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The Hindu on indiaserver.com : A collective voice for peace

Online edition of India's National Newspaper on indiaserver.com
Sunday, November 12, 2000


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A collective voice for peace

By Anita Joshua

NEW DELHI, NOV. 11. Bracketed as ``of the same stock'' by their detractors, anti-dam activists today joined anti-bomb lobbyists and pressure groups promoting other causes to ``damn the bomb'' and raise a collective voice for peace and a world free from the threat of another nuclear holocaust.

With India and Pakistan having the two largest delegations at the National Convention for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace -- the first of its kind which began here this morning -- the threat posed by nuclearisation to the region dominated the deliberations. And representatives of both countries were one in stating that nuclear capability had not guaranteed security to the subcontinent.

Marking the beginnings of a rainbow coalition of activists fighting for human development as opposed to the development models advocated by most countries, the three-day convention began with a characteristic appeal for sanity from the Booker Prize-winning author, Arundhati Roy.

Obviously bristling with anger at being billed ``anti-national and a foreign agent'' for her criticism of the second round of Pokharan tests and the Sardar Sarovar Dam, Ms. Roy lashed out at the growing tendency to equate dissent with anti-nationalism. ``Dissent is the only thing worth globalising,'' she quipped.

Pooh-poohing the theory that ``only people who march in khaki and swear by bombs are patriots'', she said: ``I don't like being called a foreign agent. I pay Income-Tax and bring in more foreign exchange than the Union Home Minister, Mr. L. K. Advani, can ever dream of.''

Scathing in her attack on the Government, the author who has thrown in her lot with the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) said: ``On the one hand the Government is selling the country through deals, and on the other it is orchestrating jingoistic nationalism.''

Ms. Roy was not alone in commenting on the jingoistic attitude towards dissent and debunking the deterrence theory of nuclear prowess. Speaker after speaker brought up these two issues and said the Kargil experience rendered null and void the deterrence theory.

Co-activist and NBA leader, Ms. Medha Patkar, said the fight was not only against the bomb and the dam, but the thought process that promotes such weapons of mass destruction. In her opinion, dams were also weapons of mass destruction as they uprooted millions.

According to Ms. Patkar, the people of India should be given control over the country's resources and the right to decide what kind of development was best suited to their needs. ``We need to unleash people's power.'' While advocating people's politics, she was quick to clarify that it does not necessarily mean entering the electoral race.

For his part, the former Navy Chief who is now at the forefront of the anti-nuclear movement in the country, Admiral (Retd.) L. Ramdas, called for evolving a mechanism to manage nuclear weapons in the region to avoid a calamity by accident or design. ``After the 1998 tests, both India and Pakistan have acquired the skill to kill each other several times over and the situation is fraught with danger.''

The scientist-turned-anti-bomb-activist, Prof. Amulya K. N. Reddy, underlined the need for scientific activity to be encoded with life-affirming ideology and said his fraternity can no longer shy away from taking responsibility for the darker side of development.

Echoing the views aired by his Indian counterparts, Pakistan's leading anti-bomb campaigner, Mr. Naqvi, sought to dispel the myth that nuclearisation could maintain peace between India and Pakistan. ``It is neither the ultimate guarantee for national security nor the cheapest way to defend a country,'' he said, further trashing the argument that nuclear weapons were a currency of power.

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