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Archive for June, 2009

DEHRADUN DECLARATION

12 June 2009

During the process of enactment of the Forests Right Act (in 2006), the National Forum for Forest People’s and Forest Workers (NFFPFW) passed two important resolutions in the second National Conference held at Ranchi: 1) Establishment of community governance over forest resources

2) To resist commodification of forests and related resources

Over the last 2-3 years, in many states including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Karnataka and West Bengal, we have taken significant steps in realising these resolutions. In many villages we have been successful in forming Forest Rights Committees on the basis of Forests Right Act (FRA). On10-12 June 2009, we forest peoples; adivasis, forest workers and other forest dwellers, from 16 states of India have converged at Dehradun, the forest capital of India – discussing, debating and uniting to send a strong message to the whole world. The following is the declaration from the conference on‘Resisting commodification of Forests; Establishing community governance over forest resources’, adopted as ‘Dehradun Declaration 2009’.

We, the forest people of the world – living in the woods, surviving on the fruits and crops, farming on the jhoom land, re-cultivating the forest land, roaming around with our herds – have occupied this land since ages. We announce loudly, in unity and solidarity that let there be no doubt on the future: we are the forests, and the forests are us and our existence is mutually dependent. The crisis faced by our forests and environment today will only intensify without us.

This is no ordinary crisis. Not merely, a climate crisis – or in your words this magnified self-created monster of a financial crisis. We believe it’s a crisis of Civilizations. It’s no ordinary clash but a fundamental clash between our knowledge systems; of being, of nature and your wisdom, technology and the demonic tendencies. Your world rests on ideas of power, territories, boundaries, profit, exploitation and oppression and you try to own everything, including Mother Nature. This is what drives your civilisation. You need this world of oppression and exploitation; to survive and feel good. If you want to include us in your world by ‘civilising’ us, we will happily choose to remain uncivilised. Call us savages, we do not care! We have learnt amidst these trees, this water, this air, and other forest beings- a life of freedom, of being without boundaries, and yet never forgetting the boundaries of nature. You need your legal monoliths, and structures of governance to attempt to tide over this crisis but for us the laws of nature, learnt and assimilated over generations are sufficient.

You talk of attaining Independence on August 15 1947… What’s that ? We, the forest people and the forests have been independent since ages. You tried enslaving us; by trapping us in your illusion that believes in converting living beings into slaves – hollow occupants of servile bodies – a life of death; by capturing our forests, establishing your false laws of oppression and exploitation – contradicting the fundamental laws of nature. We know the way you exploited and enslaved our native American comrades in other parts of the world. Let us remind you that you behaved no differently than those feudal and imperialist ancestors of yours. We, therefore, reject your unnatural law, your civilization of tyranny and cruelty. What freedom? We see no freedom, in being driven out of our forests, separated from water, land, fields, trees, air, and friendly animals, to the ecosystem to which we belong. What freedom, which doesn’t forget to chain its own brothers and sisters. False Freedom! We see no truth in a society that remains haunted by the prosperity of a few capitalists, whilst, never forgetting to oppress the workers, adivasis, dalits, women and poor of the world! We reject you!

Forest Rights Act, you need it more than us. If you think you are bestowing rights on us, then you are wrong. We have lived with these forests for ages. Our ancestors, gods, goddesses, friends and life lived in this and will continue to live here. We don’t define rights, we know what is ours and to whom we belong. We are the forests, forests are us. Out of necessity, if you want to talk the language of rights, we are ready for it. It’s your need to recognise our rights over the forests and correct the historical injustices and exploitation. However, if by granting pattas (land titles) over a portion of forest, you conspire to control, commodify and sell the rest of the forests, then you are wrong. We understand your vested intentions and are determined to save the forests from your corrupt desires of exploitation, developmentalism, ill-sighted conservation and technological fixes.

If you think the ghosts of commodity capitalism are going to chain our minds and souls for eternity, then you are mistaken. From the forests, the nature we have learnt that power is not infinite, exploitation is not infinite too. We, the labouring workers, adivasis and dalits don’t treat the forest a resource to be exploited but as something which lives and supports life.

There is a climate crisis around and no amount of free trade, capital or technology will eliminate the roots of this crisis. You forget that the crises has emanated from the way your society is structured – an edifice based on an unending desire for resources and a way of life that sees nature as an object of exploitation and extraction. Fools! You are doomed to bear the brunt and suffer the pains of your actions, but we ask you – Why must we suffer? You have intruded in our lifestyle, in the rhythm of Mother Earth. You have corrupted the environs by your vehicles, industries, arms, and development and your actions have created a crisis in our homes. You have sinned against the essence of our being, and amidst our rage and tears, we reject the basis of your being: a thought – of mistrust, of control, of vicious self-interest, of injustice, and blame.

