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Join Indian Peoples' Movement in their struggle with ALCAN with mass global action

Published by MAC on 2003-12-16

Join Indigenous and Low-Caste Peoples' Movement in their struggle with ALCAN with mass global action - December 16, 2003 12-1 PM (EST)

If in Montreal meet at 12 PM at 1188 Sherbrooke Street West (corner Stanley).

If elsewhere, call ALCAN executive Jeremy Jonas at 514-848-8000 between 12-1PM (EST).

Please find included in this message:

1) Press Release for North America solidarity event, December 16th 2003
2) Suggested talking points and contact information for solidarity callers
3) Background articles

1) Press Release

ALCAN juggling with the futures of marginalized peoples living in India Three villagers already killed by violent repression

On December 16, 2003 from 12-1 PM (EST) Montrealers will be gathering at ALCAN headquarters and supporters from across North America will be calling in at 1188 Sherbrooke Street West to creatively challenge ALCAN's presence in India.

On December 16, 2000 Damodar Jhodia, Abhilash Jhodia and Raghunath Jhodia were murdered by police in a police-instigated firing at Maikanch village, of the Kashipur region in the east Indian state of Orissa. These three men were targeted for being some of the thousands who stand staunchly against a proposed bauxite mine and refinery on their land. The mine and refinery could displace up to 60 000 people from their ancestral homes, destroying their livelihoods and culture, contaminating their food and water sources and obliterating their spiritual sites. ALCAN has a 45% share in this proposal which it quietly increased from 35% when Norwegian giant multinational Norsk Hydro pulled out because of the projectís clear disregard for the rights and visions of these indigenous and low-caste people.

After this firing in December, 10 000 Kashipur residents gathered weeks later to resolve, "We are not afraid to die, we will not leave our land." Likewise, every year since the murders, December 16th has been marked in Kashipur as a day to commemorate the murders of these three fellow people and to renew the movement for self-determination.

This year, for the first time, Montrealers will stand in solidarity with these people by creatively re-enacting the significant aspects of the movement and particularly by honouring the slain spirits of Damodar, Abhilash and Raghunath. This will be done in concert with people from across North America who will simultaneously be calling into ALCAN's headquarters to express their concern about the corporationís complicity in violent repression and to remind ALCAN of the clearly stated vision of the peoples of Kashipur. They will be encouraging ALCAN to respect the demands of the peoples' movement for:

- the cancellation of all treaties [contracts] signed with various mining companies - access to a medical facility and education in harmony with their cultural values - local agricultural development through small-scale irrigation projects

The North America event will be happening on December 16th, 2003 at 12-1 PM (EST) in front amd over the phone-lines of of Maison Alcan at 1188 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal. All who are concerned about this situation are invited to participate in this creative and powerful event, which will include juggling, drumming and aluminum costumes.

For more information about the solidarity movement in Montreal and North America, contact:

Abhimanynu- or 514-398-7432. (in Montreal)
Angad- or 91 98187 681454 (in Kashipur India)

For more information about the proposed mine and the people's movement, visit

2) Talking Points and Contact Information

Solidarity callers should call ALCAN's main switchboard at 514-848-8000 and ask to speak to Jeremy Jonas, who is the ALCAN executive supposed to be responsible for the Kashipur project. The call should be made anytime between 12-1 PM Eastern Standard Time on December 16, 2003 to ensure that your call will be coordinated with the Montreal event and so that the ALCAN's phone lines will be effectively jammed at this time.

Some suggested talking points (speak to what you think is most important and relevant to why you are concerned):

- calling in to honour the memory of Abhilash, Raghunath and Damodar who were killed in police-riot for resisting an ALCAN-supported project - concerned that your project is clearly propogating a system that oppresses indigenous and other marginalized peoples - you can honour these murders too by respecting the demands of the peoples' movement for self-determined development - the major demands from the movement: - the cancellation of all treaties signed with various mining companies - access to a medical facility and education in harmony with their cultural values - local agricultural development through small-scale irrigation projects

-why have you increased your share in the project when other corporations like Norsk Hydro have pulled out? - who is getting your information on the ground in India? (i.e. ALCAN has sometimes claimed that the land is uninhabited) - which ALCAN employees/executives have visited the area? - what are the names of the local elected officials who "support" the company? When were they spoken with? - will ALCAN commit to send a representative to the area under public / press scrutiny?

