Resources and Articles

This page seeks to provide an educational resource base for teachers, students and researchers.

The Sovereign Forest (2011-2015) emerges from conflict in Odisha, India between local communities of farmers and indigenous tribes and the government and mining corporations. It bears witness to communities in resistance as well as lone, ordinary individuals who speak with extraordinary voices.

School teachers and other educators may find THE SOVEREIGN FOREST TEACHING RESOURCE useful to consult.

For an introductory background to these issues:
1) ‘Confronting Extractive Capital: Social and Environmental Movements in Orissa’, 2014′
Kundan Kumar

2) ‘Dispossessed and Displaced: A brief paper on Tribal Issues in Orissa’
Kundan Kumar

For more information and details about the regions and struggles that are a part of The Sovereign Forest, please read the following:

Jagatsinghpur: An Overview

In 2005, the South Korean, Pohang Steel Company (POSCO) signed an MOU with the state of Odisha. It needed to acquire an area of 1,600 hectares for its integrated steel plant, captive power plant, a captive seaport, as well as another 799 hectares of land for the township. It also wanted to have the Khandadhar captive iron ore mines to run the plant, for exporting ore and also dedicated water lines from the river Mahanadi.

The project was to impact about 30,000 local farmers, fisher folk, betel vine cultivators in the 8 villages of 3 Gram Panchayats of Jagatsinghpur district.  They formed the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) in 2005 and began to resist the project. One of the most remarkable features has been the active and large-scale participation of women and school-going children. In the ten year long struggle so far, they lost 4 lives and were subjected to many atrocities including hundreds of false cases lodged against most of their leaders and workers.

In Sundergarh district the Paudi Bhuyan tribes opposed the Khandadhar mining plan.  Cuttack city opposed the diversion of Mahanadi water for POSCO, as the city faced water crises in the summer. About 20,000 fishermen opposed as they feared a loss of livelihood to the captive seaport. Wildlife experts opposed as it was a threat to the coastal biodiversity zone and the destruction it would cause to the mangroves and the Olive Ridley turtles’ nesting ground. Activists also complained that the project violated the Forests Rights Act 2006 and other forest, conservation and environmental laws. The Green tribunal stayed the work and the MOU with the company lapsed in 2010. It has not been renewed as yet.

For more information and further resources on Jagatsinghpur:
Independent Fact Finding Reports:
1) ‘Filing of Objection to the public hearing proposed setting of integrated steel plant and minor port of M/S POSCO at Paradip, Jagatsinghpur, April 2007’
Report by Prafulla Samantra

2)  “Report By the Independent Fact Finding Team on Issues related to the Proposed POSCO Project in Jagatsinghpur (Orissa)”, April 2007
Report by Independent team comprising of Sumit Chakravartty, Editor Manistream Weekly, New Delhi; Sridevi Panikkar, Delhi Solidarity Group; Bijulal M V, Indian Social Institute, New Delhi; Manshi Asher, National Centre for Advocacy Studies, Pune

3)  “Striking While the Iron is Hot” (Unpublished Case Study) June 2007
Report by Manshi Asher, National Centre for Advocacy Studies

4) “Iron and Steal: The POSCO-India Story”, October 2010
Report by Mining Zone Peoples’ Solidarity Group

5) “Tearing through the Water Landscape: Evaluating the environmental and social consequences of POSCO project in Odisha, India”, May 2011.
Report by Leo F. Saldanha and Bhargavi S. Rao, Environment Support Group

6) “Captive Democracy: Abuse of Criminal System and Filing False Cases to curb dissent against the POSCo steel plant in Orissa”, February 2013.
Report by Alternative Law Forum, Delhi Forum

7) “Heightened Tension in POSCO Project area:Fact Finding Report on the situation in the wake of bomb blast in Jagatsinghpur district, Odisha”, April 2013.
Report by Independent fact finding team comprising of Meher Engineer (Former Director, Bose Institute, Kolkata), Sumit Chakravartty (Editor Manistream Weekly); Dr. Manoranjan Mohanty (Retd. Professor, Delhi University); Pramodini Pradhan (PUCL, Odisha); Daroj Mohanty (PUCL, Odisha); Ranjana padhi (PUDR, Delhi); Dr. Kamal Chaubey (PUDR, Delhi); Sanjeev Kumar (Delhi Forum, Delhi); Mathew Jacob (HRLN Delhi); Samantha (Sanhati); Dr. Partho Roy (Sanhati); and Dr. Gyan Ranjan Swain (Ravenshaw University)

8)  Price of Steel: Human Rights and Forced Evictions in the POSCO-India Project”, 2013
Report by International human Rights Clinic (IHRC) at New York University School of Law and ESCR-Net.

