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Voices from India

"They never told what would be the impact on the environment, human life and the food cycle. They only told our brothers and sisters you will get jobs, you will get education, health facilities, all these things."
Ghanshyam Birulee

Introduction and Translation by Shri Prakesh
Mr. Ghanshyam Birulee is the president of the organization that is against radiation (Jharkhand Organization Against Radiation). He will speak first, I will translate it, and then we will answer any questions that you may have. Firstly, I am very happy. and wish to say thanks, great thanks to the people here, especially to the Navajo people who have struggled a lot, and to say great thanks to them first and the word called Johar, ("welcome") to all the people here. When they came for uranium mining, they never told anything about the danger of uranium mining to the community, to the local people at all. Fortunately or unfortunately, the place where we live, Jarkhand, is rich in mineral resources.

Shri Prakesh, Dumka Murmu, and Ghanshyam Birulee (JOAR-India)

Ghanshyam Birulee, president,
Jharkhandi Organization Against Radiation (JOAR)

He’s talking about the spiritual belief of the community there. The community believes that their ancestors and their god threw an arrow in that direction, and where the arrow hit the earth that was the sacred place and the place for the community to settle down there. So they were in the eastern part of India which is directed by their spiritual god they call Marang-Buru. They settled their village, delivered their nature in harmony, the earth, the nature is like mother, and they want to live in nature in a harmonious way. So the tribals know that they are losing their land, their culture, and their communities.

During the '50s and '60s there was a person named Homi Jehangir Bhaba he’s the father of nuclear industry in India. He came to the villages and he said that you have to move from your villages because a very important element is here, and this will give a lot of prosperity to the community and to the nation. They never said anything about the radiation. They never told what would be the impact on the environment, human life and the food cycle. They only told our brothers and sisters you will get jobs, you will get education, health facilities, all these things.

When the people came from the uranium mining, they say we will provide you jobs, we will provide a better education and health system, so don’t oppose it, we will give you a better life. So in that way they started mining. The older generation didn’t know about the hazard of nuclear radiation, so there was no resistance. But now the second generation came to know about the danger of radiation and mining, so now we are forming a strong opposition and strong words against the whole nuclear activities there. Last month this organization (JOAR) protested in front of the gate, so they closed down the mining activities. The government and the company said, "we lost about 20 million rupees, so we will compensate, and we will charge your organization."

The nuclear waste that is generated by the India nuclear industry is dumped in the tailings dam in Jaduguda. There is a lot of problem in land right and degradation in culture. There are other results all over the world people are facing, but we are facing a social problem because there is a lot of abortion, abnormalities and stillbirth. We have to fight and we have to tell why this is happening. So when we are talking about this, we are facing a social problem.

A lot of the villages are just next to the dams in the mine site so we have a lot of cancer, tuberculosis, sickness and also and a lot of birth defects, still birth abortions. These are some of the problems in our community. Along with the physical and economical problems now we are facing social problems. Girls of our community, it’s difficult to find bride grooms for them because nobody wants to marry the girls of our community. Same time when a woman gets pregnant, it’s a matter of happiness, but in our community, it’s a matter of fear because nobody knows if the kid will be safe or he will stillbirth so it’s really a painful situation we have in our community.

My maternal uncle worked in mine, my father also worked in mine. All four - my mother, father, both uncles died due to cancer, so it’s really very sad for me that, I lost so many people from my family.

We came here to attend this conference in the middle of the protest and we came to with our secretary, who is sitting in the back and we will expect from the knowledge of the people. That we want to learn from their experiences and return with that experience and we will fight against the uranium mining there. What are the legal fight you have fought against the company and the government and what the dangers We want more and more information from the indigenous people.

Dumka Murmu, secretary, Jharkhand Organization Against Radiation
Now we have experience of 40 years of uranium mining in our area. The water table goes down. A lot of deforestation happens, and there is no proper rehabilitation of displaced people there. This is the situation after 40 years of uranium mine in our area. Our community depends on agriculture also from the forest, so we don’t want to give our land to any industry, and particularly the mining industry. If we will lose our land we will lose our tradition, we lose our livelihood.

