Preliminary report from actions against the WTO in India

The Global Day of Action against Capitalism and the WTO was celebrated by diverse Indian movements with actions and demonstrations throughout the country.

Mass-based movements representing Adivasis [indigenous peoples], farmers, slum dwellers, women, victims of the greed of corporations such as Union Carbide, workers, students and other social sectors directly affected by the destructive process of capitalist globalisation took the streets in several states to express their rejection of the WTO regime and demand India's withdrawal from it.

This message contains only an incomplete report of the N30 and related actions in India. Below you will find reports of the demonstrations in Bangalore, the Narmada valley and New Delhi. Detailed reports of other actions will follow in the next days. We know know that the diverse farmers', adivasis' and workers' movements that compose JAFIP (Joint Action Forum of Indian People Against the WTO and Anti-Human Policies) and AIPRF (All-India Peoples' Resistance Forum) organised a number of decentralised actions on November 30: protests took place in 10 different districts of Punjab, as well as in the states of Bihar (Patna and other places), West Bengal (Calcutta), Andhra Pradesh (Hyderabad, Guntur, Shakrapatnam), and other locations. We will send more information as soon as it is available.

"We Don't Want Monsanto's Bullshit"

KRRS demonstrates against the WTO and Monsanto

Protest Forms Part of the N30 Global Day of Action Against Capitalism Bangalore (India), 30 November 1999 - Several thousand farmers from all the districts of Karnataka gathered today in Bangalore to protest against the Third Ministerial conference of WTO which is now starting in Seattle. They were joined by activists from several leftist organisations and unions. At the end of the demonstration they issued a 'Quit India' notice to Monsanto, urging the company to leave the country or face non-violent direct action against its activities and installations. Another notice was issued to the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), which has permitted Monsanto to do its research work in its premises, to expel the transnational corporation from the campus.

The demonstration started at the central train station at 10:30 and headed towards the Mahatma Gandhi's statue to hold a public meeting. The police tried to stop the demonstrators from entering the park where Gandhi's statue is situated, but the KRRS farmers went into the park telling the police that they don't need anyone's permission to visit this statue and shouting slogans against the WTO, 'free' trade, Monsanto etc. They sat down in front of the statue with big banners and placards stating "We Don't Want Monsanto's Bullshit", "Keep Organic Free from Genetic Engineering", etc.

The police also tried to stop KRRS farmers from installing a microphone for the public meeting, but gave up after the farmer activists warned them that if the sound system was not allowed into the park, they would hold the meeting on the street, blocking the traffic. This was the first time that a sound system was allowed inside Gandhi Park.

Representatives of all the districts of KRRS, of trade unions and other leftist organisations addressed the public meeting. Mr. Kodihally Chandrashekhar, General Secretary of KRRS, stated: "We have already experienced the impact of 'free' trade on our lives, this is why we demand the Indian Government to reject the WTO regime and withdraw from it."

Mr. Veeranna, president of KRRS in the Bellary district, where more than 18 tonnes of Monsanto's sorghum seeds of were recently destroyed, said "Farmers who used Monsanto's seeds are suffering a lot. This year the entire crop of Monsanto's sorghum failed in the 30.000 acres where it was planted, ruining more than 1.000 families. We already warned agribusiness when we destroyed the Cargill office in Bangalore in 1993. Remember that if you don't leave India soon we will kick you out physically." Mr. Kalmath, representative of KRRS in the Raichur district, declared "In November 98, when we came to know that Monsanto was holding field trials in Karnataka, in my own district, we decided to burn the crops in the action 'Cremation Monsanto'. We will continue taking direct action until these TNCs go away."

Mr.Shankarappa, KRRS president in Mandya district, stated: "We were under British for more than 200 years. Then we started living under the rule of our own corrupted politicians and capitalists. We know that neither Prime Ministers nor Chief Ministers are concerned about farmers. But we would like to remind you that if you are alive today, it is only because of us. You have money, machines, a lot of property, but you cannot eat them. My message to you is that 'Kill WTO - otherwise it kills you'."

