Cosmopolitanism and the Niyamgiri Movement: The Role of an International Constituency of Support for a Social Movement in India

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 11:11
Location: Hörsaal 21 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Radhika BORDE, Cultural Geography Group, Wageningen University, Netherlands
This paper explores the trans-national aspect of a social movement in India. It analyses the international support for this social movement, primarily in terms of normative cosmopolitanism, which it differentiates into moral, legal and political cosmopolitanism; it also analyses the Indian government’s response to the movement, in similar terms. The social movement that is the focus of this paper is the movement against bauxite extraction on the Niyamgiri Mountain in the state of Odisha in India, by a multinational mining company called Vedanta Resources. Concerns regarding the violation of the cultural rights of the indigenous Dongaria Kondh community which lived on the Niyamgiri Mountain and worshipped it, were central to the Niyamgiri Movement. The paper uses normative cosmopolitanism to explore the withdrawal of financial investment in Vedanta Resources by international financial institutions that wanted to register their protest against the mining company. It also analyses the use of international soft laws to indict Vedanta Resources and the diplomatic power politics that resulted in the Indian government’s banning of the mining project, with the help of a similar theoretical framework. Finally, the paper reviews it own analysis critically and queries whether ‘soft power’ could also be a useful framework for an analysis of the support for the Niyamgiri Movement by governmental institutions. It analyses in this regard the role of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund and the acknowledgement of the role of this institution, by the Indian Supreme Court. The paper argues that the Indian Supreme Court’s verdict on the Niyamgiri case was an attempt to showcase India’s democratic traditions, and goes on to argue that this showcasing of India’s democratic traditions was an attempt to enhance India’s soft power in the trans-national public sphere. The paper explores how international relations played a role in the outcome of the Niyamgiri Movement.