Print

Nature and Extent of Engagement in the Process of WSF by Various Social Groups in India

Mamata Dash


Background
The emergence of World Social Forum (WSF) since 2001 is aimed at reinforcing the confidence among the democratic forces and groups to build a world free from war, hunger and inequity. This Forum, started as a reaction to the World Economic Forum to forge an emphatic fight against the capitalist forces, has over the years strived to be a place for collective ideas, struggle, learnings, dreams and successes. It has made efforts in bringing together groups and people across the globe and made possible the convergence of struggles and movements. This process has initiated rethinking and reviewing the development paradigm set by the developed countries and the global capital markets.

In this context, the World Social Forum has already been held four times in Brazil (2001 - 2003 and in 2005) and once in India (2004). In the World Social Forum, 2005 the collective decided to have polycentric Social Forums in different places such as in Caracas and in Pakistan. And in last 5 years, it has taken a center-stage in many major political and social movements across the globe. The resistance to the onslaught of USA on Iraq & Afghanistan from all quarters also bought together diverse groups and the collective voiced this vociferously. This act of the USA was fiercely condemned. In an effort to re-affirm peoples’ power and establish a world free of exploitation, hunger and bondage, groups and processes from various parts of the globe have been trying to ally and build strong networks to battle against global capital and its designs to usurp and commodify the planet’s natural resources.

In India the efforts to build collective forces started with organising the Asia Social Forum where groups and individuals from across the Asian countries participated and ignited hope that it is possible to build another world.

The process of evolution has been very dynamic in nature in the WSF and Mumbai WSF stands witness to that. Different trade unions, movement based groups and the left groups played the key role in organizing the WSF in Mumbai usurping a new trend of bringing together a cross-section of forces. They included mass based organizations, labor groups, women's groups and ultra-radical groups and so on from Asia, Latin America, Africa to name a few. It saw the beginning of a renewed form of protest which did not only had the conventional way of resisting but also integrated the expression of resistance through various cultural fora.

While the processes of WSF gained momentum in bringing together diverse groups towards building strong allies and coalitions at one level, the impact on the ground also has seemingly been tremendous. The involvement of grassroots groups and communities from the rural and urban milieu seems to have instilled a new hope and confidence among them. There is some sort of trust building that has happened that in the struggle for larger socio-political and economic space, it is a struggle of the collective and no one is isolated here. In the last few years, the journey of the WSF has seen critical debate and discourse around key issues. On the one hand it seems to have bridged the divide among the academics, practitioners, policy makers and so on to a great extent and on the other, as mentioned above, it has brought together various struggling groups/communities across the regions, countries and cultures.

The participation of diverse groups across the country and globe in the Forum events in India suggests the efficacy seen therein. India has been one of the key countries in the process of the WSF. There have been large participation from among formal and non-formal groups such as NGOs, Movement based groups, Trade Union groups and so on. This Forum has been viewed by many as a platform to share and learn, formulate effective strategies as well as build networks to strengthen the fight against socio-economic disorder in the society. More specifically in the Indian context, this is seen as a strong political engagement in the existing crisis like situation. The invasion of capital forces in different forms in the last decade or so has left very little space for people to stake claims. The resistance has been mounting in many places nonetheless. The Indian State may have achieved significant milestones in the areas of economic growth, cultural assimilation and global political milestones as an independent nation. It claims to be second fastest growing economy in the world with GDP growth rate at 9.2%. However, the increasing growth rate has not resolved the problems of poverty, exclusion, violence and, in fact, has facilitated various forms of exploitation, treachery, discrimination on people. The increasing number of farmers’ suicides due to indebtedness, social discrimination and exclusion of adivasis, dalits and minorities, violence against women, evictions and displacement and so on only reaffirms the reducing responsibilities of the State from its people.

Scope & Objective: This research is placed in the present Indian context where the State is facilitating the capitalist agenda in new packages and the voices of resistance are mounting high on many quarters. The broad objectives of this research would be to enquire the nature and extent of engagement in the process of WSF by various categories of groups across the country. It would also attempt to understand the overall dynamics of the WSF and the responses it has got so far in the socio-political framework. It will also critically analyze the concept of ‘open space’ the WSF claims to have provided. The impact on socio-political movements and processes in the region will be assessed through this research. This research will focus largely on documenting how various groups have viewed the process of the WSF, their experiences in participating and not participating in it, how it has helped in furthering their causes and their expectations from such a vast Forum.

It is aimed that this research will facilitate a process of critical debate on the WSF processes in India and will provide a blue print of peoples’ voices on the same.

Methodology / Approach: It is proposed to follow a two-pronged strategy during the research. While a lot of emphasis will be given to the primary research, a critical secondary research is viewed as a significant component in this process. The secondary research will involve:

- reviewing the existing literature on the WSF process - analyzing the various strands emerging from the pool of information already existing and already shared - building the foundation for the primary research

It is envisaged to critically engage with various categories of groups and individuals to understand and analyze their vision, experiences and aspirations on the Forum. This is proposed to be carried out through in-depth interactions with the selected categories of target groups. Appropriate technical research methodology will be used to ensure collection of information from a representative cross-section of people/groups who have been part of the process so far.

This research will focus on collecting information from a wide spectrum of groups and people. This will involve intensive interaction with social and popular movements and civil society organizations and networks in India and South Asia who are part of the WSF process. Given below is a list, though not an exhaustive, of categories of entities which will be included in the research:

- Movement based groups / peoples’ groups in rural and urban areas working on the issues of land, livelihood, environment, dalit rights, women’s rights and children’s rights - Trade Unions - NGOs - Resource Organizations - Academics and Research Organizations

It is envisaged that this process of critical association with a variety of organizations will help in bringing forth the dynamics of the WSF at various levels, the experiences of being in the WSF as well as the apprehensions of such Forums, and will also facilitate a process of way forward in an engaged manner.

The interactions with socio-political movement groups will involve traveling to their areas of operation to draw maximum information. However, this depends on the availability of financial resources to ensure field based research.

It is aimed to complete the research in the stipulated three months time.


CACIM @ WSF 2011

CACIM