- anything else you would like to express given your knowledge of the situation or as given in the background information

It is difficult to tell how the people at the headquarters will deal with these calls. Do your best to get your message across. If they refuse to let you speak to Jeremy Jonas, you may also ask to speak to CEO Travis Engen.

ALCAN quietly increases share in controversial project in India while leaked Government report Gives project green light.

Press release

October 28 2003

On July 3rd 2003, ALCAN increased its share in the Utkal Alumina Intl. Ltd. (U.A.I.L.) mine and refinery project in Kashipur, Orissa, India from 35% to 45% of the company equity. ALCAN did not officially announce the increase by nearly 30% of it’s share which came despite ALCAN’s continual claims that it is waiting for the results of state government appointed judicial inquiry before it took any decision.

The inquiry panel (under Justice Mishra) was set up to investigate the killings of three tribal anti–mining activists on December 16th 2000. Following the killings, the lead partner in U.A.I.L., Norsk Hydro withdrew its shares. While the widespread local opposition to the project continues, ALCAN has increased its stake.

The inquiry panel results, recently leaked to the Orissa local pre ss, state that the police may have used excessive force but the order to open fire was justified. The panel further concludes that the government should help the stalled project move forward with a few minor changes.

In the wake of this release the elected leaders of the five village councils which cover all 24 of the officially “affected” villages made statements reiterating their populations opposition to the project. Ghassan Jhodia the elected leader representing 8 of the 24 villages stated: “Today I too stand in total opposition to the company.””

The people are preparing for another confrontation as the Government announced its plan to present the report in the next assembly session beginning in November following which construction could begin immediately. Despite signing an agreement with the government in 1994, currently U.A.I.L. has no presence in the Kashipur area as local people consistently opposed the mine and prevented a ny construction.

For more background info and source material see:-

Contact: Angad Bhalla

Blood and bauxite: Impoverished Indians fight Alcan's bid to open a mine in their backyard

by Chandra Siddan, Montreal Mirror, Canada

November 2003

The first thing that greeted Angad Bhalla on entering Maikanch, a town in the east coast mineral-rich state Orissa, India, was the painting of an Adivasi tribal man in traditional clothes and the admonition: 'Police No Enter'.

The sign is a clear indicator of the relationship between the Adivasis (tribal people) and the state police after what happened here on December 16, 2000. Activists and Adivasis had gathered, as they had many times since 1993, to plan their strategy of resistance to the government takeover of their agricultural lands for mining purposes. When the police moved in to break the meeting up, violence erupted, culminating in the police opening fire, killing three and disabling many more.

It was news of these murders that drew the attention of Angad Bhalla, a Canadian filmmaker who was in India to shoot a film on a Coca-Cola plant in Kerala, a state on the country's southwest coast. But the Kashipur incident - named after the district in Orissa in which it took place - and the story of the Adivasi movement against the aluminium industry made him embark on the documentary film project UAIL Go Back. The film has been shown on the smaller festival circuit around the country, but it highlights a big problem, with roots in Montreal.

A decade-long fight

The Kashipur incident was a critical point in the eight-year long struggle between the Adivasis and the state government of Orissa, but the government is seen by many as only a front for "the company." The company in question is Utkal Alumina International Ltd. (UAIL), one of whose stakeholders is Alcan, the Montreal-based aluminium giant that owns 18 per cent of global aluminium refinery capacity and is deployed in 41 countries, employing 53,000 people. UAIL, currently a joint venture between Alcan and the Indian Aluminium Company Ltd. (Indal), has been working to set up an aluminium plant in Kashipur since 1993, when the federal government of India made the decision to privatize its hitherto public mining industry.

One hundred per cent of the annual one-million tonnes of aluminium that is expected to be produced here will be exported to the Middle East and North America. And once the government approved the privatization plans, it eschewed its responsibility to the Adivasis and is now in the process of dissolving the constitutional protections that ensure Adivasi control of their own land. Palma, an Adivasi woman, says to Bhalla in his film, "These companies have begun a theatre and our politicians are paid actors in their play."

Orissa is rich in bauxite, the mineral that contains aluminium's raw material, as well as coal, limestone, silica, chromite, dolomite and nickel, to mention a few sources of its mineral wealth. Its mining history began in the 1950s. By 1970, it had 155 working mines and by the early 1990s, 281. According to a report by Mines, Minerals and People, a Hyderabad, India-based organization that represents tribal people and groups, mining and major dams have to date displaced 150,000 Adivasis in Kashipur. By the early '90s, the state's mining industry had gone global. The government of India has approved investments from 13 multinational companies from the U.S., Australia, the U.K., South Africa and Canada. Alcan is one of them.