How dare you blame us for a climate crisis? It is the product of un-natural practices, and it has devastated our lives. How could you- cut our trees unthinkingly? Temperature is increasing, rainfall is diminishing and the forests are burning- consuming themselves in pain. Now you want us out of our habitats in the name of conserving our forests! You kill, unsparingly, relish in “terrorizing” busts of tigers, decorating your mantelpiece – all pointing to your moral sensibility – and – yet you have the audacity to tell us to leave the forests so that you can protect the Tigers! What law do you know? Who are you to teach what is legal? You are illegal – contradicting the very law of nature – of coexistence. You have no solutions – you only destroy.

You may not care of our times, but, spare a thought for the coming generations, their inheritance. Do you wish to present to them a world of chaos and destruction? Are you so blinded by your greed? At least, now – in this crisis – we need to unite, all civilizations, and forest people of the world, to resolve the crisis, to restore our relationship with nature.

Today, at Dehradun, we call for and welcome the solidarity and harmony of all world’s forest people; workers, adivasis and fellow travellers, on this journey to realizing the fulfilment of our existence, in communion with our forests. We warn your civilization that we are a people, united in struggle against the structure of capitalism – of greed, thievery and profiteering. We warn the nations of the world, that you must not forget to honour our existence, or else – from deep within our hearts – we shout out loud: NO MORE SILENCE! We will rise from the ashes of your devastating fire! To resist your order, undeterred by your traps. We will rise – a united forest people – together, in strength and solidarity, to challenge the very fabric of your civilization, and become one with nature, again!

Arise! Forest People of the World Unite! Zindabad!

National Forum of Forest Peoples and Forest Workers, India

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1) NFFPFW resolution condemns awarding of Golden Peacock to Vedanta Alumina Ltd.

12th June 2009

People from 15 states representing several people’s movements who have gathered under the banner of National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers’ National Conference, being held at Dehradun from 12 to 14 June 2009, condemn presentation of the ‘Golden Peacock Award for Environmental Management-2009’ to Vedanta Alumina Ltd. (VAL) by the World Environment Foundation (WEF). This award is to be presented at the annual conference of WEF to be held at Palampur, Himachal Pradesh from 12 to 14 June 2009.

VAL is being presented the Golden Peacock for its alumina refinery in Lanjigarh in Orissa despite the fact that this industry has been responsible for widespread contamination of ground water, uncontrolled air pollution in the region and countless misery to the local residents. Blatant environment and human rights violations by the said company and its subsidiaries are well known in the international arena. Vedanta has been blacklisted by the Ethics Council of Norwegian Government Pension Fund, who withdrew their stakes from company, citing in their reports ‘serious malpractices and contraventions of environment norms and ethics by the Vedanta Management in the past wherever they operate’. The OSPCB (Orissa State Pollution Control Board) has issued at least three notices to VAL so far for violating pollution norms at its Lanjigarh plant.

It appears that the World Environment Foundation and the jury members of this award are “unaware” of these or have chosen to ignore the struggles of local communities against the operations of the company in different parts of India. There cannot be a more travesty of truth by rewarding a company that is globally notorious for adhering to such business standards and values that incriminatingly and visibly translate into ruthless decimation of the people and irreversible destruction of the environment which the same people have kept inviolate for millennia. The WEF is itself a body set up by corporates and represents their interests. It is an attempt at green-washing the environmentally disastrous and unethical practices of expropriation of natural resources from local communities. This is not the first time that the Golden Peacock has been given to companies with poor track record on environment, social responsibility and ethics. Satyam, Coca-Cola and NHPC are other such examples.

We condemn the award being given to Vedanta and we denounce such fraudulent award functions that are meant to give a clean chit and image makeover to companies known for their lack of ethics and scruples.

Participants at NFFPFW National Conference

Dehradun, India 10-12 June 2009

NFFPFW Open letter to President, Peru

Forest people from Solidarity with the Indigenous peoples’ struggle of Peru

12th June 2009

Dear Mr. President Alan García,

We, the Forest People from 15 states of India representing several people’s movements who have gathered under the banner of National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers’ National Conference, being held at Dehradun, India from 12 to 14 June 2009; stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are protesting against the Amazon rainforest industrial development policies of your government. We will struggle, as the united forest and indigenous peoples’ of the world, against the divisive, exploitative and false culture of capitalism. We reject the illusions you provide: a development that extracts, a freedom that chains our limbs, a culture that is for sale, a society of mistrust, a democracy of fear, a history of oppression, a language of servility, a justice that is false. And, this oppression and injustice has lit a fire of anger and tears. It will not die down, until the governments of the world recognize our natural, inalienable right to the forests.

