“At 8am this morning Anil Agarwal was woken up at his £20 million Mayfair apartment by seven demonstrators with pots and pans and whistles. They shouted ‘blood on your hands’, ‘murderer’ and ‘Vedanta ka anta ho!’ meaning Vedanta should cease to exist, and held placards. One placard cited the communities in Zambia, Australia and India who are affected by pollution and ill health from Vedanta’s mines and industry. Another named two tribal activists – Sukru Majhi and Arsi Majhi – allegedly killed by Vedanta at their Niyamgiri mine project.”
Last summer in Babylon-don I had an amazing opportunity to take part in this protest in central London. The occasion was the Annual General Meeting of Vedanta Resources PLC.
After my own adventures with the local anti-smelter movement, it was another chance for me to get involved in the global struggle against the aluminium monster, which is well documented in Out of this Earth written by Samarendra Das and Felix Padel.
I spent the day before with Sarbjit, part of the Foil Vedanta crew making posters. It was also a chance for us to share stories of struggles and I was reminded once again of how important women are to protest movements around the world.
Sarbjit for all intents and purposes was a typically quiet Indian woman. She made me amazing chapatis in her kitchen while we talked about revolution and traditional expectations and love and other things that women like us talk about.
The next day, Sarbjit’s voice rang out clear and unrelenting ‘Arrest Anil Agarwal, criminal, criminal.’ She called out for hours, her voice vibrating along the street. I imagined her refrain making the people in the AGM upstairs increasingly agitated.
The other person who stood out in this protest for me was Miriam a young English woman I met in Iceland in 2007 when Saving Iceland held their Summer Protest camp. I consider that trip one of the significant events in my life for a number of reasons but mainly because I got to experience firsthand and with people from very diverse backgrounds that multi-nationals like to play the same dirty tricks wherever they are in the world. And so the stories described to me from Orissa or Brazil or South Africa rang true to what I had experienced right here in Trinidad.
Without a doubt there are some amazing men involved in these global struggles for the environment, for people, for communities.
But women bring a truth to activism that is undeniable and pretty much uncelebrated. If women aren’t involved as more than the back-up, then the movement will fail. This is why our labour movement is so weak and lacking credibility. Because it is not rooted to anything. To real people or real issues. All I can see is a bunch of men fighting over who can piss further.
More women need to understand their role in making a difference. Beyond environmental struggles, activism among women needs to happen in terms of social interventions and taking back our communities from anything and everything that threatens to destroy them.
If we cannot change the notion of women as nurturers, life-givers, the primary source of life and living. Then we have to change the notion that women are somehow incapable of defending that which is closest and dearest to them.
All of which is to say, I’m missing my friends and sisters and brothers in London today. And wondering how to cause a Shakti revolution up in this place.