on April 10, 2003 at New Delhi
We the people of India demand
Immediate cessation of the war against the Iraqi people!
Exemplary punishment for the imperialist aggressors!
I. We the concerned people of India express our profound outrage at the unjustified, unprovoked, and utterly barbaric Anglo-American aggression and invasion of Iraq. For 21 days and nights, they have rained the most sophisticated bombs as well as other weapons of mass destruction on the hapless Iraqi men, women and children and laid waste to their country. They have used all the weapons at their disposal, layed siege to villages and towns, cut off water and electricity supply, and forcing their way into buildings and private homes, turned the Iraqis prisoners in their own country. They have used their control over the electronic media as well as the targeted destruction of Iraqi television as well as any independent journalists to carry out a calculated psychological war against the Iraqi people.
Like all aggressors, the Anglo-American marauders are cloaking their crime in the name of “liberating the Iraqis”, “bringing democracy”, “eliminating weapons of mass destruction”, and so on. Never have such excuses sounded so hollow. The world can see just who are unleashing mass destruction, who are the tyrants and oppressors.
We demand immediate, total and unconditional withdrawal of all the aggressor troops, tanks, planes and weaponry from Iraqi soil and airspace. We demand the immediate, total and unconditional cessation of all bombardment of Iraqi positions.
We demand, not the self-serving “reconstruction” of Iraq by the aggressors, or the token “humanitarian relief”, but full reparations for every iota of damage and destruction they have caused, to be paid by the aggressors, and with the amount and manner of their disbursement to be determined by the Iraqi people alone.
II. We the Indian people express our oneness with, and deepest respect for, the Iraqi people in their hour of need. Already battered by more than ten years of crippling punitive measures imposed on them; disarmed by the United Nations; confronting the most ferocious war machine ever known to mankind; and betrayed by the UN and a majority of the world’s governments, including those like the Indian government which claim to have “friendly relations” with them; the Iraqi people have waged a struggle for 21 difficult days relying entirely on their own courage and conviction in the justness of their cause. Through their heroic struggle, they have made a mockery of the fantasies of the Anglo-American propaganda machine that the aggressors would be welcomed with roses as liberators! After laying siege and bombing Basra and Baghdad for 21 days and nights, the British and American occupation forces are now busy organising rioters in the full view of the camera to “prove” to the world’s peoples that Iraqi people are welcoming them! Such is the cynicism as well as bankruptcy of the imperialist aggressors!
III. We express our utter disgust at the stand taken by the Government of India. It is pursuing a stated policy of pragmatism and so-called “national interest” to justify refusal to play any role in any international fora to block or condemn the Anglo-American imperialists’ completely unjust war of occupation of the ancient nation of Iraq. This stand which implicitly condones the aggression, is devoid of any principle, and is motivated by the basest of intentions, including the desire to share in the plunder of a devastated Iraq. We declare to the world that this is not the stand of the people of India. How is it that the government can ignore the overwhelming sentiment of the Indian people against the aggression on Iraq, expressed in so many ways? How is it that, in the “world’s largest democracy”, such a vital matter is not even discussed in Parliament before the government adopts a stand? The fact that India’s parliament took 21 days to meet to issue a “consensus statement” after quibbling over what word would not offend the aggressors, only highlights this even more starkly.
The discussion that took place in parliament on Tuesday was no discussion. It was a balancing act, the “middle path” of bankruptcy for all to see. One billion people were put to shame by it. By discussing semantics, India’s parliament sent a clear message to the Anglo-American imperialists that at best we are toothless tigers and at worst we connive at their crimes. There is no solace for the hapless Iraqi people or the other peoples who will be the certain targets of the aggressors in the days to come. We urge all legislators of conscience to take the initiative to force a full, open discussion on the issue in the Parliament and assemblies. We urge them to stand up and be counted in condemning the Anglo-American aggression, if necessary defying their Party whips. Let it be very clear to them and to all Indians that the ambitions of the American and allied imperialists are not limited to Iraq alone; that what is happening to Iraq today can happen to us in India tomorrow, unless the imperialist marauders are stopped in their tracks right now.
IV. We express our indignation at the role played by the United Nations in the developments leading up to the present scenario – first, in legitimising the brutal sanctions regime that was responsible for countless deaths and immeasurable suffering among the Iraqis; then, by disarming, in the name of “weapons inspection”, a country that was clearly being set up as a target for aggression by the US imperialists; and finally, by failing to take any measures to prevent or force a rollback of the invasion. It was not for this that the peace-loving peoples of the world set up the UN at the end of a horrifying world war just over a half-century ago.
The UN Security Council, a majority of whose members claim to be against the aggression, must meet immediately—not to legitimise the aggression by talking of “reconstruction”; not to prepare the ground for future aggressions, not to be a rubber stamp of the aggressor powers as the notorious “League of Nations”. It must meet to condemn, in plain terms the aggression, to demand the cessation of hostilities by the aggressors and the withdrawal of all their troops and weaponry, and discuss and decide on exemplary punishment of the aggressors – just as it had done with respect to Iraq after 1991. If the Security Council abdicates this duty, then the General Assembly of the countries of the world must be called into session, to discharge the obligations of the United Nations.
V. We express our oneness with the peoples of the world, who have come out repeatedly and demonstrated their anger and indignation over the aggression on Iraq in unmistakable terms. The growing isolation of the criminals Bush and Blair in their own countries is evident. As for those governments in other countries who have put pragmatic calculation of so-called “national interest” above principle, and have failed to forthrightly condemn the aggression – they should hang their heads in shame in the face of the dauntless, high-minded opposition expressed by millions of ordinary women and men in all corners of the globe.