Hence, we reject the Peruvian government‘s recent decrees, violating constitutionally guaranteed rights of indigenous peoples. Your government‘s declaration of State of Emergency is unacceptable. We also strongly condemn your government’s use of Special Forces to suppress peaceful demonstrations in the Amazon. We stand in solidarity with the indefinite general strike called by the indigenous peoples of Peru.

It is unacceptable that your government has signed a Free Trade Agreement with the US against your peoples’ will through an undemocratic, secret process. It is now using this agreement as a pretext to most aggressively roll back legal protections for indigenous peoples and to open the Amazon rainforest to permit oil, mineral and timber by multinational corporations. Your government‘s actions violate your mandate to represent the interests of your peoples.

Therefore, we expect your administration and the Peruvian Congress to:

1. Uphold the constitutionally guaranteed rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination, to their ancestral territories, and to free and prior consultation and consent over any policies and activities that affect them.

2. Repeal the series of contested Decrees associated with the Free Trade Agreement with the United States.

3. Withdraw from all such bilateral and multilateral negotiations which will lead to a similar undermining of the rights of indigenous peoples.

4. Suspend the State of Emergency, withdraw your Special Forces and decriminalize peaceful protests.

5. Enter into a meaningful process of dialogue, in good faith, with indigenous peoples’ leaders to resolve this conflic 

We condemn your path of development, which sees nature as a commodity to be traded; we assert the right of forest and indigenous peoples over our land and forest; we assert our responsibility to protect and nurture these forests amidst which we live, and challenge your legitimacy to control what is ours.

Forest and indigenous peoples of the world are watching and awaiting a complete reversal of your draconian actions. And, the fire your actions have ignited, will continue till the dawn of a new day, when we as a people will live in communion with our forests in a society that realizes the ideals of freedom, justice and equality.

Truly,                         

Participants at NFFPFW National Conference

Dehradun, India 10-12 June 2009

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Protestors Set Record Straight on Golden Peacock Awardee Vedanta

Twenty environment and social activists from different parts of India took over the opening ceremony of UK-charity World Environment Foundation’s “Global Convention on Climate Security” to denounce the Foundation’s Golden Peacock Awards. The activists highlighted the foundation’s choice of Vedanta Alumina as winner of the environmental management award to argue that the award was nothing but “greenwash” or deceptive use of “green” marketing or PR. Claiming the stage from the surprised WEF president Madhav Mehra, Mamata Dash of New Delhi-based Kashipur Solidarity Group and Guman Ji of Him Niti Abhiyan presented evidence about Vedanta Alumina’s ongoing pollution at the Lanjigarh facility.

Vedanta was allegedly chosen for the award on the basis of its claim that its controversial Lanjigarh aluminum refinery is a zero discharge unit. The company and its parent and sister concerns are mired in controversies involving human rights abuses, environmental degradation and financial irregularities including tax evasion, fraud and insider trading. Giving the 36 persons listed as jurors by WEF on their website the benefit of doubt, more than 120 people had earlier written to them with evidence on the company’s controversial track record. Dismissing the organisers of the award and the award winners as “birds of a feather,” the endorsers asked dignitaries and jurors to dissociate themselves from the awards or risk being tarred by the same brush. The Himachal Pradesh chief minister and a number of senior bureaucrats of the HP Government, who were slotted to attend the opening ceremony, withdrew in the last minute owing to the Vedanta-centred controversy around the convention.

School children brought to the venue to form a human chain dispersed after the activists took the stage at the Palampur Agriculture Universit grounds. Activists holding posters and banners saying “Stop Greenwashing” and “Stop Selling Climate Change” briefed the Tibetan Prime Minister in exile — Samdhung Rinpoche, one of the chief dignitaries, about the company, following which Rinpoche walked out of the venue. Delegates at the conference were also given pamphlets and copies of the letter written to jurors, and endorsed by more than 170 organisations.

In January 2009, WEF withdrew the Golden Peacock Award given to Satyam Computers, literally days before the company submitted its fraudulent balance sheet to shareholders. “We do not expect any integrity from the organisers of the Golden Peacock Awards. However, many of the jury members are persons of good reputation and integrity. We are concerned that your decision may have been arrived at in the absence of full information. We would also like to give you an opportunity to review some disturbing information regarding the conduct of Vedanta and its subsidiaries, and to dissociate yourselves from the award to Vedanta to avoid a Satyam-style embarrassment,” endorsers to the letter to jurors wrote.

