The two Dongria Kondh activists abducted earlier this week have been released. They were kidnapped on Monday (9 August) in the Indian state of Odisha, where they have been campaigning against the development of a mine by Vedanta Resources.
Sena Sikaka was dumped at the side of the road on Tuesday evening, while Lodu Sikaka was released on Thursday.
Lodu and Sena both claim their armed abductors were plain-clothed policemen. Lodu says he was interrogated and beaten during his detention, and only released after he was made to sign a written statement. It is not clear what the statement says.
The two men have both been campaigning against the creation of a bauxite mine on their land in the Niyamgiri Hills. The proposed mine, a joint project between Vedanta Resources and the Odisha state government, has become one of the most controversial projects in India.
Investors including the Church of England and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust have recently sold their shares in Vedanta over human rights concerns. Both cited the Odisha mine. The British government declared that the Dongria’s rights have been violated.
An interview with Lodu Sikaka was broadcast on the UK’s Channel 4 News following Vedanta's recent AGM, where the company’s human rights record came under fire from high-profile investors including Aviva.
A team of experts commissioned by the Indian government earlier this year concluded that Vedanta’s mine was likely to “lead to the destruction of the Dongria Kondh” as a people. The results of a second official investigation into the mine will be published later this month. The head of the investigative team has told journalists to expect his report to be “another bomb”.
The Dongria Kondh’s plight has been dubbed “the Real Avatar” because of similarities to the storyline of James Cameron’s blockbuster. The tribe’s struggle has been supported by a number of celebrities including Joanna Lumley, Bianca Jagger, and Michael Palin.
Survival International’s director Stephen Corry said today (13 August), “While I welcome the news that Sena and Lodu have now been released, it does not undo the injustice they have suffered and the ongoing injustices being committed against the Dongria Kondh people”.