India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests within three months
Importantly, the Court’s ruling also upholds the provisions of India’s Forest Rights Act that legislates free prior and informed consent – meaning that communities that would be affected by projects like this must give their permission before any work can go ahead.
In August 2010 India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests originally rejected plans for the mine after finding they would extensively violate forest and environmental laws, as well as the rights of the Dongria Kondh Indigenous and other communities in the hills. Today’s court ruling came on a challenge mounted by OMC to that decision.
The Court ruling stipulates that the gram sabha proceedings in Niyamgiri take place independently and completely uninfluenced, either by the project proponents or the state or central governments.
What can you do to help?
You can support the Adivasi communities of Niyamgiri by calling asking the government to ensure their village council meetings are clear and transparent, with all the required information supplied. Take action now.