The slogans “Kekudha Kekudha, Tamizhar kural kekudha?” (Can you hear? Can you hear? the voice of the Tamils?) was heard on the streets of Mayfair, London accompanied by the beats of the parai, a folk percussion instrument. In case you were wondering why, it was because a group of protesters had gathered outside the home of Anil Agarwal, the founder of Vedanta Resources.
Members of the Tamil community in the United Kingdom, supported by two movements - Foil Vedanta and PARAI - Voice of Freedom, gathered outside Anil’s house, in solidarity with the rally held in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, against the expansion of the Sterlite Copper Plant. Sterlite is a subsidiary of Vedanta.
Holding banners that read: ‘Sterlite Kills, Stay out of Tamil Land’ and ‘Ban Sterlite from Thoothukudi’, the demonstration at Mayfair saw the participation of a number of Tamils, and also that of the locals, who came out in support.
Sterlite, a subsidiary of Agarwal's Vedanta Resources, began construction of a new smelter plant on the edge of the town of Thoothukudi.
In a video shared on Foil Vedanta’s Facebook page, one of the protesters said, “I don't understand why Maharashtra banned this (Sterlite) initially and it is being permitted in Tamil Nadu and I always wonder how they got this permission […]."
Foil Vedanta is an independent grassroots solidarity organization focused primarily on the British-Indian mining company Vedanta Resources PLC. PARAI - Voice of Freedom is a UK based passive resistance movement.
In the video, another protester, a local asks, “Why is the company, which has one of the worst human rights records, one of the worst environmental records has 58% of its subsidiaries registered in tax-savings. Why is it listed in London? Why did London Stock Exchange allow this company to list and give it its reputation without doing any due diligence? This factory — Sterlite in Thoothukudi — was already there when the company registered here. Sterlite has been banned from Bombay Stock Exchange for two years for a massive case of fraud. Nonetheless, they have allowed this company to register in London.”
Watch the video here:
In Thoothukudi, protesters gathered near the Chidambaram Nagar bus stand on Saturday with two demands: the expansion plans of the Sterlite Copper Plant in the district should be stopped and the plant itself should be shut down.
The full day agitation came just a month after 250 people in the area went on a hunger strike upon hearing the plans for expansion. In 2013, the Sterlite copper plant was fined by the Supreme Court for polluting the land and water in the area on account of a gas leak. The apex court also slammed the plant for operating without requisite permits for a considerable period of time.