Towards Peace, Justice and Democracy…

December 7, 2010

NAPM’s 8th Biennial Convention – the journey Continues

December 07, 2010

More than one hundred and fifty organizations from over twenty states across India including sixty people’s movements gathered for the Eighth Biennial Convention of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) to reassert their commitments to fighting for peace, justice and democracy at Badwani, Madhya Pradesh. The convention was organised to coincide with programmes commemorating 25 years of struggle and reconstruction in Narmada Valley by Narmada Bachao Andolan.

NAPM since its inception in 1992 has come a long way and have waged important struggles along with many other movements, voluntary organisations, federations and forums, sympathetic intellectuals, artists, students and others against WTO, World Bank, Enron, SEZs, big dams, rural and urban evictions and displacements, atrocities against women, adivasis, and Dalits and communalism and promoted alternatives to the current development paradigm. It has continued the effort of alliance building process through the campaigns and processes like Desh Bachao Desh Banao (Save the Nation – Build the Nation), a nation-wide campaign, or Sangharsh / Action process in 2007. In continuation 8th Convention decided to promote setting up of Jan Sansad / People’s Parliament as an alternative to the corrupt practices of the politicians and take over of the democratically elected bodies.

The Convention was organised in the context and knowledge of unfolding process of neo-liberalism which started in early 90s and is now showing its true colours. It observed :

* Corporations, Public and Private both, are not only grabbing the resources but the political space and power through market and related mechanism. The investors – national to multinational have “privatized” each and every dimension of our society, polity and economy and social transformation today has become a greater challenge to the imagination, because Global Warming and the Energy Crisis are much more visible coupled with the power of Capital.

* The State’s role has also changed to that of a market regulator and it has given away the mask of welfare and benevolence. The political class and a more articulate middle class firmly believes in the ideology of market and neo-liberal models of economy and growth. There is an increased informalisation of labour as a result, 96% of workers today are in the unorganised and unprotected sectors of work, unprecedented polarisation between the rich and the poor, steep rise in food prices, together with loss of food security and impoverishment of agriculture. The political class rarely resolves the people’s issues but rather exploits those towards vote banking, more crudely now than ever.

* The bogey of communalism has seeped through the veins of society and governance in numerous ways and demands a different understanding and strategy to fight them. Public space, public interest, public domain and priorities are shrinking to the detriment of basic need fulfilment jeopardizing not only the present but also the future. There is also a growing trend towards “war on terror”, militarisation and violence unleashed by the State making non-violent mass struggles more difficult, but at the same time making them more relevant too.

* The armed conflicts imposed upon us by the state and counter violence by non-state and private vigilante forces are also creating a situation which is threatening the lives and livelihood of the millions of those living at the margins of this development process. Together the forces of communalism, corporatisation, and veiled casteism and patriarchy are not only threatening the framework of democratic society but has become an impediment to our collective efforts towards building a truly people’s democracy unlike the existent bourgeois democracy.

* However, these times are not that bleak either, our collective efforts have not only led to enactment of progressive legislations like Right to Information Act, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Forest Rights Act etc. but also created a situation where people on the ground have challenged every single attempt at grabbing of land, water, forests, minerals etc. We are standing amidst the victory of people’s movements at Singur, Nandigram, Niyamgiri, Sompeta, Karla, Chamalapura, Chengara and many more such places of resistance.

The Convention in its deliberations over the three days recognised the fact that the question of justice and equity have to assume priority and struggle has to be intensified to establish people’s ‘right control over natural resources’ since it has become the focal point of contestation between people, state and corporations. It projected that the coming decades will see fierce battles and struggles for asserting rights and control over land, water, forests, minerals and thereby making it more difficult to ensure justice to dalits, adivasis, women, minorities, workers, landless peasantry and others who are considered ‘out-castes of the development’.

