People’s SAARC India Assembly 2011 : People’s Movements Unite South Asia

8 – 9 November 2011, Thiruvananthapuram 

Several people's  organisations and social movement groups gathered together at Mannam Memorial National Club, Trivandrum, Kerala for a two day South Asian Assembly under the banner of People’s Movements Unite South Asia, on 8-9 November 2011.

The meeting was inaugurated by Shri Mani Shankar Iyer (Former Central Government Minister and member of the Rajya Sabha), who gave a historical overview of conflict based on the exploitation of natural resources, which has been the basis of the imperialist hegemony that began with the exploiation of coal and iron in Europe.  The same agenda with a greater thrust is being replicated in South Asia by exploiting resources such as gas and oil. He severely criticised the SAARC bureaucratic processes which have miserably failed to live up to its own ideals and the aspirations of the people. As a result, this has given rise to the People's SAARC process and he found it highly inspirational that it could play a catalytic role in the regional politics of the SAARC countries.

Mr. Ashim Roy, (General Secretary, New Trade Union Initiative) a trade union leader and one of the key organisers of the PSAARC 2011 India Assembly, in his speech said that the meeting held in Trivandrum is a paradigm shift from the way the PSAARC itself has been functioning and hopes to bring together several social movement groups and peoples’ struggles into its fold to create an impact on the South Asian Governments  to take note of peoples demands. 

Dr. KN Panikker noted historian and writer, noted that our written histories have been a hindarance for the people of the region to come together. He thus stressed the need for South Asian historians to come together to rewrite a comprehensive history of the region.

Mr. B.M Kutty (Human Rights Activist, PILER, Pakistan), spoke about how the imperial powers have been the cause of destabilising peace in the region and have created a scenario where it has various separist groups and  terrorist outfits thrive. This has serious human rights consequenses and adds to the misery of the people in the region.

Mr. Babloo Loitongbam, (Human Rights Activist from Manipur) spoke about how the Armed Forces Special Powers Act) AFSPA has been prevalent in the North Eastern state of Manipur for more than 5 decades. Even after the 11 years of hunger strike by Irom Sharmila for the removal of AFSPA from the North East, the Government of India has not taken any action. Whereas he stated that a mere 12 day strike by Anna Hazare culd threaten to destabilise the Government and forced it to take serious policy decisions in the Parliament. He also spoke about the economic blocade in Manipur, which has created misery for the life of ordinary people who struggle for survival.

Mr. Sudheer Kumar, (Activist from the People's Movement Against Endosulfan) spoke about the adverse ecological and health impact of endosulfan on the people and the Governments inaction against the same.

Mr. Someetharan, (Film maker from Sri Lanka) highlighted the war crimes that took place there, as well as the fact that the 'war' is currently being touted as a successful strategy to suppress peoples struggles for autonomy. He emphasised that it has actually not solved the problems as is being projected world wide. He made connections with the militarisation in Sri Lanka to what is happening with Operation Green Hunt in Chhattisgarh in India.

Mr. T. Peter (KSMTF) in his welcome speech stated that unless and until the South Asian Governments seriously consider the concerns of the people and their issues, movements like the PSAARC will continue to pose challenges to the State, whose policies over the last several decades have been destroying the life and livelihoods of communities. He continued to say that the PSAARC being held in Trivandrum has been a great success due to the contributions from grassroots movements, several social movements and peoples organisations.

Though SAARC was created in 1985 for the promotion of the welfare of people and collective self reliance, the peoples movements and various other struggle groups often felt that the SAARC actually served the interests of the capitalist and the corporate lobby,  and very seldom looked into issues faced by the lage majority of marginalised people in South Asia. In this context, People's organisations and social movement groups have been organising summits under the banner of Peoples SAARC. Similar events are taking place in the rest of the South Asian countries as well.

The SAARC needs to focus more on human security rather than just national security issues and trade agreement which follow the same neo liberal imperialist agend.

Two workshops were held on 8th November on 'Rebuilding the Labour Movement in the Region' and 'Denuclearisation and Demilitarisation', in which several activists and representatives from People’s Movements spoke.

Tomorrow the meeting will start at 9:30 am in which Binoy Viswom (Former Minister of Kerala);     Prafulla Samant Rai (NAPM); Prasant Paikaray (Anti POSCO Movement); Dr. Udayakumar (Anti Nuclear Movement, Kudankulam); Kanam Rajendran  (AITUC); C.K Janu (Adivasi leader); K.P Vishwavalsalan (New Trade Union Initiative), Pushparayan, Magline Peter and Saket Soni will be participating.

The event will conclude with a public rally tomorrow from Mannam Memorial National Club to the Secretariat.

For more information, please contact, T. Peter (KSMTF), 09447429243                                              

Organising Committee: Convenor: T. Peter; Chairperson: M. Rajan; Secretary: K. SajeedMembers: Kamla Bhasin, Ashim, Roy, P T George,  Magline Peter, Sumesh Mangal