Pressure on church as Lumley joins tribals

London,July 30 : Representatives of Britain's largest Christian denomination have met members of a tribe from Orissa to hear demands to withdraw investments from a British company that plans to mine a mountain that the tribe claims as sacred land.
The tribal protesters and international campaigners have added feisty British actress Joanna Lumley to their list of celebrity supporters.
The meeting between representatives of the Church of England's ethical investment group and two members of the Dongria Kondh tribe took place in London yesterday following widespread protests at the annual general meeting of shareholders of Vedanta Resources, one of Britain's largest mining companies.
The Dongria Kondh say Vedanta's plans to mine the bauxite-rich Nyamgiri mountain are sacrilegious as it is the abode of their deity Nyam Raja, but Vedanta points out the project has been cleared by the Supreme Court and claims it will benefit locals.
"The meeting between church representatives, tribal campaigners ~ Mr Sitaram Kulisaki and Mr Bratindi Jena and a member of the aid agency ActionAid ~ lasted for over an hour," said Ms Meredith Alexander, head of trade and corporates at ActionAid.
"The Church of England representatives were very interested to hear from the Dongria Kondh," she told IANS.
A spokesman for the Church of England, which has 2.5 million pounds of investment in Vedanta, said they now planned to meet the management of the mining company, which is owned by Indian-born billionaire Mr Anil Aggarwal.
"We have a policy of engaging with companies with whom we invest. If you simply disinvest you lose any opportunity to engage. Our investment bodies have the duty to ensure good financial returns," church spokesman Mr Steve Jenkins told IANS.
Survival International, which campaigns for the rights of indigenous people, has written to the British ministry of business enterprise urging it to investigate whether Vedanta is in violation of guidelines set by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
But Vedanta has said some of its shareholders are concerned about the campaigns of ActionAid and Survival International, and advised the two NGOs to drop their campaign.
"The Supreme Court, in its decision to approve the project has taken account of their views and the many benefits in terms of employment, education and healthcare, that the project will bring," the company said in a statement.
"We are proceeding with the project on the basis agreed with them and we urge these NGOs to respect the decision of the legitimate authority in India, the world's largest democracy," it added.
Meanwhile, actress Joanna Lumley said yesterday: "I urge the public to support the Dongria, who simply want to be allowed to live in peace. Unlike so many of India's rural poor, the Dongria Kondh actually live very well in the Nyamgiri hills, and it's a terrible irony that what Vedanta is proposing to do in the name of development will actually destroy this completely self-sufficient people."
Lumley, fresh from leading a high-profile campaign to allow Gurkha veterans of the British Army to live in Britain, is in Nepal celebrating the victory over the British government. She is the latest celebrity to join the Nyamgiri campaign after human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger, writer Arundhati Roy and musician Nitin Sawhney.