Articles and News Reports:
1) ‘The POSCO project in Orissa: Overview and Opposition’, 26 February, 2010

2) ‘Conflict of Interest: Gupta was Environment Secretary when POSCO was cleared’, 19th October, 2010
Nitin Sethi, TNN

3) ‘Contemporary Fault Lines in Applied Economic Research’, 19th January 2013
Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol XLVIII No 3

Niyamgiri: An Overview

Niyamgiri is a biodiversity hotspot and hill range with bauxite deposits, and also the home to the vulnerable Dongaria tribes for generations. Anil Agrawal’s Vedanta Resources/ Sterlite Industries and now Sesa Sterlite began the land acquisition process for an alumina refinery below the Niyamgiri Hills in 2002. In March 2003, three villages were evicted to facilitate the installation of alumina plant. In September 2004, Vedanta got the environmental clearance and began its Lanjigarh Alumina Refinery work. Crucial information that it had taken over forest land was suppressed and disregarded.

In October 2004, social activists raised the issue before the Centrally Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court. The CEC accepted the petitions and started field investigation in December 2004. In March 2005, the CEC asked the Ministry of Environment and Forest not to issue clearance under Forest Conservation Act to Vedanta till further orders. The MOEF subsequently issued a ‘stop work’ order to Vedanta, but within a week revoked it without reason.

A people’s agitation under the banner of ‘Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti’ continued but protesters were getting arrested and several false cases were filed against them.  The CEC’s final report, submitted in September 2005, stated that “the use of the forest land in an ecologically sensitive area like the Niyamgiri Hills should not be permitted”. It sought to revoke the environmental clearance granted by the MoEF and directed them to stop further work on the project. The CEC report highlighted the undue favour to Vedanta by the State government and MoEF.

This led to a legal battle in 2005, with the court ruling in favor of Vedanta in 2007-08.

The court verdict triggered widespread condemnation, awareness and a determined and unprecedented resistance from the primitive Dongaria hill tribes.  The MOEF intervened and after a series of fact-finding missions the permission for mining and expansion of the plant capacity was denied. The company challenged the order in Odisha High Court, but the court turned down Vedanta’s request.

Finally, Odisha Mining Corporation approached the Supreme Court on behalf of Vedanta. The Supreme Court gave a verdict on April 18, 2013 asking the Gram Sabhas (Village Councils) in Niyamgiri to decide the fate of Vedanta’s mining project.  From July 18- August 19, 2013, people from 12 villages of Niyamgiri defied threats from armed police and maoist boycott warnings and spoke in one voice to oppose Vedanta in all the village council meetings.

Recently the state government has again started legal consultations to conduct Gram Sabhas on the mining issue in all the villages. People have started counter mobilizations too as the local resistance continues.

For more information and Further Resources on Niyamgiri:
Independent Fact Finding Reports:
1)  “Don’t Mine Us Out Of Existence”, 2010
Report by Amnesty International, 2010

2)  A Brief report on Ecological and Biodiversity Importance of Niyamgiri Hill and Implications of Bauxite Mining, 2010
Report by Environmental Protection Group, Orissa; 2010

Articles and News Reports:
1) (VEDANTA) PressCompilation 31st July- 5th August
a) ‘Vedanta’s alumina deal intensifies duel in Orissa’ 31st July, 2006
Source: The Indian Express
b) ‘VEDANTA MUDDLE: FM resignation sought’, 2nd August, 2006
c) ‘Vedanta Harmed Environment In India -Environment Group’, 2nd August 2006
d) ‘Chidambaram must quit, demand SP, AIADMK’, 3rd August 2006
Source: The Hindu
e) ‘Tribal activists carry Indian mining protest to London’, 3rd August 2006
Source: The Guardian
f) ‘Vedanta’s Orissa project faces hurdle’, 4th August 2006
Source: TNN
g) ‘Indian villagers pay a high price as commodity boom comes to rural Orissa’, 4 August 2006
Source: The Independent
h) ‘House on boil over Vedanta’, 4th August 2006
Source: NewIndPress, Bhubaneswar
i) ‘Favouring VAL: Government under Fire’, 5th August
Source: The New Indian Express
j) ‘Vedanta at the centre of many storms’, 5th August 2006

2) ‘Vedanta, Chidambaram, Chhatisgarh and Maoist’, May 2010
Source: Countercurrents

3) ‘Vedanta and Lessons in Conservation’,2010
Source: CSE India

4) ‘Vedanta ready to exit Niyamgiri hills’, August 2010
Source: Hindustan Times

5) ‘Vedanta Aluminium to raise Rs 16000 crore for Orissa project’, March 2011
Source: ET Now

6) ‘Alarm for a Future Disaster: Video of Toxic Spill at Vedanta Plant’, April 2011

7) ‘The Sacred Mountain: Confronting Global Capital at Niyamgiri’, 2013 
Kundan Kumar, Geoforum 2013

Kalinganagar: An Overview

Kalinganagar Complex is a massive industrial park with an area of over 12,000 acres set up by Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) in Jajpur district, Odisha. IDCO has already acquired land in the area through the Land Acquisition Act. Several other industrial units have also come up there, including major companies like Neelanchal Ispat Nigam, MESCO, and Jindal. The threat of forced displacement without any alternative livelihood and the loss of ancestral lands have led to strong local resilience.

In 1996, villagers stopped the establishment of a steel plant by Bhushan Steel. In May 2005, they prevented the district administration’s efforts to acquire land and start construction for a TATA  steel plant. Later that year, rumours spread that the TATA company was intending to make another attempt to take over the land. During their annual get together at Chandia, the tribals took a collective decision to oppose this attempt.