Mr. K.T. Gangadhar, representative of KRRS in the district of Shimoga, addressed the police: "We can judge the concern of the police and the Government about us by seeing the large number of police officials in our symbolic demonstration. We have not come here to steal anything from anybody. As farmers, we have the big responsibility on our shoulders of feeding everybody, and that is not a joke. We don't want to grow and feed poisonous food by using the genetically modified seeds of Monsanto. It is our responsibility to protect our natural resources. I would like to tell to the police to be prepared! We will attack Monsanto unless it quits India."

Mr. Jagadish, representative of the leftist organisation 'Secular India Fauz', declared: "We know what will be the effect of increased import of agricultural and other products on countries like India where the majority of the population are small and landless farmers. We are with you. We will fight together against our common enemy."

Mr. G.R. Shivashankar, president of the Karnataka Trade Union, asserted: "Because of multinational corporations, 7.000 Indian industries are closed today. If we keep quiet the whole country will be in the hands of transnational investors. This is the time for farmers and industrial workers to come closer and fight with unity."

Mr. V. Sheshareddy, vicepresident of KRRS, closed the public meeting. "The WTO is trying to deliver countries like ours into the hands of transnational monopolies. But we will not allow them to interfere in our lives. We don't want multinational seed companies, we don't want genetically modified seeds. We have our own technologies and we are very happy with them."

After the public meeting, a delegation of KRRS activists went to the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and to the Monsanto office in Bangalore to issue notices. The notice given to the IISc said that this institution was "created at the time of freedom movement to help the development of country with regard to science and technology. Instead of fulfilling your objectives, you have given space to the multinational corporation Monsanto, which is trying to build up a monopoly on agriculture with the help of biotechnology. You will have to withdraw the permission given to Monsanto to do research work in your campus."

The notice given to Monsanto said "you should quit India otherwise we will have to throw you out from here". Monsanto staff asked the farmers' delegation not to shout slogans inside the building, but they must have been quite disappointed when the result of their request was exactly the opposite of what they intended. When the delegation was invited to negotiate by Monsanto's regional director, Mr. Manjunath, they replied that they had nothing to negotiate with Monsanto, and told the director to get the company out of the country.

Women from all Karnataka districts attended the demonstration and used the opportunity to discuss new plans to strengthen the gender work within KRRS.

For more information please contact <>

Action against the WTO and the Maheshwar dam in New Delhi

500 women and men from the Maheshwar area of the Narmada valley arrived on the 29th of November to New Delhi in order to participate in a 3-days Dharna (sit-in) at Raj Ghat, the place where the ashes of Mahatma Ghandi are buried. They went to New Delhi in order to protest against the destructive capitalist model of so-called 'development'. Their actions had two specific targets: the collusion of Indian industrial interests, diverse multinational corporations and the German state to build up a dam in Maheshwar, which would have devastating local impacts, and the WTO regime, for the equally vandalistic and insidious dispossession that it creates globally.

They staged two different actions on November 30th. The first one took place outside the German embassy, under the strong surveillance of the police. The German government is now considering the approval of a Hermes guarantee for the Maheshwar dam, the first privatised hydro-electric project in the history of independent India. The approval of such a guarantee would take all the risk away from the foreign corporations (such as Siemens, ABB, etc) which are investing in its construction; hence, if this mega-dam, besides being a human, cultural and environmental tragedy, would as expected end up being a financial disaster (like so many other mega-dams), the losses would be paid with German taxpayers' money. If the guarantee is approved, the Indian and foreign corporations involved will undoubtedly go ahead with this dreadful project, despite the strong grassroots resistance to it, despite the fact that its terrible social and ecological consequences have been acknowledged even by the Indian Environmental Ministry's recent report on the project.

