Day 5: Medha Patka & Aruna Roy lead cry to oppose govt moves which violate marginalized's rights Print E-mail

 Tuesday November 14 2006

Oppose SEZs, says India Social Forum

Aarti Dhar

"These will displace thousands of people and destroy farmers' livelihood"

DETERMINED TO FIGHT: Social activists Medha Patkar and Aruna Roy at the India Social Forum in New Delhi on Monday (Photo: Sandeep Saxena)

NEW DELHI: The India Social Forum concluded here on Monday with a call to make governments accountable and answerable to the people, and to fight for the rights of the marginalised sections.

Speaking at the concluding function, social activist Aruna Roy asked the people to come together to raise their voice against special economic zones (SEZs), which would displace thousands and take away the livelihoods of thousands others dependent on agricultural land.

"We will fight for our rights in different ways, be it music, culture or even coming out on the streets to draw the attention of the Government that is out to destroy democracy."

"Not here to beg"
Ms. Roy said: "The country does not belong to a handful of bureaucrats and politicians, but to the people. And neither does the world belong to Bush or Blair," adding, "We are not here to beg, but to take our dues."

Asking the people to utilise the Right to Information Act to "expose" the "irresponsible and anti-social" Government, Ms. Roy said it was bureaucrats who wanted the Act amended for, having to part with information, they felt threatened.

"We leave this place with a pledge to oppose SEZs, and work for the formulation of policies for the poor and the displaced. Ultimately, the politicians have to come to us for votes, and that will be the time to give them a fitting reply."

Creating linkages
Expressing solidarity with the people's struggle, Lebohang Phekoin, South African activist working for the rights of indigenous people, said the Forum was an opportunity to create linkages and solidarity. "We gain strength from each other to further our cause." The basic issues were governance, land, and policies, and the stress was on including the citizens' input in the nation-building process.

"Good response''
Impressed with the response the Forum received, Ms. Phekoin said it was good to see the socially and economically marginalised sections coming together.

The five-day meet ended with performances by Rewben Mashangva, Manipuri artiste and pioneer of the "Naga folk Blues"; Maya Rani, a "baul" singer from Bangladesh; Nepathya, a band from Nepal that combines traditional folk music with rock; and a team from Africa, whose musical performance consists of several styles including poetry.