Far left plans smaller, more militant forum during WSF

Even as the WSF meet starts on Friday, a small band of far-leftists is planning its militant convention.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2004 00:38 IST

Across a highway from the World Social Forum that starts in Mumbai on Friday, a small band of far-leftists believes the annnual anti-globalisation meeting has gone soft and is planning its own more militant convention.

The Resistance 2004 from Saturday through Tuesday will be two days shorter than the World Social Forum, feature only a fraction of the participants and run on much the same format of lengthy debates and cultural shows.

But its organisers claim the Resistance 2004 alone will chart an alternative to the capitalist system they despise.

"The World Social Forum discusses policy initiatives; we take up structural changes. The problem is not just some evil rulers in the American government, but an entire imperialist, capitalist system," said Shiv Sundar, who is coordinating panels for Resistance 2004.

But for all the militant rhetoric on the global system, Resistance 2004 is primarily a local affair. Organisers said 260 of the 305 groups taking part in the event were from India.

"We tried our best to get some participants from Latin America, but we couldn't make any contact," said Resistance 2004 organiser Darshan Pal.

"We have asked for each group to bring no more than five people because of the limited space and resources here," Pal said.

Among those attending will be leftist activists from the Philippines and Nepal and separatists from Indian-administered Kashmir.

"We condemn state violence, but if oppressed people choose violence on their path of struggle, I don't think we oppose it," Sundar said.

Two days before the kickoff, only a couple of dozen people were at the Resistance 2004 grounds at a veterinary college, erecting a tent on a dusty lawn and piecing together a symbolic globe from newspapers.

On the other side of the highway -- where trucks speed past hauling groceries to the city and pot-bellied children bathe in open gutters -- the Resistance 2004 was bustling Thursday with hundreds of activists speaking dozens of languages trying to find their registration cards and venues.

The Resistance 2004 hardcore remains unimpressed.

"What the WSF does stays on paper. They say, 'Another world is possible.' But another world cannot be possible without bringing in the grassroots," said Resistance 2004 volunteer Apoorva Sharma, a student from New Delhi.

While the World Social Forum will include 2003 Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, radical French farmer Jose Bove and former Indian president K.R. Narayanan among its ranks, the biggest name at Resistance 2004 will be Indian novelist and activist Arundhati Roy.

Roy, however, is also taking part in the World Social Forum. At both events she is expected to denounce US foreign policy, in particular the invasion of Iraq.

"The quantity of people doesn't matter. Our resources don't allow to host that many people," Pal said.

He said the budget for Resistance 2004 would be just over 40,000 dollars, raised from radical groups. The World Social Forum budget is about two million dollars.

The Resistance 2004 will culminate March 20 with a planned march to the US consulate in Mumbai which Sundar said will include Indian tribal people "who are from the forests and cannot even board trains without volunteers helping them."

Pal said the rural Indians' presence showed Resistance 2004 was interested in incorporating views from the grassroots, which they planned to draft into a summit declaration.

"The crowd may be bigger over there at the World Social Forum, but they have no major plan."

First Published: Jan 16, 2004 00:38 IST