A group of 10 representatives of Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement, NBA) and supporters (including the internationally acclaimed writer Arundhati Roy, winner of the Booker Prize) went into the German embassy in the morning to deliver the more than 11.000 protest postcards written by people from the Maheshwar area. They were arrested for 2 hours due to a foolish regulation according to which 10 persons are too many people to enter the embassy, while 100 other NBA activists protested outside the embassy, holding banners and placards with slogans against the dam and the WTO, such as "WTO Regime: killer of people, nature and culture".

The same day at 15:00 the complete group of 500 representatives of NBA from the Maheshwar area, along with scores of activists from Jagerti Mahila Samiti (Committee for the Awakening of Women, a local grassroots movement organising in the slums of Delhi), Prawaha (a students' organisation), the National Alliance of Peoples' Movements and several local organisations, held a symbolic protest against the WTO near Raj Ghat, the place where the ashes of Mahatma Ghandi are buried and where NBA's 3-days sit-in took place. The women burned a statue symbolising the WTO and several speeches were held. The speakers, representing different organisations, stated their commitment to Gandhi's vision of a self-reliant, sustainable, solidarity-based India composed of village republics, which is worlds away from the destructive, centralising and anti-human process of capitalist globalisation regulated and furthered by the WTO. They made clear that they will not allow any transnational corporation in their land and forests, and that they will resist the destructive and exploitative policies imposed by rotten capitalists, political parties and bureaucrats for the benefit of the elites.

For more information please contact Narmada Bachao Andolan at <> and the National Alliance of Peoples Movements at <>


Besides these actions on November 30 the protests to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, stretching from the 1st to the 3rd of December, also form part of the Day of Action.

There are already plans for follow-up actions in the region. The diverse movements that form JAFIP have recently discussed a plan of action to build-up momentum and continue building up the movement against the WTO in the next months. A massive national rally will take place in New Delhi on December 29th, at which all major Indian movements will greet a new WTO-free millennium, and regular decentralised programmes of awareness-raising and mobilisation will take place in most Indian states. For more information contact JAFIP at <> and AIPFR at <> and <>

An impressive programme called 'Land Entitlement Satyagraha' [Satyagraha is a Gandhian term that means Strugge for Truth] will be lauched on the 10th of December, spearheaded by Ekta Parishad [Unity Conference], a mass-based Adivasi movement from Madhya Pradesh and one of the most important movements of indigenous peoples in Asia. The Satyagraha will consist of a 3.000-kilometer march on foot, stretching from the 10th of December 1999 to the 20th of June of the year 2000. The aim of this march is to launch a massive movement of non-violent direct action and civil disobedience on land issues. The march will promote the occupation of governmental land, thus implementing land reform by means of direct action, and urge rural communities to reclaim the control over their resources and livelihood, which is being increasingly taken away from them by the destructive process of capitalist globalisation. This process, driven by global forces and institutions like the WTO, with the direct support of the national and local elites, is depriving people of their rights and means of livelihood. The march, which will pass through 1.500 villages and mobilise opinion in over 10.000 villages, will create awareness about the destructive role of the WTO regime, transnational corporations and financial institutions, in complicity with national and state governments, calling for direct action to restore the rights of people. Due to the emphasis on direct action and to the occupations of governmental land that will form part of the programme, the organisers are counting on a heavy dosis of police repression. Hence, international solidarity will be very important; in the future we will continue sending information about this Satyagraha, including calls for action whenever this is necessary. For more information please contact Ekta Parishad, Gandhi Bhavan, Bhopal, India, tel. +91-755-543800 [in the next report of Indian actions against the WTO we will send the email address as well].

In Sri Lanka various organisations representing people affected by the World Bank policies (farmers, retrenched workers, traditional fishermen, victims of the mega-projects etc.) are organising a rally against the WTO and the World Bank in Colombo, capital of Sri Lanka, on the 15th of December. A group of people from these organisations has been going around the country awakening people on the ill effects of capitalist globalisation. For more information please contact Srath Iddamalgoda at <>.

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