On the morning of January 2, 2006, the district administration including the Collector, SP, and the TATA Steel officials reached the site with earthmoving equipment to start the construction of the boundary wall. They were accompanied by 12 platoons of armed police. As tribals began to gather, four of them walked over the ditch where the boundary wall was to be constructed. At that moment, the police blew a whistle and pulled a rope, following which explosions occurred in the ditch. Two tribals died instantly while others were grievously injured. No warning or prior indication was given by the police. Other protestors were attacked with tear gas and fired upon by the police. The firing continued for over an hour. Six people (including one policeman) died on the spot, and another seven died from injuries.

Representatives of Visthapan Virodhi Janamanch allege that the six tribals who were injured and couldn’t run away were picked up by the police. When the bodies were later returned, all six had their hands chopped off by the police. Some also had their genital organs mutilated.

The Naveen Patnaik government of Odisha appointed a judicial commission headed by Justice A.S. Naidu, a sitting judge of Odisha High Court, to investigate the Kalinganagar firing of January, 2006. He had almost finished the work when an order of the Supreme Court in a different case disallowed serving judges from heading commissions of inquiry.  The State Government then appointed retired Judge P. K. Patro to replace Justice Naidu. Soon after he started his work, he was appointed as the Lokpal of Odisha. This meant that the commission continued headless for sometime, until retired Justice P. K. Mohanty was appointed as the new chairman of the Kalinganagar Judicial Commission in May 2010.

To date, no report has been released to the public.

For more information and further resources on Kalinganagar:
Articles and News Reports:
1) ‘Bloodbath in Orissa’, 2007
Source: Hardnews Media

2)  ‘The Bermuda Triangle in India’, June 2010
Priyanka Borpujari

3) ‘Kalinga Nagar Mutiny = Milk on the Pan’, July 2010
Source: Orissaconcerns

4) ‘Lest the Kalinga of today be forgotten’, July 2010
Source: Orissaconcerns

Kashipur: An Overview

In 1990, the State owned mining sector was opened up for private companies. In 1993, a major consortium of companies emerged called Utkal Alumina International Limited (UAIL) that specifically targeted Odisha’s most backward Rayagada-Koraput region. UAIL, which consisted of Norsk Hydro (Norway), ALCAN (Canada), INDAL and Tata (India), wanted to mine Baphlimali hill range for its 173 million tonnes of bauxite. They also wanted to set up an Alumina refinery, with a capacity of 1 million tonnes per annum in the Kashipur block. The project would affect 24 villages in the area.

The local Kondha, Paraja and Jhodia tribes were concerned that if the alumina plant was to be built and the hills mined, they would lose their fertile agricultural land, their traditional livelihoods and perennial water sources. They gathered under the banner of ‘Prakrutika Sampad Surkhya Parishad’ and began resisting the mining companies for several years.

Since then 3 tribals have been killed in police firings and hundreds of protestors arrested on false charges.  The resistance of the villagers has since been completely repressed. From an earlier position of no displacement, the villagers have now been compelled to demand only better compensation packages.

For more information and further resources on Kashipur:
Fact Finding Reports:
1) “Report on Police Firing on Tribals 16th December, 2000 in Village Maikanch, District Rayagada, Orissa”
Report by Justice Tewatia and Swami Agnivesh, Submitted to the President of India on 13th January, 2001

News articles:
1) “Undermining their Existence”, October 1999
Meena Menon, The Hindu

2) “Ravaged by Neglect”, January 2000
Meena Menon, Humanscape, pg 26-27

3) “Senior journalist beaten up in Southern Orissa”, September 2000
Source: Mid Day, September 2000

4) “Utkal Alumina Project hits a green block”, November 2000
V Phani Kumar

5) “A Human Blockade”, December 2000
Source: The Indian Express

6) “Press compilation on “Police Fire in Maikanch”, 17th-21st December 2000
Includes articles from The Indian Express, The Telegraph, The Hindu,

7) “The Future in Dispute”, December 2000
Source: The Indian Express

8) “Profits over People”, January 2001,
Ali Kishore Patnaik, Frontline

Other Related Resources:

For further information on broader themes of ecology; law; human rights; land acquisitions; industrialisation and development issues; tribal movements; community and people struggles;  please read:

More sites in Odisha:
Lower IndraNarayanpatnaHirakudLower Suktel

Articles and Resources:
1)  The Ground beneath their feet, Nov 1999
Meena Menon, The Indian Express

2) “The Strength of Mettle”, December 1999
Meena Menon, The Hindu

3) “Stronger than Steel”, Feb 2000
Meena Menon, The Hindu

More sites in India:
Articles and Resources:

1) “What has Driven the Tribals of Central India to Political Extremism”, October 2009, B.K. Roy Burman
Source: South Asian Citizens Web

2) The Bastar Land Grab: The Expropriation of Farmers in India
An interview with Sudha Bharadwaj, April 2013
Source: Global Research, Centre for Research on Globalisation

3) “Two Coal Blocks and a Political Story”, October 2013
Kanchi Kohli, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XLVIII No. 41