A four-day long international gathering of academics, activists and concerned individuals from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka as well as from Canada, the UK and the US concluded on April 26th at the University of Toronto after resolving to whole-heartedly work to eliminate the threat of war in South Asia.
The movement to stop the war and military intervention in South Asia also echoed through the second annual Faiz peace festival and the First International Festival of Poetry of Resistance which were being held concurrently in Toronto during these days, attended by hundreds of participants.
The conference to “Build the Unity of the People to Secure South Asia for the Peoples of South Asia” was jointly organized by the South Asian Peoples’ Forum, the Ghadar Heritage Organization and the Association of Indian Progressive Study Groups to discuss and develop an action plan against the escalating war and foreign military intervention in South Asia, particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan. On behalf of the Organizing Committee, Sara Abraham opened the conference on April 23rd evening and invited the participants to openly voice their analysis of events and expound their views on solutions to the problems plaguing the peoples of South Asia. The opening session also included welcome remarks by representatives of the sponsoring organizations as well as remarks by Prof. Douglas Anderson, Professor of Law at the University of Toronto, Prof. Sherene Razack of the Ontario Institute of Secondary Education and Mr. Abid Hassan Minto, Senior Advocate of Pakistan’s Supreme Court.
The sessions of the conference were organized as panel discussions. A total of five panel discussions were organized to explore the themes of situation in Sri Lanka, the sources of war in South Asia, violence and terrorism in South Asia, left politics and people’s unity in South Asia and the resistance struggles of the people against neoliberal economic reforms. K. Ahilan, Syed Azeem, Hamid Bashani, Shonali Bose, Horace Campbell, K. Chattopadhyay, R. Cheran, Vivek Chibber, P. Dhakal, G. Hashmi, Hassan, Rohini Hensman, Shivanand Kanavi, Soma Marik, Naeem Malik, B. Pain, Ahmed Salim, Gurdev Singh, Ijaz Syed, Amrit Wilson and Sima Zerehi served as panelists in these sessions. Amongst these panelists were professors, journalists, lawyers, communists, workers, students, film makers, activists and community organizers who came from far and near – from Calcutta, Mumbai, Islamabad, Delhi, Colombo, Birmingham, London, Los Angeles, New York, Syracuse, San Francisco, Toronto and Ottawa. Different opinions and views were presented and debated for hours and hours as the panelists and the participants labored to hear and be heard on the key problems of the peoples and the different visions for taking the struggles forward to victory. The feature film Amu was screened during the conference.
The conference concluded after adopting the following resolutions:
i. The Conference condemns all foreign intervention in the region and demands the immediate withdrawal of US, NATO, ISAF and other foreign troops from the region;
ii. The Conference opposes militarization and war preparations by our individual governments, and stands against nuclearization;
iii. The Conference condemns all acts of state terror and repression against our peoples and against all social and political movements under any pretext such as the war on terror, democracy, development, secularism, national unity and territorial integrity and others;
iv. The Conference condemns political violence and acts of terror by non-state actors against civilians in the name of religion, ethnicity and nationalism;
v. The Conference holds that neo-liberal offensives have weakened the security of all ordinary people of South Asia and other parts of the world, and supports all struggles in defence of livelihood, economic rights, well-being and social security; and
vi. The Conference resolves to disseminate the proceedings of the conference and to organize similar conferences in future. "