Guman Singh, leader of Himalaya Niti Abhiyan who spoke on behalf of the campaign appreciated that Chief Minister of Himachal who was to be the Chief guest at the function had withdrawn his participation from the event after pressure from the campaign and the controversy around awardee company. Mamata Dash, an activist from Orissa tried to draw the attention of the delegates towards the crimes committed by Vedenta on the Dongria Kondh adivasis in the Niyamgiri hills for its bauxite mines. Just as she began speaking Madhav Mehra, founder of WEF, tried to shove her off the stage. After a scuffle with the activists, Mehra made a statement that he had no interest with Vedanta and that they would review the award and even withdraw just like they had done in the Satyam case if the facts were found to be true. As the tussle continued between the activists and the organizers, the ground echoed with slogans like “WEF down down” and “Vedanta company chor hai!”.

Himalaya Niti Abhiyan, Kashipur Solidarity Group, POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity, NFFPFW, PUDR, Saheli, The Other Media, Harit Swaraj Abhiyan


Green protesters steal show at WEF global convention
Palampur | Saturday, Jun 13 2009 IST

http://news.webindia123.com/news/articles/India/20090613/1274312.html

Slogan-shouting Green activists barged into the venue of World Environment Foundation’s Global Convention for Climate Change and stole the show during the inaugural ceremony here last evening.

The activists, protesting against the WEF’s Golden Peacock award to the Vedanta Alumina Limited for its refinery in Lanjigarh Orissa, pushed their way and seized the microphone to highlight various environmental crimes and human rights violations that the company had allegedly indulged in, not just in its Orissa project, but at other project sites across the country. The activists briefed the Tibetan Prime Minister in exile- Samdhung Rinpoche, who was present as a Chief dignitary at the function about the national campaign that has built up against the company and the devastation caused by the company in Orissa. He immediately walked out of the venue.

Subsequently, hundreds of children from schools in Palampur, present at the ceremony held at Palampur Agriculture University grounds, cheered the protesters who were shouting ”Stop greenwashing corporate crimes” and ”Stop selling climate change” and later left the venue.

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National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers

National Convention

June 10-12, 2009, Dehradun, India

The struggle for establishing community rule and control over the forest resources got a new boost when the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, was passed in 2006 by the Indian Parliament. It was a historical moment for the struggling communities despite some inherent lacunas and problems in the Act when finally on December 31 2007 the Act was notified and procedures led out for its implementation all across the country. This is also a historical event, for the first time ever rights of forest dwellers over forest has been given a legal and political acceptance by the State and their role in conservation and development of forests recognised. Today, after more than 60 years of independence, for the first time, these communities feel independent having suffered exploitation and humiliation at the hands of Forest Department and feudal & elite forces, all due to this Act, which promises liberation and dignity.

However, the numerous problems encountered by the communities in implementation of the provisions of the Act are well known since it challenges the domination and interests of forest department and other feudal & elite forces. These forces have been creating problems of various kinds and also colluding with the machinery of State to deny the rights due to communities. This has been duly recognised by the communities and in past two years there have been innumerable instances of conflict and resistance against the ill machinations of the forest department and feudal interests. This is going to be a bitter and long struggle for the communities to achieve community control over the forests, which has been clearly enunciated in the preface of the Act itself. Hence, the biggest challenge in front of the communities and social movements today is how to achieve Community Governance over the forest in these circumstances,which will ensure community control over natural resources in the long term. Movements need to decide collectively about how to build up Peoples’ Institutions for community governance.

Our experience says the strategies to deal with the circumstances can only be formulated by the activists and awakened leadership of forest rights movements in the country and none else. The wisdom and knowledge of the communities engaged in struggle for their survival and conservation of forest has to play an important role in these strategies. This also requires that the local organisations need to be strengthened so that they could actually implement the mandate thrust upon them – of conservation and sustainable livelihood – by the Act in long term. These people’s organisations, autonomous bodies and cooperatives of the forest dwellers have to be run by them under their leadership alone.

It was in this context that the NFFPFW’s second national conference in Ranchi in October 2006 passed two important resolutions which would determine the future strategies of the struggles :

  • To establish control over the forests of the communities dependent on them.
  • To oppose commercialisation of the forests.