The discussions reiterated its commitment to defying the principle of ’eminent domain’ of State and challenged its power even when it has merely become a negotiator for the corporations and appropriated military strength to protect their capitalist interest. Whether it is land acquisition, displacement or rehabilitation – most issues today are politicized and polarized and there is an urgent need for movements and supporters to evolve consensus on development planning to ensure equity and justice, through peace and democracy.

The Convention also endorsed the process of formation of a People’s Parliament i.e. “Jan Sansad” along with many other alliances in the country and extended its full commitment to the process. “Jan Sansad” would be held across the country in struggle areas with a common framework of Peace, Justice and Democracy. It will be demonstrative of direct (not representative) and just democratic forum and processes. It would strive to bring together people’s representatives, eminent activists and progressive professionals from various walks of life who would petition and challenge the conscience of the nation, drawing on the force of moral strength and will ordain direct actions and programme for immediate relief and long term transformation in the society.

After deliberations in the panel and workshops a joint national programmme was declared with the appeal to everyone to carry forward the agenda and expand the organisational strength of the Alliance. Each state chapter formulated their own programme and strategies for carrying forward the issue based struggles and their commitment and enthusiasm towards achieving comprehensive social change through multiple front actions – from mass mobilisations, to legal challenges, policy interventions and critical reflections on shared history and alliance processes.

Key Programmes

* To oppose any move by the UPA government to bring in the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill and Resettlement & Rehabilitation Bill, without including the demands of people’s movements which has been debated and presented at different levels of governments over past two decades. Demanding a nation wide consultation, the Convention re-emphasised its commitment towards repeal of Land Acquisition Act and enactment of a National Development Planning Act for which it will launch mass actions in upcoming months throughout the country.

* A plan to join the struggle against the undemocratic and anti-people 45,000 crore UID Card Project (Aadhar) which will add another unnecessary burden and would become further means of exploitation of the poor.

* A campaign for a wider and stronger legislation for full social security and protection to the 96% of on working classes, unjustifiably categorized as ‘unorganised’, would be intensified to provide their due to dalits, OBCs and adivasis, minorities, who to a large extent, fall in this category.

* The Ayodhya judgement is more political than legal but the society showed enough maturity which prevented any extreme reactions and this shows the efforts of various progressive movements over the years in establishing communal harmony. In continuance of its efforts NAPM resolved to join the ‘Sadbhav Yatra’ from Ayodhya to Wardha, beginning on December 10th, the Human Rights Day along with other movements.

* To continue the struggle for enactment of a comprehensive Food Security Act, including the priority to protecting agriculture and also oppose the diversion of agricultural land to the non-agricultural market-based business, whether industries or real estate development.

* Condemning the anti-people moves in the name of “Right to education” and “Health for all”, deprivation of the real needy people of these basic services, NAPM resolved to challenge this at state and national level.

A new national conveners committee was also constituted through a decentralised process of elections at the state conventions. Conveners elected from states included Prafulla Samantara (Orissa), Roma (Uttar Pradesh), D. Gabriele (Tamil Nadu), P. Chennaiah (Andhra Pradesh), Anand Mazgaonkar (Gujarat), Akhil Gogoi (Assam), Dayamani Barla (Jharkhand), Sr. Celia (Karnataka), Geo Jose (Kerala), Dayamani, Bhupendera Singh Rawat (Delhi), Ulka Mahajan (Maharashtra) and Suniti S. R. (Maharashtra), Sandeep Pandey and Medha Patkar. Aruna Roy was included in the team as the permanent invitee. In addition three National Organisers Madhuresh Kumar, Rajendra Ravi (Delhi) and Mukta Srivastava (Maharashtra) were appointed by the Conveners Team to carry forward the campaign and organisational work. More members would be added to the conveners Committee after the completion of the state conventions in the other states.

The Convention ended on the note of keeping the traditions of struggle and reconstruction alive and present an alternative to the present vulgar politics, giving a new political expression and vocabulary to the peace and justice movements in the country.