Indians against the War in Iraq – was the theme of the meeting organised by Lok Raj Sangathan at the Constitution Club on 10 April 2003. Over 250 people attended and more than a dozen eminent speakers spoke at the meeting, who also signed an appeal prepared by LRS, that demanded “immediate cessation of the war against the Iraqi people and exemplary punishment for the imperialist aggressors! “
Shri.T.S. Sankaran, one of LRS’ Hon. Chairpersons presided over the meeting; Prof. Rajni Kothari, another Hon. Chairperson, and representatives of the workers, peasants, women and youth activists of LRS were also present on stage. The opening remarks by the Chairperson were followed by brief and very strong presentations by Dr.Vandana Shiva (Director, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology), Prof. B. S. Chimni (School of International Studies, JNU), Shahid Siddiqui (MP, Samajwadi Party), Gautam Naulakha (freelance journalist and human rights activist) and Anand Swarup Verma (journalists), Prakash Rao (Convenor, LRS), Ramaswamy R. Iyer (expert on water resources), Justice Rajinder Sachar (civil rights activist), Kuldeep Nayyar (member of Rajya Sabha and veteran journalist), Mani Shankar Aiyar (MP, Congress Party) and Siddharth Varadarajan (journalist).
Justice Krishna Iyer, Hon. Chairperson of LRS, sent a message to the meeting that strongly and unequivocally opposed the savage carnage unleashed on the Iraqi people by the “evil axis” of the U.S and U.K. The message called on the people and government of India to arrest the atrocities caused by the invasion of Iraq. He concluded with an evocative appeal to the world “to awaken to the global menace of the imperialist powers and to restore civilisation on earth”.
The Chairperson spoke for everybody present when he said that he was filled with anger and outrage mixed with sadness at the tragedy that has struck the Iraqi people. There was unanimity among all the speakers that the U.S and U.K had no moral or legal right to aggress on Iraq under any pretext whatsoever, that the United Nations and the Security Council had failed abjectly to fulfil their mandate to arrest the aggression and most importantly, that the world’s people, in millions, had spoken out against the war by the imperialist coalition. The speakers condemned that the people’s voices, in opposition to this criminal act by the US, had not only been ignored by their governments but also suppressed. Equally deplorable was the failure of the Indian government to take a firm stand against American imperialist aggression, and its “pragmatic” position that was more concerned with not prejudicing its interests with the U.S rather than with the attack on the lives and sovereignty of the Iraqi people.
Some speakers talked about the monopoly of the imperialist media and the images that it used to subvert the consciousness of the people. In this context, it was pointed out that the war was sought to be presented by them as a war against Islam, or that, the Sunnis and Shias in Iraq were divided in their opposition to the US; such lies were being woven day after day. We in India, who have been repeatedly subject to the old British strategy of “divide and rule” must reject these forces of reaction that seek to divide us on this or that basis. Many speakers made the point that this was not a war between two contending parties but a one-sided attack, it was not a clash of civilisations, not a war against Islam, but an experiment that America unleashed with the purpose of carrying this forward on other nations.
Several speakers pointed out that the U.S. State and its spokespersons have sent clear signals that it would move to other areas such as South Asia after Iraq. In this context, the demand that South Asia must be maintained as a zone of peace, for which, no country in South Asia should engage in joint military exercises or come to any military treaty or agreement with the U.S. must be taken up by the Indian people. Peace with other countries in the sub-continent is a crucial condition that will not allow the U.S any scope to militarise this region.
While speaking on several aspects of the issue speakers raised the very important issue of “what can the world’s people do to arrest American hegemony and to prevent such condemnable aggression on another country after Iraq”. As Prakash Rao put it, the rising opposition of people to this aggression by the US presents an opportunity to the people of India and the world to further strengthen this unity in the struggle against imperialism. It is not governments that will defend our rights and our sovereignty but it is the united power of people that can do so. People have already been questioning the political system in India, U.K. U.S, whose ruling elite boast that they are the standard-bearers of democracy. In India, disaffection with the political process is increasing day by day and people ‘s consciousness has to be further raised to demand the renewal of democracy. Ultimately, people have to play the central role in society. To begin with, people have to organise themselves in samitis at all levels, where they live and work. Many speakers echoed these sentiments that it is the people that can finally stay the hands of imperialist aggressors.
Prakash Rao, in concluding the meeting, reiterated the importance of rebuilding the political unity of the Indian people that had emerged in the course of the anti-imperialist struggle, which had considerably weakened due to divisive and criminal politics of various parties over the last 50 years. This meeting itself had reflected a broad political unity on the issue of opposing the U.S. war. On the 10th anniversary of its founding in this very hall, Lok Raj Sangathan had taken a very important step in bringing various forces together on this issue.