We come from two communities, one is Ho. Dumka is from the Santhal community. In India, it’s a billion-people country, so this community has ten million people in his community. In 1857 the first Santhal revolt against British colonial rule was among the first revolt for the independence of the country. Later a series of revolts happened against the British rule who tried to regularize the land right of the tribal people, but as I told you, after each revolt, government come with some kind of protection of some land of the tribal people. They can be happy with some pocket of the land. During the colonial period, you need cheap labor, and you also need land for industry and other industrial activities. So what they did was move the tribal people from that particular area, and those displaced tribal people become cheap labor for another industry in another area. Tribal people were displaced from the colonial period, now the same situation is going on. The situation has not changed even after independence.

The real problem which the organization is facing, is there is no immediate danger in this mining. The affect will come after 10, 20 years, depending on the person's health and immune system. There is no immediate effect on the health of the people, so the government's side, it is very easy to tell the people, "If you give your land, you will have a better life, better future for your next generation." It is very difficult for us to convince the people otherwise. For the government's side, it is very easy to create confusion among the community. All these people are telling these lies, that there is no danger in the mines. These people are telling lies.

The tribal youth want a better life. They get confused hearing the government's words for a better job, better life, better education, so it is really a tough situation for us. The mining activities will end in about 30 to 40 years, but we will lose our land and our culture. Our areas are rich in minerals resources like coal, iron bauxite, copper. The government and companies have displaced a lot of indigenous people. About six million people are displaced, and today they are nameless and faceless. In other parts of the country, they have ended up in the slums in the big cities.

In 1996, when the movement against radiation started in a big way, police repression, state repression, came up with a massive way. Dumka's brother was brutally beaten by the police. Still, when we were coming to this summit, when we were in Delhi, we have a lot of telephone calls from the intelligence, so the situation is really very tense and very difficult in our place. Even in Dumka's family, his mother died and three more people are sick. But he says that when we see people from across the globe united against this type of injustice, he hopes we will fight, and we will unite against this injustice.

Shri Prakesh
China wants to counter Japan with North Korea, and India with Pakistan. Americans want an alternative watchdog against China, so they supported Indian Programs. So it is not only the economical aspect, it is a political decision. And now after this treaty, whatever nulcear uranium comes from the outside world will be under the inspection of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or the country that will supply this material. So the real threat for the people in India, either people from Jadugoda or people from the other nuclear mine in the northeast and in south India, is that this uranium will come from our land, from India, and it will not be under the inspection of the IAEA. So this is the real danger again in the indigenous community.

We received a lot of phone calls from the intelligence, but we came here and we are meeting a lot of people from all over the world. We get a lot of strength that we will return, and we will fight against injustice, and we will not lose our land.

I just want to add something. We witnessed one public hearing for the new uranium mines in Banduraan. A few people came up and said that we are going to die from the gamma radiation. Then someone said, "We are dying each day from hunger and empty stomach. We will die either way, either with the poverty. So it will be better with the fullest stomach, rather than an empty stomach. It will be better to die with gamma radiation than with the empty stomach."

It is a difficult situation when the new market economy. Globalization is creating a lot of problems for the marginalized people in our country. We need better cooperation and better networking to improve our situation and raise voice against this deadly industry. Thank you once again.

For more information go to: www.jadugoda.net

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"We’re here to talk about what we can do to save the world from nuclear proliferation. Our world, we’ve come to find out, is very small. It’s not as big as we once thought. It is an almost impossible task to save the world from nuclear proliferation, but in my way of life, the Diné way of life, we believe that there are no impossibilities. Although it seems like there are only a handful of us here trying to make a stand against nuclear proliferation, the task is not impossible. It all starts when we come together from all corners of the world, like we are doing here this week. We can start by coming to the realization that we are all on the same side. We are all members of the five-fingered intelligent earth dwellers called homosapiens, human beings. It doesn’t matter the color, the creed. We’re all earth dwellers here, in this world."
—The Honorable Joe Shirley, Jr.
President of the Navajo Nation
Address to the Indigenous World Uranium Summit, November 30, 2006

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