NEW DELHI – A small tribe in India is pitted against a British giant like the proverbial David against Goliath. Some 8,000 members of the Dongria Kondh tribe are resisting a bid by $8 billion worth Vedanta Resources to start digging an open-pit mine to obtain bauxite, the ore from which most aluminium is extracted.
The Dongria Kondh live in villages scattered throughout the Niyamgiri Hills in India’s eastern Orissa state. They farm the hill slopes, grow crops in the forest and gather wild fruit and leaves for sale. They call themselves Jharnia, meaning ‘protector of streams’, because they guard their sacred mountains and the life-giving rivers that rise within the thick forests.
Vedanta has approached India’s Supreme Court in a new bid, which would profoundly harm the Dongria Kondh. (Vedanta was originally a word used in Hindu philosophy as a synonym for that part of the Veda texts known also as the Upanishads, philosophical texts considered to be an early source of Hindu religion.)