In last two years important steps have been taken to implement these two resolutions in some of the regions. It was also decided in the Ranchi conference that to counter these challenges it is imperative that community leadership in the movements has to be strengthened and struggles given new energy and direction which is arising from the aspirations of the people.

Even as we plan to meet in Dehradun, after the General Elections, Congress led government is already formed at the Centre. However, it need to be understood that the Congress led UPA government has got majority support from all the sections of society but they could not attain absolute majority, since poor people of this country are too aware that none of the political parties actually stand for pro-people politics and development and they can’t be trusted. History stands witness to the fact that Congress has been always supported by the feudal and capitalist classes and that’s why they have always represented their interests in favour of the millions of the poor who keep reposing their trust time and again. The newly formed UPA has to face many challenges now to keep its promises to poor classes. We must know that in future the capitalist economic agenda will be pushed with much more force by UPA government necessitating a re energised protest from the people’s movements all across the country. We will have to collectively embolden our struggles and ensure communities control and rule over the forest and weaken the forces of the capitalism.

We need to understand that the failure of all the parties in opposition (national or regional) with exception of few can be attributed to the fact that they failed to build any substantial opposition and movement on people issues, which would have earned them support from people. Since there was no viable alternative available in front of people they voted for Congress, which was not a majority vote. There is a lesson inherent in this election for all other political parties and also for the Congress. It is to be observed that this time Congress is neither giving much weight to the allies within UPA nor making any attempts at formulating a Common Minimum Programme (CMP) as they did in the previous government. The congress might have to pay heavy price for not constituting the CMP in near future, since CMP is not only about the agreed mandate of parties within the government but is directly linked with the aspirations of the masses. Therefore it is very clear that CMP simply means that the government doesn’t want to leave any political manoeuvring space on the political and social matters for social movements.

In such a situation we need to understand that the people’s movement can’t wait for the government for stricter and effective implementation of the historical Forest Rights Act. As there is lot of pressure on the present government from environmentalist lobby and the Forest Department, therefore it is very necessary that we will have to build up the struggle and strategize for establishing the communities control over the forests by sustained pressure on the government machinery. The year in which this Act was passed by the government the efforts at commercial exploitation of the forests were also enhanced, and this needs to be conveyed to the people. It is only when we are aware of the government’s intentions and initiatives at commercialisation that we can formulate strategies for establishing governance mechanisms which will stop the commercial exploitation and degradation of forests.

The need of the hour is that the active supporters and activists of the movements of the forest dwelling communities struggling for forest rights sit together and work towards developing strategies which can ensure community control and also stop the commercial exploitation of forests. In this process only we can strike a long term collaboration of the forest rights movements, climate justice movements and other rights based movements. Today there is a sense of fragmentation within the larger movement which is giving space to capitalist forces to extend their influence over the forest and other natural resources which is creating wider environmental and social crisis in the society. The capitalist forces in their effort to maximise profit are trading the environmental crisis for their narrow economic gains rather than finding sustainable long term solutions.

It is to counter the influence of these capitalist forces that the around the world the toiling and working classes are mobilising themselves, be it disrupting the gathering of G-20 in London or ASEAN’s meeting in Bangkok, or UNFCCC 2007 in Bali, Indonesia. This year thousands of workers, indigenous people, women and marginalised masses raised slogans at various deliberations at the World Social Forum, Belem demanding climate justice for everyone and demise of capitalism. In India also there is a need for internal cohesion at various fronts amongst the numerous movements against the capitalist development and also a greater need for establishing linkages and coordination with the movements at the global level.

It is to discuss these important issues that NFFPFW is holding its annual convention. Today the government of India is executing all kinds of trade and commercial agreements with capitalist nations worldwide which impacts the millions of working and toiling masses. However, information on none of these agreements are available to people, the convention will critically discuss such agreements and other international matters of direct relevance to forest people.

In addition to the constituent groups of NFFPFW, other organisations, friends and supporters working on forest rights are also invited to this convention so that a more informed dialogue can take place and effective strategies could be formulated.

The agenda of the convention will focus on following issues :

  • Effective implementation of Forest Rights Act by the community led groups and organisations establishing community rule and control over the forests and other natural resources.
  • Building effective and sustainable community led groups and organisations.
  • To strengthen campaigns against the commercialisation of the forests and oppose G-20, European Union, WTO, ASEAN and other international bodies pushing capitalist agenda globally.
  • To organise masses for achievement of the fundamental rights enshrined in the national constitution and international rights charters etc.
  • To unite the groups all across the world struggling against capitalist development for climate justice.
  • To establish effective coordination and understanding with the global movements for climate justice.

With revolutionary greetings !

National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers

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