India must investigate abduction of anti-Vedanta activists

Amnesty International is calling on Indian authorities to urgently investigate the armed abduction of two indigenous leaders, who were on their way to campaign against the bauxite mine project proposed by a subsidiary of UK-based company Vedanta Resources, and the Orissa Mining Corporation.

The pair were abducted on 9 August in Orissa province, in the east of India. One of the activists, Sana Sikaka, was ‘released’ late last night by being thrown out of a van, and has alleged that the gunmen were police.  Lado Sikaka, the most senior leader of the Dongria Kondh indigenous community, is still being held by the gunmen.  

Orissa provincial police have remained silent on who was responsible for the abduction, and have not opened any investigation despite requests by activists.

“This allegation of arbitrary detention and abduction of activists must be immediately and transparently investigated,” said Madhu Malhotra, Amnesty International’s Deputy-Director for the Asia-Pacific.  “The Orissa police must show its good faith by securing the release of Lado Sikaka, immediately tracking down and arresting these gunmen.”

Sana Sikaka told local media today that he and a group of activists were stopped by 15 armed plainclothes officers at the foothills of Niyamgiri mountain, as they were leaving in a van to travel to Delhi, where they planned to campaign against the bauxite mine project.  The gunmen confiscated the mobile phones of activists and their vehicle. They then detained Lado and Sana Sikaka, driving them towards the neighbouring district of Rayagada where Sana suspects Lado is being held.

The Dongria Kondh indigenous community is known for their activism to protect their sacred mountain Niyamgiri from the proposed bauxite-mine .

Amnesty International urges the Indian authorities to establish a process to seek the free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) of the Dongria Kondh before proceeding with the proposed mine project in Niyamgiri. This must include:

•?  providing the Dongria Kondh with accessible and adequate information about the project;
•?  undertaking, in genuine and open consultation with the Dongria Kondh, a comprehensive human rights and environmental impact assessment of the project and providing appropriate procedural safeguards to ensure their participation in the assessment process and that their knowledge and perspectives of the Hills are given due weight and respect and;
•?  respect the decision of the Dongria Kondh if they do not provide consent to the project.

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