24, Nov 2019 | Priya Ranjan Sahu
Image – Activists at the NAPM Convention
Puri: India faces serious political, social, economic, cultural and ideological crises and the party in power at the Centre and its affiliated organisations want to change the secular fabric of the country. Progressive individuals and groups must rise to the occasion to confront the challenges that these trying times have thrown up and find ways to save the Constitution, secularism and unity of the country.
This was the appeal of India’s leading social and civil rights activists including Aruna Roy, Bezwada Wilson, Teesta Setalvad and Medha Patkar at the three-day national convention of the National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM), which began in Puri on Saturday. Patkar is the convenor of NAPM, an umbrella organisation of all grassroots movements across the country.
Over 600 delegates from different grassroots organisations leading struggles against mining, industry and displacement, and for rights of forest dwellers, farmers, fishermen and daily wage workers are attending the convention, which will discuss contemporary struggles and challenges, and devise strategies action plans for grassroots movements across the country in the face of corporate onslaught on natural resources and communal politics.
Magsaysay award winner Aruna Roy said, “Workers and farmers are the foundation of India. But land is being snatched away from them in the name of development projects like mines, factories, airports and smart cities. The government is bringing new laws to throttle our voices. Many social activists are in jail, while contractor raj is going on. We must fight to end this.”
Civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad said that today such a government is in power, which has scant respect for the Constitution. “The central government is creating fear among common people in the name of National Register of Citizens (NRC) and targeting the most marginalised people including Adivasis, Dalits and minorities. On the one hand, water, forest and land are being snatched away from the poor to make Adanis richer, and, on the other hand, NRC is being used to keep the common people on tenterhooks,” Setalvad said.
Magsaysay award winner Bezwada Wilson added that the Central government is devising policies to benefit the few super-rich richer as well as making poor people more marginalised.
Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar said that India’s unity is in peril due to communal politics while farmers, workers and fishermen face loss of livelihood due to economic slumps. “We must challenge goondaism that divides the country in the name of religion and caste,” Patkar said.
Many activists at the convention lamented that violence of all forms, particularly mob lynching, is on the rise, while people’s movements are being smothered systematically. They said many progressive laws like the Right to Information, Forest Rights Act, coastal regulations, land acquisition and labour laws were enacted after long struggles by grassroots groups, but they are now being diluted to benefit the corporate sector. But on the other hand, repressive laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and NIA Amendment Bill, as well as constitutionally questionable Bills like Triple Talaq are being passed, they said.
They said that corporate loot of natural resources has become the order of the day at a time India’s economy has been badly hit. While lakhs of people have lost their jobs, public sector companies are being privatised at top speed, they said.
(Photo Credit – Priya Ranjan Sahu)
The original article may be read here.