Kama Pradhan, a 35-year-old tribal woman, her eyes intent on the glowing screen of a hand-held GPS device, moves quickly between the trees. Ahead of her, a group of men hastens to clear away the brambles from stone pillars that stand at scattered intervals throughout this dense forest in the Nayagarh district of India’s eastern Odisha state.
Scattered across 31 remote hilltop villages on a mountain range that towers 1,500 to 4,000 feet above sea level, in the Malkangiri district of India’s eastern Odisha state, the Upper Bonda people are considered one of this country’s most ancient tribes, having barely altered their lifestyle in over a thousand years.
A nationwide enquiry into illegal mining in India was aborted before it completed its investigation into the failings of the country’s mining industry. The study had prompted the government to ban mining in two states and arrest high-ranking politicians.
Over a decade ago, the Dongria Kondh tribe – tucked away in the Niyamgiri hills, a mountain range in the eastern Indian state of Orissa – found itself under attack.