Delegates discuss how to confront Bush | india | Hindustan Times
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Delegates discuss how to confront Bush

The anti-globalisation movement was weighing its tone on Saturday as its annual strategy meeting got underway with calls for action against US companies and appeals to find a new and more militant means of protest.

india Updated: Jan 17, 2004 18:25 IST

The anti-globalisation movement was weighing its tone on Saturday as its annual strategy meeting got underway with calls for action against US companies and appeals to find a new and more militant means of protest.

Tens of thousands of activists crammed into an exhibition grounds off a Mumbai highway, with dozens of demonstrations pushing their way over a pavement littered with fliers for causes from all continents.

The most common cause, however, was opposition to US President George W Bush, whose portrait was depicted across the wooded venue in assorted states of defacement.

Arundhati Roy, the Indian novelist and political essayist, launched the forum late on Friday with a call for activists to select two US companies associated with the Iraq war and launch a worldwide campaign to shut them down.

The World Social Forum is designed as a counterweight to the World Economic Forum of business and political leaders in Davos, Switzerland, which is due to open as the Mumbai meet closes on Wednesday.

It is the fourth World Social Forum but the first to be held outside Brazil.

On Saturday, a small band of leftists began an alternative meeting to the World Social Forum, which they said had failed to stop the United States from going to war to depose Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.

"The imperialistic war in Iraq was not condemned in any country but by the thousands all over the world protesting on the streets," Bangladeshi leftist Badruddin Umar said at the inauguration of the Mumbai Resistance where Indian tribal people danced and sang.

"Any liberation without action is meaningless, but action without reflection is chaotic. This is why we are here," Umar said.

But the Mumbai Resistance opening drew around 1,000 people, mostly Indian communists, compared with around 100,000 from 130 countries at the World Social Forum.

Despite their smaller size, however, Mumbai Resistance campaigners said they would focus less on policy initiatives debated at the World Social Forum than on drafting a common platform for leftists to be released on the March 20 anniversary of the start of the Iraq war.

At the World Social Forum, a litany of causes were being debated and rallied on Saturday, with lengthy sessions dedicated to opposition to the World Trade Organisation.

"The WTO has to exit agriculture," said Jose Bove, the radical French sheep farmer and symbol of the anti-globalisation movement.

"Of the entire agriculture production in the world, 90 percent is produced and consumed locally. But the other 10 percent is exported by just a few multinationals," he charged.

Critics of the World Social Forum, which has drawn little interest from the Indian media, say the gathering focuses only on the drawbacks of globalisation without offering concrete alternatives.

Individual organisers of the Mumbai meeting have charged alternatively that it is focusing too much on the Iraq war or excessively on Indian issues, mostly the centuries-old Hindu caste system.

Iranian rights activist Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace laureate, agreed with the Iraq focus but stressed there was more the meeting could discuss.

She said there was "not so much balance" in the selection of speakers, with the opening night seeing only one voice from Europe: British MP and anti-war activist Jeremy Corbyn.

"This meeting is for a better world and needs to focus on all current international issues and one of the most important ones is the problem of Iraq," Ebadi told AFP.

Ebadi stressed the forum could also work to ensure universal protection of human rights and to ease income disparity around the world.