One Step Forward, Two Steps Back for Human Rights in Eastern India

Kartam Joga

Former prisoner of conscience and Adivasi rights activist Kartam Joga has been released in India.© Private

This week brought a rare bit of good news for human rights in the poor, rural, tribal districts of eastern India. After spending over two years in jail on false charges, human rights activist Kartam Joga was finally acquitted of all charges. Like Binayak Sen, TG Ajay, Kopa Kunjam, Ramesh Agrawal, and Harihar Patel before him, the government of Chhattisgarh tried to silence Kartam Joga for daring to demand that human rights and democratic principles be respected in Chhattisgarh. And once again, the courts found that the state had no case.

But that hasn’t stopped Chhattisgarh from continuing to imprison peaceful critics. Journalist Lingaram Kodopi and activist Soni Sori – both tortured by police – remain in custody after over a year in jail (Act here to demand their release).


Amnesty Groups Mobilize for Rights of Indigenous People in India

Kartam Joga

Human rights defender and prisoner of conscience, Kartam Joga.

Since 2005, Chhattisgarh has been at war with armed Maoist insurgents while aggressively pursuing massive and environmentally destructive development projects.

Not surprisingly, human rights have been pushed aside as an impediment to fighting terrorism and as a hindrance to development. Again and again, the Chhattisgarh government has jailed human rights, environmental, and indigenous activists on politically-motivated charges including Binayak Sen, Kartam Joga, Kopa Kunjam, Ramesh Agrawal, Harihar Patel, and most recently Lingaram Kodopi .

It has created and supported armed ant-Maoist militias that the Indian Supreme Court has since ruled unconstitutional. Thousands of locals caught in the crossfire or suspected of being Maoist sympathizers have been killed, tens of thousands have been forced from their homes. Rapes and extrajudicial killings are carried out with impunity.


Toxic Red Mud Doesn't Seem To Improve Livelihoods in India

The Indian state of Orissa is where the Vedanta Aluminum Company (Indian-based subsidiary of a UK multi-national) runs a refinery in Lanjigarh. This refinery is home to a nearly overflowing 92 billion liter (24 million gallon) pond of rather innocent sounding red mud. Already this year, video shot by local residents show the walls of the pond being breached and streets being flooded.  Compared to what is to come, the leaks have been relatively small.

When the monsoons come however, over 4,000 families in 12 villages will be threatened.

And red mud is not as innocent as it sounds. It is the leftovers of the aluminum refining process that includes highly toxic alkaline chemicals and radioactive materials. When the pond overflows its walls, red mud will contaminate drinking water, farmland, and homes, leaving environmental devastation in its wake and threatening the health and lives of thousands of people. This may sound familiar. Just last year a red mud spill in Hungary did the exact same thing.