CACIM, on behalf of the participants at the Symposium; September 15 2008
What is the state of struggles for social justice in India today ? And just how relevant to them is the World Social Forum ?
This Note, the first outcome of two days of intense discussions held in Delhi recently around these two questions, attempts to quickly summarise and present the main contours of the deliberations that took place there. As everyone at the meeting was aware – and was made aware of each hour, as more news came in – we were meeting at a time when there were fires raging across the country, from Orissa to Kashmir, from Gujarat to Kerala, and from Chhattisgarh to Singur in West Bengal. Participants at the meetings therefore specifically requested that CACIM bring this Summary Note out quickly so that all participants, and all others anywhere – in movement, in research, and others – who are interested in these questions and the issues listed below, can – if you find them relevant – take steps to address them, including by initiating similar / related discussions at a more local level than the ‘national’. Or you can write to us at CACIM (at email@example.com) and we can put you in touch with all those we know who are taking such steps.
The two days of intense discussions at the Symposium and Consultation called by CACIM in New Delhi on August 29-30 2008, on the question of ‘Struggles for Social Justice in India Today : How Relevant is the World Social Forum ?’, saw wide-ranging exchange, and a considerable amount of cross-questioning. This discussion is presently being summarised in an account of the meeting to be circulated in draft form at the earliest, preferably by the end of September 2008. The account will be circulated to all participants, first in draft form for comments and approval and then in final form, and posted on the CACIM website and on different listserves.
In the meanwhile, and without privileging these particular questions – which are drawn from a much larger list that was generated at the meeting – some of the questions that the meeting felt needed to be addressed were :
There was a clear affirmation at the Symposium of the relevance of and need for more such discussions, and of related initiatives. This was only strongly reinforced by the number of people who elected to come to the Consultation on the second day and also, more concretely, by their strong participation in the discussions and by the positions they then took. Participants put forward a wide range of ideas and made a series of offers, including :
The participants in the Consultation agreed to take these and more ideas back with them and to network over the next while, among themselves and within their respective networks, on how to build and carry forward the steps taken in Delhi on August 29 and 30.
Some fifty people – movement activists, people from related support organisations, researchers, and others; women and men, from many parts of India, and some 5-6 from abroad, including one each from Nepal and Pakistan – met in New Delhi, India, on August 29 for a Symposium convened by CACIM (www.cacim.net), on the theme Struggles for Social Justice in India Today : How Relevant is the World Social Forum ?. Some twenty-four of them came again the next day for a Consultation to follow up the discussions of the first day – to share their sense of the meeting and to see how we could take the ideas forward.
At the outset, Jai Sen on behalf of CACIM explained that it called the meeting on the basis of its interactions with various people – in movements, and in research – over the past year and its association with the WSF over the past several years. He said that CACIM saw the Symposium as only the beginning of an extended process of critical reflection that it feels is urgently necessary, in both the areas covered by the title. On behalf of CACIM, he invited and urged others – organisations and individuals – to take similar initiatives, independently or in collaboration with it.
The opening presentation by Jai on behalf of CACIM of a Theme Note prepared for the meeting was followed by keynote presentations by Gabriele Dietrich (of the National Alliance of People’s Movements and the Centre for Social Analysis in Madurai) and Vinod Raina (BGVS and Jubilee South, and member of the International Council of the WSF on behalf of Jubilee South). Delhi feminist historian and theorist Uma Chakravarty then critically engaged with issues arising.
The discussions were given some further substance and focus by the presentations by the three CACIM Forum Fellows for 2007-8, Mamata Dash (‘The World Social Forum… as movement groups in India see it’), Susana Barria (‘Main debates around the WSF 2004 in Mumbai’), and Mayur Chetia (‘World Social Forum and the Reaction from the Indian Left’), by the presentations that were then made by the invited discussants (C R Bijoy, Ashok Chowdhury, and Sumanta Banerjee, respectively), and by the discussions that followed each presentation. (see details of CACIM’s Fellowships programme and the Programme of the Symposium)
The fourth and final session of the Symposium was, like the first one, focussed on the question of the ‘Relevance of the WSF to Struggles for Social Justice in India’. Presentations by three invited speakers (movement researcher Alf Nilsen, Lata P M of NCAS and earlier the NAPM, and Vijay Pratap of Lokayan and SADED) were followed by open discussion, with presentations and interventions by other participants at the Symposium.
The two days of intense discussions saw very wide-ranging exchange and discussion, which is presently being summarised in an account of the meeting to be prepared at the earliest, preferably by the end of September 2008. In the meanwhile, and as first step, CACIM agreed to prepare a Note summarising the main outcomes of the meeting and to circulate this in draft form at the earliest, for comments and finalisation. The account will be circulated to all participants, first in draft form for comments and approval and then in final form, and then posted after finalisation on the CACIM website and on different listserves.