Acknowledged Nuclear Power. Emerging Super Power. Observer at G 8. Aspiring for permanent membership of UN Security Council.
President Obama smiled at Manmohan Singh (India's Prime Minister), Secretary of State Hilary Clinton invited him over for lunch, the World Bank President certified his economic vision, and the IMF chief patted his back for leading his country on the path of sustained growth. That's India's arrival on the world stage. Never mind the 150 000+ farmers' suicides. Forget the millions displaced without rehabiliation over the last 50 years. Ignore the fact that the State acts as an agent and arm of corporate interests. Be deaf to the consensus between mainstream political parties (despite the pretence that they offer alternatives). Turn a blind eye to the plunder of forests and minerals in areas inhabitated by idigenous people. It really does not matter as long as we can package the India story internationally, as long as we can tom-tom about 7% GDP growth, as long as Indian models and actors get a clap at beauty pageants and film festivals. While Bush and his successors – no matter if they are Republican or Democrat – wage their war on 'terror', the Indian State unleashes its own war on 'Maoists'. It's business-as-usual whether it's the US or India; whether it's the Repbulicans or Democrats, Congress or BJP. Development-induced displacement has the same effect as bombing of communites in a war. It probably uproots more people than a tsunami or a cyclone. It dispossesses, disempowers, deskills and dehumanises people. The only difference might be whether the uprooting is gradual or sudden. There are remarkable parallels between the US Government's facilitation of the operations of Chevron, Halliburton, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Bechtel in Iraq and elsewhere, and the Indian Government's facilitation of land acquisition and the privatisation of forests and minerals for the Tatas, Reliance, Mittals and Jindals. Indeed, the flavour of the times is:
- the morphing of the Government's role from pretending to provide welfare to acting as handmaiden for corporate interests
- paying lip service to 'democracy', 'human rights', 'justice', 'sustainable development', 'participatory development', 'human rights', 'justice', even while one is in Kabul or Baghdad, Kalinganagar or Nandigram
- pay for use: : only those with the means have the right to clean air and water
- universalisation of middle class norms, lifestyle, aspirations and the selling of dreams that can never be realised
- a clinical lack of sensitivity to the growing violence and iniquity that characterises our society
- denial of the systemic and State violence that exists in society and branding self-defence or resistance as 'anti-national', 'anti-development', 'Maoism'
- pitting people against people – i.e., one set of poor against another, eg factory workers against land-losers
- to be a satellite and service economy exporting flowers and software to import wheat & oil
Does it have to be like this? Is 'development' the monopoly of the State and corporate interests? Is Peace the preserve of the UN, various Governments and the military? Or are there People here, somewhere? Experience teaches that the US and its minions will not bring peace to Afghanistan or Iraq through their weapons and armies. The Indian Government will not overcome the 'Maoist insurgency' using its police and paramilitary forces. It is only public pressure that can bring Governments to their senses. Remember the millions that marched against war in around 800 cities across the world in February 2003. But that was only a beginning and not good enough. There's a long, long way to go before people's will can assert itself more often than just through occasional elections. And Governments are not the only institution that need to change drastically. Present democracy – across the world – is bereft of meaning until the Parliaments, media and courts radically change too. In terms of immediate practical steps, for instance, we ought to bring enough pressure on the US/UK and others to stop plundering Iraq's oil and the Indian State rescinding its MOUs (Memoranda of Understanding granting unfettered rights on the forests and mineral wealth in areas inhabited by adivasis [tribal people]) with the Mittals, Tatas, Essars and Jindals. The society at large, for its part, can wake up to the fact that Islamic militants in Afghanistan or Iraq, and Maoists in India could not have been born in a vacuum. There is an inescapable link between injustice and the birth of insurgency. The poverty and injustice in any one corner of the planet has its manifestations everywhere on a global scale. We also ought to realise that Governments will not, and cannot solve any problems. It will have to be people's / civil society groups' nonviolent efforts to bring everyone to the table for dialogue. Next, some non-negotiables have to be instituted: Traditional lifestyles, occupations and resources they are based on (land, forests, water, animals) cannot be touched without an elaborate dialogue (in most places a mockery is made of formal consultation processes), and a proper legal framework for public consultation in a way that those affected have a de facto and de jure veto on decisions impacting their survival. Cash compensation is an insult to injury where communites' lives are shattered by the ravages of development projects and while the State uses violence to displace and dispossess people. Peace and Justice on this planet call for a globalisation of a different kind. The Globalisation of nonviolence, of nonviolent resistance, opening the doors for mutual understanding and solidarity rather than markets.