Statement on the Martyrdom of Shehla Masood
To add your name to this statement write to Akhlak Ahmad – syed.akhlak at gmail dot com
16 August, 2011
“I am proud to be an Indian. Happy Independence Day.”
– Shehla Masood, 15 August, 2011
Gandhi “the purpose of civil resistance is provocation”. Anna has succeeded in provoking the Govt and the Opposition. Hope he wins us freedom from corruption. Meet at 2 pm Boat Club Bhopal”
– Shehla Masood, 16 August, 2011 few minutes before her martyrdom
Shehla Masood, a Madhya Pradesh based civil rights and environmental rights activist was was shot dead by an unidentified person in front of her residence in Koh-e-Fiza locality in Bhopal around 11 AM on 16th August, 2011.
We the undersigned aghast at the irony that tigers, tribals, trees and civil rights and environmental rights activists are being hunted and killed in the same manner.
We demand that the possible connection between her murder and her raising the issue of illegal Diamond mining project in Chhattarpur district, Madhya Pradesh by Rio Tinto, a transnational mining company headquartered in the UK, combining Rio Tinto plc, a London and NYSE listed company, and Rio Tinto Limited, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange must be investigated along with other suspicions by a high level probe team.
She was active to save the watershed of the Panna Tiger Reserve and the Shyamri River, one of the cleanest in the country from Rio Tinto’s mining activity along with other activists.
We suspect that the considered timing of her elimination during the ongoing anti-corruption campaign when she was on her way to support Anna Hazare’s fast is meant to overshadow the issue of illegal Diamond mining project in Chhattarpur district, Madhya Pradesh by Rio Tinto and the political Mafiosi.
The mining block is inside a forest which is the northernmost tip of the best corridor of teak forests south of the Gangetic plain. It is an established law that mining is non-forestry activity. There is an immediate need for a probe to determine who allowed the mining to take place in such an ecologically fragile area.
The Bunder mine project, near the city of Chhatarpur in Madhya Pradesh, about 500 kilometres south-east of Delhi, is likely to be one of the largest diamond reserves in the world. It is estimated that there is a ”inferred resource” of 27.4 million carats, a diamonds resource seven times richer than the Panna mine, country’s only working diamond mine.
A statement dated March 22, 2011 was laid in the Parliament (Lok Sabha) on “need to review the diamond mining project in district Chhattarpur, Madhya Pradesh posing serious threat to environment in the region”.
We have learnt from senior journalists that two Collectors have been transferred to facilitate the ongoing illegal mining and the fact that the new Collector has allowed mining which came to light when a PIL was filed stating that Rio Tinto has been carrying on exploitation of mineral resources in Chattarpur district violating the prescribed provisions.
Prior to the statement in the Lok Sabha, on March 10, 2011, the FOREST ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING of Ministry of Environment & Forests listed Agenda no. 6 on “ Prospecting of diamond at 143 additional locations in 2329.75 ha. forest land located in 18 compartments in Buxwaha Range in Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh by M/s Rio Tinto Exploration India Private Limited. [File No. 8-49/2006-FC-(Vol.)]” to discuss it but did not do so stating, “Due to paucity of time the proposal could not be discussed during the meeting”.
We had written to the Union Environment Minister and Parliamentary Petitions Committee separately drawing its attention towards Madhya Pradesh High Court’s notices to the Centre and the state government on illegal mining of diamonds by international mining companies. The court had asked both the governments to reply in this matter within four weeks. Considering the act of illegal mining as a serious offence, a double bench of Chief Justice Sayed Rafat Alam and Justice Sushil Harkauli criticised the Forest Departments, Mining Secretaries of the state as well as the Centre and issued notices against them in addition to the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board and Chattarpur Collector.
We take cognisance of the fact that Corporate Watch, a London based group had chosen Rio Tinto to award it for its display of heinous, misguided, and altogether anti-social behaviour over the last ten years in 2010.
We take note of ‘Rio Tinto: the Tainted Titan,’ the Stakeholders Report, http://www.cfmeu.asn.au, 1997, which states “It’s (Rio Tinto’s) activities in some of the wildest and the most pristine places in the world and their impact on the environment of those places, the people who live there, the life-style of the indigenous people and also its corporate culture, are subjects of real concern.”
We submit that Rio Tinto project is threatening unique forest resources in the area affected by the mine in Chhattarpur, MP. In this context, it may be noted that Roger Moody, a veteran journalist in his book Plunder, describes Rio Tinto’s activities as ranging from “brow-beating opponents, leaning on governments and price-fixing, to violating international law, union-busting and management of one of the world’s biggest commodity cartels”. His book outlines numerous examples of its environmental irresponsibility.
It is germane to recollect what Sir Roderick Carnegie, as Chairman Rio Tinto-Zinc (RTZ) had said at its 1984 shareholders’ meeting: “The right to land depends on the ability to defend it”.
We salute the struggle and martyrdom of Shehla Masood who defended our forests, rivers, land and wildlife in the face of unscrupulous corporate assault in nexus with ruling political regimes.
Shehla Masood used to conclude her messages with a proud “Roarrrrr” that cannot be silenced by the bullets of her assailants.
See also: Shehla Masood’s Facebook photos (needs Facebook login)