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India: Chirala Declaration 2014

4 February 2014

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[This Declaration is from the three-day gathering - Jashn-E-Sangharsh; Celebrating Mother Earth Struggles, held at Chirala, Andhra Pradesh, India between 17 and 19 January 2014. Organised by PSA as the biennial get-together, the gathering was attended by approximately 500 people from 21 states of the country including 67 mass organisations, action groups and movements. Adivasis, Dalits, forest communities, fish workers, bamboo workers, handloom weavers, potters, cobblers, other artisans, cultural activists, literary personalities, journalists, theatre artists, social workers, organised & unorganised sector trade unionists, women’s groups, etc. present at the gathering are signatories to the Chirala Declaration]

Jashn-E-Sangharsh Zindabad! [Long Live Celebration of Resistance!]

This slogan did not come from auditoriums packed with people looking for change but from a Jashn, a celebration of resistance. Jashn-E-Sangharsh was organised as a three-day get-together at Chirala, Andhra Pradesh, the home ground of the affirmative struggles of the Handloom Weavers and other artisans. Jashn-E-Sangharsh is a celebration of cultural resistance, of people’s power, of political understanding of our solidarity and the coming together of our struggles using artistic expressions and performances. Above all, it is a celebration of people’s unity in the commitment to the revolution of life!

With general elections 2014 a few months away, we recognise the various political challenges that we the people are faced with. Extreme forms of state repression, exploitation of natural resources motivated by private profits, forcible eviction of people, destruction of traditional livelihoods, and conversion of private profit motives as public interest have become the key characteristics of the Indian state today. The nationalised banking sector of the country is today being looted through corporate loans and project finances, endangering the very backbone of Indian economy. We condemn such exploitation of our national resources and call upon all working people, mass organisations and the trade unions to come out in opposition to this.

The last more than 500 years of industrial colonisation by the Western powers has led to the current crisis of humanity and Mother Earth. We disapprove the current natural resource extraction methodologies including mining, since these are based on capitalist profit maximisation and consumption. We deplore the energy paradigm followed by the Indian Government, promoted by Corporates and state alike, based on exploitation of natural resources and aggressive burning of fossil fuels like coal. We denounce simultaneously the use of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, as both have fatal implications on Mother Earth and humankind. We demand that our energy paradigm be holistically redefined based on real needs and renewable energy sources, not false market projections.

We condemn the exploitative and repressive criminal nexus between state forces and corporations that simultaneously deplete Mother Earth’s resources and destroy the lives and livelihoods of the traditional occupational communities and peoples. Equitable resource sharing between humans and nature, based on accessibility and principals of equality can alone rectify the damage caused by the capital-intensive model of growth and repair the extensive ecological mutilation caused by the current development paradigm.

We affirm our commitment to equitable and fair access of the earth’s resources between generations. This must be achieved through a redistribution of resources from the over-consumers to the marginalized and the deprived. Humanity must recognize the rights and needs of Mother Earth, and prioritize this over increasing human demands and industrial production. We strongly assert our umbilical dependency on Mother Earth, than the capitalist exploitative use of her resources. We belong here, rather than Mother Earth belonging to us.

We believe patriarchal and feudal societal relations have not only hurt the lives of generations of women and people of third gender, but has also led to a man-oriented society and exploitation of the nature. Despite the organic linkage with Mother Earth and the historic strength to battle societal imbalance, women are increasingly treated as commodities, especially by the market forces. Power-oriented relationships in family and society have led to increasing number of cases of sexual exploitation of women, by the state, the market and individuals. We salute women leaders who, amidst such male-centrism, have fought for the dignity of all human beings and brought to justice the perpetrators of violence. We reaffirm that women must be at the centre of our struggles, also in the capacity to rebuild a world of dignity, peace and justice. We join the struggles led by women’s movements and mass organisations to reaffirm the role of women in not only being decision-makers of individual sexuality and societal relations, but also in shaping the future of the Earth.

Jingoistic nationalism has affected not only the spirit of independent critical thinking of human beings, but also impacted the societal relations and class structures in India and the world! State forces, media, corporations and officialdom are conniving to incite communal, nationalistic passions in citizens of all classes and castes, in order to create hatred about people of other classes, castes, ethnicities and nationalities. We believe this divisive tendency is nothing but a continuation of the colonial legacy of capitalism, which cannot survive without annihilating ‘the other’. Together with communal majoritarianism, this forms a historical contribution of colonialism that webs itself around the notion of puritanical self-righteousness. We reaffirm our secular, plural and constitutional foundations and pledge to not allow divisive forces to enter our minds and political space. At a time when those who stand up against corporate led ‘development’, are being demonised as anti-development and anti-national, we reaffirm our commitment to democracy, justice, peace and human rights.

We continue our resolve to fight for the rights, dignity and livelihood of the broad spectrum of working people in the country and the world. We demand an immediate end to the contractual labour relations and assert the right of the working class to express themselves through formation of unions – a constitutional right of all working people. We demand social, economic, cultural and political security to the workers of the country – in both organised and unorganised sectors.

We pledge to continue our support to the traditional occupation of artisanal workforce and declare our opposition to blind mechanisation that serves the interest of monopoly capital. We call upon organisations, people and states of the global south to come together to save the lives, livelihoods, culture and ethnicities of our traditional communities and artisanal occupational sectors – threatened by forces of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation!

We affirm nature’s connectivity with culture and recognize the importance of cultural and artistic expressions in fomenting unity amidst struggles of different peoples and communities. We believe in the unity of the historically oppressed people that is brought out through the cultural diversity of the traditional communities in their tryst with Mother Earth.

Reaffirming our struggles against capitalism, patriarchy, feudalism, brahmanism, communalism and nationalist jingoism, we also declare our determined solidarity and support to all movements and groups fighting these destructive anti-people forces. We recognise the fact that women have been the strength behind such struggles and their strength socially and culturally continue to sustain the energy, unity and the focus of our struggles. We pledge to bring our resistance struggles and social movements to the political centre-stage without falling prey to partisan populism. We believe that the resistance spirit as demonstrated by adivasis and dalits, along with fishworkers, forest dwelling communities, agricultural workers, traditional artisans and especially, women of these communities, reflect the spirit and courage to change this structure and nurture alternatives to capitalism.

We declare that this is not the last day of Jashn at Chirala, but a beginning whereby we take the political and cultural celebrations to our roots in order to continue the effective challenge to this state and market-driven exploitation, loot, violence and suppression.