We condemn the measures being taken by the authorities in various countries to suppress the opposition to the aggression, ranging from the use of water cannon, teargas and caning against demonstrators, to behind-the-scenes pressure and intimidation as well as the introduction of fascist legislation to suppress dissent. Particularly reprehensible is the use of such measures by governments such as those of Bush and Blair that claim to be champions of democracy and who do not hesitate to commit crimes against other countries in the name of “upholding democracy”.
VI. The present juncture poses very grave dangers for the peoples. The right of peoples and nations to determine their own destiny – a right established through countless struggles against colonialism and imperialism – is being denied. The equality and sovereignty of states is being trampled upon. Mechanisms evolved after the painful experience of earlier world wars to prevent and punish aggression have proved ineffective. Jingoism, chauvinism and disinformation in the service of naked aggression have been raised to new heights. State terrorism and fascisation of life is also being pressed into the service of aggressive regimes. The roots of all these phenomena lie deep in the crisis-ridden world capitalist economy. The most powerful capitalist interests in the world are trying to maximise their profits in the conditions of economic crisis through the classic mechanisms of war and militarisation, and the scramble for new markets, raw materials and fields for investment through redivision of the world.
VII. But the present juncture also poses a challenge and an opportunity for the peoples. People have been through the horrors of invasion and occupation before, and are not willing to stand on the sidelines, even when it is another country or people that are under attack. Rarely has the power and unity of world public opinion been seen in such stark manner as it has manifested these past few months.
We in India are proud to be part of the great movement of the freedom-loving peoples of the world. Over one billion strong, we can be a most powerful force in the world influencing the course of world events in a positive, progressive direction. For this, we have to take our obligation to clarify our stands and to make our voice heard, very seriously.
As an immediate focus of our efforts, we must demand:
- The Anglo-American aggressors and their allies must immediately stop all hostilities against Iraq and withdraw totally and unconditionally from Iraq.
- The payment of full reparations by the aggressors to the government and people of Iraq.The convening of the UN General Assembly to unequivocally condemn the aggression, demand withdrawal of the aggressors from Iraqi soil and to decide on punitive action against the aggressors.
- The Indian Government must break all military collaboration with the Anglo-American imperialists and join hands with other countries of west and south Asia to expel all imperialist troops and bases from the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf region.
- The Indian parliament should organise a special session to discuss the implications for India and the world of the Anglo-American imperialist occupation of Iraq and their plans for the conquest of Asia. It should condemn plainly the Anglo-American Belfast summit and the plans of the occupiers to set up a puppet regime. It should oppose the United Nations giving legitimacy to the aggressors in any manner. Mechanisms should be in place that informed public opinion could participate in this discussion.
In order to safeguard peace and justice on a lasting basis, we need to go beyond this. We need to build public opinion around the following positions that we hold to be true:
The right of each country and people to decide and have its own political and economic system free of outside interference, is inviolable. The Anglo-American system of “democracy” cannot be imposed on other countries and peoples. The fight against oppression and exploitation of any kind within a country is first and foremost the fight the people of that country, and cannot be made the pretext for foreign aggression. Likewise, the principle of the equality of all countries is the only basis of a civilised world order, and must be respected in letter and spirit. Struggle must be relentlessly waged to ensure that existing international institutions, laws and mechanisms actually defend these inviolable principles. Mechanisms need to be developed and strengthened to ensure punishment for countries such as the US and Britain, which have flagrantly violated these principles based on their armed might.
In India, we can see how the cloak of “national interest” is being used to pursue a foreign policy based on brinkmanship and militarisation, and support to the aggressive strategy of US imperialism, bringing the threat of war and hostilities very close to home. In this situation, we uphold that the “national interest” of a country must not be allowed to be determined by the self-serving aims of a narrow elite of wealth and power. The interests of the ordinary working people, the vast majority, are the only basis for determining what is the “national interest”. Where the existing political process and institutions do not allow the will and sentiments of the people at large to prevail, we must, on the basis of the widest possible discussion and consultation among the people, work to bring into being a political process and institutions which genuinely empower the people.
We support all initiatives that draws into its fold people from all parts of the country and sections of society, in order that the movement of the people against war and aggression, and for peace and justice, is sustained and taken to a qualitatively higher level. These can include broad-based signature campaigns, large and small meetings and rallies that bring people from all walks of life together, and the formation of non-partisan committees in every neighbourhood and work place that facilitate discussion and consultation among the people. We will ensure that the powerful expression of people’s sentiments, seen in the opposition to the Anglo-American aggression against Iraq, is sustained and developed to bring the hitherto marginalised Indian people to the centre stage of the political system and process.
Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer, Justice H. Suresh and Prakash Rao
The following are among the hundreds of signatories to the appeal:
Prof. Rajni Kothari, Honorary Chairperson, Lok Raj Sangathan
Shri Kuldeep Nayyar, Member of Parliament, Veteran Journalist, and
former High Commissioner to the UK
Shri Shahid Siddiqui, Member of Parliament, Chief Editor, nayi Duniya
Vandana Shiva, activist in the field of bio-diversity
Ramaswamy R. Iyer, theoretician in field of water conservation
Justice Rajinder Sachar, noted rights activist
Gautam Navlakha, acitivst and journalist
Anand Swaroop Verma, activist and journalist
Sagari Chhabra Journalist
R.A.P. Singh Ex Gen Secy AIPEU
MJ Vijayan, The Other Media
K.C. Nahata, Forum of Voters