Learning from experience

But half-a-century of development has impoverished the Adivasis. Displaced from their land and discriminated against in the industrial job market, they are now fighting to keep their land, their only remaining resource. In Dhamanjodi, a town four hours away where an aluminium plant has operated since 1986 (run by the state enterprise NALCO with the collaboration of the French multinational Pechiney), the Adivasis have an immediate reference. Those who took government compensations frittered them away. No one got jobs at the plant. Non-Adivasis from neighbouring states are favoured for the jobs. Women have their own problems with settling for the cash compensation - many of the men spent the money in a matter of months, leaving nothing for their families.

Opponents say the UAIL project will cause major displacement, health risks and destruction of the livelihoods of 60,000 people in the area. According to the company and government's estimate, only 2,452 acres and three villages with a total 148 households will be displaced.

The worst fears are for the environment: the mine would be located in the catchment area of the Khandabinda and other tributaries of the Indravati river. The fear is that the mining sludge will silt up the Indravati and bury the surrounding Kalahandi district's reservoir, endangering the chronically drought-prone area, not to mention risking human and animal health.

Marginals get radical

India has the second largest concentration of tribal peoples after Africa and they occupy the lowest rung in the Indian economic and social system. Orissa has a remarkably high percentage of Adivasi; while the national Adivasi population is 8.1 per cent of India's total, they make up 22.21 per cent of Orissa's population. There is an added demographic of Scheduled Castes, or Dalits, who occupy the bottom rung of the caste system, making up 16.2 per cent of the population. In Kashipur district, 68 per cent are Adivasi and 18 per cent are Dalits. This concentration may have something to do with their radicalization.

What is unique about the anti-mining movement in Kashipur is that it is organized and led entirely by the Adivasis, and that it held out for so long - it has been active for over 10 years. It has encompassed protest meetings, opinion polls (where 96 per cent of the Adivasia said no to the project), rallies of thousands (one, in 1996, involved 20,000 people "gherao"ing - surrounding - the company office) blocking roads, bridge construction and convoys of company staff cars on PR trips. Protesters have been teargassed, beaten and, in Maikanch, killed. It has resulted in many arrests and numerous court cases involving Adivasi men, women, NGO activists and even children.

UAIL was a joint venture promoted initially by Norsk Hydro of Norway, Indal and Tata Industries Ltd. Tata eventually withdrew and Alcan became a joint partner in 1999. After the police firing at Maikanch village in December 2000, Norsk Hydro withdrew. According to Angad Bhalla, the work of Norwegian environmentalists and church groups in creating an anti-mine campaign had an impact on the company's decision. Alcan, however, has stayed on with its 35 per cent stake in the UAIL project.

Activists in India are hoping for a similar movement in Canada since, according to Achyut Das, an activist involved in the movement, Alcan's role is crucial in the future of UAIL.

Waiting for answers

Pending the release of the judicial enquiry into the Maikanch killings, UAIL activity is dormant. Though the enquiry is completed, the report has not been released. Meanwhile, Alcan has emerged this year as one of the "World's Most Admired Companies" on Fortune magazine's global corporate reputation survey and is rated high by GovernanceMetrics International, a global corporate governance ratings agency, for its social responsibility.

It's also poised to acquire French multi-national Pechiney, following various regulatory bodies' approval this autumn.

Alcan states that it awaits the release of the report. Joseph Singerman, Alcan's Montreal-based media representative, says that the results of the judicial enquiry into the deaths of three men have been in the state government's hands for nine to 10 months but have not been released to Alcan. Nor has there been a briefing to anyone about the results of the enquiry.

When Angad Bhalla first went to Kashipur to do research for his documentary, the Adivasi tribal people were delighted to hear he was Canadian since the Montreal-based Alcan is a big part of what they're fighting against. Asked if the industrialists and the Adivasi cannot arrive at a negotiating point, Bhalla says, "I don't think we have the right to determine what that point is. It is for the Adivasi to decide how their land is utilized."


1. Kashipur web site:
2. Environmental impact of the mining project:‘Assessment of Environmental, Economic and Social Impacts of Bauxite Mining and Alumina Processing in Orissa’, TARU, June 1996, New Delhi.
3. Information about the fifth schedule:
4. Killings on Dec16,2000:
5. Judicial enquiry that cleared the government and the company:
6. Information on "UAIL Go Back" - A Film on the Kashipur movement :

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