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Peace News log archive: January 2010

Articles from the Peace News log.
For archive articles from the whole site, look here

Milan Rai reports from the WRI Triennial in India

On the second morning (the third day) of the Triennial, we had our first “reflectors” session. The reflectors were five people who had been chosen to give their reaction to the conference so far. There were four women (all English-speaking, one African, one Australasian, one European, one North American) and one man (Spanish-speaking, Latin American).

Incidentally, this reminds me of something Jai Sen said about the book he co-edited: World Social Forum: Challenging Empires. They set themselves a very difficult standard in terms of contributors: achieving balance between continents and genders. (For more about the book, and other valuable publications on the way: http://www.cacim.net)

Two of the women (I didn’t catch their names, but later found out one was Vanessa Boaz of the International Centre for Nonviolent Conflict) said that we had so far had a lot of “the problem”, but not a lot of “the solution”. One said that we had not lived up to the “nonviolent livelihoods” element of the conference. The other said we had not been sharing the many successes of small movements, no exchange of strategies and tactics. At the moment it felt like the problems were so big, there was no impossible to succeed by nonviolence.

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Milan Rai reports from the WRI Triennial in India

What was the “breaking news” I promised at the beginning of the last posting? Well, yesterday I sat in on a discussion group that decided to put forward a major proposal to the council of War Resisters International, suggesting an investigation of the feasibility and desirability of WRI addressing the extent to which climate change, and in particular the threat of runaway climate change, affects the anti-militarist and social justice struggles it is currently involved in, or supporting.

The peace movement, by and large, operates on the assumption that the basic fabric of life will continue to be much as it is, with perhaps some deterioration or some improvement. (I only know of the British and US peace movements, but my impression is that this is a more general phenomenon.) We assume a continuing stable climate framework within which our opponents and ourselves will continue our struggle.

This is not a tenable assumption.

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Milan Rai reports from the WRI Triennial in India

The breaking news just doesn’t stop.

After lunch yesterday (23 January) we broke up for workshops. For some reason we had two workshop slots of differing lengths, and there was also the option for many of them of continuing the workshop after the break. The first slot (2 hours) I went to hear Bela Bhatia talking about the conflict in the state of Chhattisgarh, where police and Maoists are fighting a vicious war in a tribal area. (Tribal people are known as “adivasis” or “earliest/original inhabitants”.)

Her talk was embedded in a workshop entitled “War on terror”, and Jorgen Johannsen started things off with a definitional PowerPoint presentation on terrorism and counter-terrorism. I couldn’t help butting in at the start of his Q&A to quote AJ Muste, and the primary need to deal with the violence of established power.

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Milan Rai reports from the WRI Triennial in India

Can international conferences like this be justified? Lots of my friends think not. I have breaking news from Peace News on this score – the survey they dared not print. Well, no one has not dared to print it, actually, but it dramatises the story.

Earlier today, in the morning plenary session, we had a searing moment which really made the whole thing worthwhile. We had two plenary speakers. One was Samarendra Das, who has been working for 16 years with poor communities facing displacement and pollution and brutal repression from the mining industry. The other was Elavie Ndura (her name is actually much longer – she said a paragraph-long name – but this is what is printed in the programme), a peace-oriented scholar from Burundi now based in the USA. Elavie made general remarks about the need for collective struggle, though she said that for herself she was not one for street protests or arrests (“prison would kill me”).

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Milan Rai reports from the WRI Triennial in India

The War Resisters International Triennial (now held every four years, in a cunning ploy to avoid police detection and repression) is being held here in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, at Gujarat University or “Gujarat Vidyapith”. Coming from the recent ice, snow and slush of southern England, Ahmedabad is jarringly hot – but not too hot, dusty but not too dusty. The university, which was closed down three times by the British authorities during the national freedom struggle, was founded by Gandhi, and the library has an extensive section called “Gandhiana” (I just saw it while looking for the internet facilities).

I hadn’t known that Gandhi had agreed to a World Pacifist Meeting in India in co-operation with WRI. He stipulated that it must take place only after liberation from the British occupation. Unfortunately he was assassinated before that took place. This is the third WRI Triennial in India (the first and second were in 1960 and 1985-86). There’s a lot of history around the event: people with long records of struggle were being memorialised yesterday, the long record of speakers was being invoked, a lot has been done to entwine this international gathering with the specificity of long-standing campaigns for justice and peace within India.

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