CACIM DELHI DEMOS BULLETIN 23 : The struggles continue

From Kathmandu, Tuesday, April 18, 2006
And so, the major ‘Delhi demos’ that have taken place over this past month have come to an end – though, as item 1 below (the ‘Delhi Demo Diary Notes’) shows, their moving on has only cleared the way at Jantar Mantar for other demos, on other related issues, to come onto the stage…
Both movements – the Narmada Bachao Andolan (‘Save the Narmada Movement’) and the Bhopal movement – came to Delhi last month saying that they would not leave the capital without having their demands met. With this decision taken independently, they placed a very high premium on their gamble, and on the focus that they each placed on ‘the capital’.
They were then however both forced, by the sheer apathy and callousness of the government they had come to speak to, to go on hunger strike; first one, and then the other. But they have both emerged, not having won all that they had come for, but having won a great deal, and they – along with the support that they each got from people and organisations from all over India and the world – demonstrated once more the force of moral authority and of dissent in society.
One can only salute their extraordinary discipline, and sincerity, and determination.
Neither struggle is over; as the CACIM team writes below, in item 1, the first step for both is to ensure that the state is compelled to live up to its commitments. In the Bhopal case, the commitments made are achievable commitments; in the Narmada case however, they – resettling tens of thousands of households, and also correcting the records for hundreds and maybe thousands of others who have been declared already resettled and then resettling them, all on land and not with cash compensation; all in the next 3-4 months, before the rains, when the water level in the Sardar Sarovar reservoir will inexorably rise, thereby directly threatening dozens of settlements – is all but impossible.
The NBA therefore again has a grim and unenviable struggle ahead of it over these next months, in a situation where the bureaucracy – which the government’s own fact-finding report (see full text and link given in CDDB 22) has declared clearly is corrupt and has been lying – remains the same.
Even if the commitments are achievable, the same record is true of the Bhopal struggle, and both movements will continue to need all the support and solidarity that we can offer them.
In the meanwhile, it is difficult to tell whether the Indian state has been ‘moved’ at all by the experience not only of so many people being on hunger strike but also of being humiliated into accepting some, if not all, of what they were demanding. As the ‘Delhi Demo Diary Notes’ below show, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has not, even yet, over 55 hours later, put any details of the Prime Minister’s commitments to the Bhopal movement at his meeting with them on Monday last. Nor has it, even 72 hours later, mentioned the report that the almost unprecedented, specially-constituted GoM (Group of Ministers) made after their fact-finding visit to the Narmada valley – the first time ever; and even though that that report is now up on at least two websites at The Hindu, and on the CACIM webspace.
On the other hand, the Prime Minister has gone on record as saying, at a speech given to – significantly ? – the CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) yesterday that “[the] time has come to squarely address the issues of development, displacement, and environment”. See item 2 for extracts from the Press Release and from his speech. Is there any reason to believe that he, and ergo the Indian state, means this? Any of what he has said?
And if so – if we believe so – then how are we going
to hold him, and it, to these commitments ?
On CACIM and these Bulletins
Over these past days, some people have written in to ask, directly and indirectly, what CACIM is, where we are coming from, and why we have been posting these Bulletins. We have been planning to include something on this, over the past several issues, but each day this was set aside to make space for other, more immediate text. With the Narmada and Bhopal demos over – and where it was around them that this Bulletin started -, we first give below a blurb that we are still working on, that hopefully gives you some idea of what we are about, and then explain how and why this Bulletin :
CACIM, the India Institute for Critical Action : Centre in Movement, has grown out of Critical Action (CA), an experiment since about 2001 to critically support emerging movements. It is an experimental initiative towards an informal association between individuals and organisations located in different parts of India and the world. Its goals are to encourage a culture of critical reflexivity in public work, through fundamental research and critical reflection, exploration, and action in the field of motion and movement. We hope to encourage learning across disciplines and across culture, and to support and encourage all those involved in different ways with ‘movement’ – activists, researchers, professionals, artistes, and thinkers, both the more mature and young, and both from ‘civil’ and ‘incivil’ worlds – in our respective work as individuals and organisations and also in networks. Our present focus is on cultures of politics in movement, the exploration of open space as a political-cultural concept, and by exploring this through actions, the exploration of cyberspace as open space.
CACIM, presently made up of a core of three people and with an associate circle of several more, scattered in various parts of India and some in other countries, sees itself not as an independent organisation but interlinked and interdependent, plugged into and learning from the world around us. With this vision, we presently conceive CACIM as evolving into a hub within networks among individuals and organisations located in different parts of India and the world. Visit our webspace,, or contact us @
THE IDEA OF THESE BULLETINS came out of a hunch last month, after the Narmada and then the Bhopal demos arrived in town and the Delhi movement also held a rally, that just possibly, something big might take shape in Delhi, and if so, then people all over the world should know about this. So we first just posted something we had received on a rally by the Delhi movement (the Sajha Manch; what is listed as ‘issue 0′ on our webspace – it’s here on an impulse, and then started weaving the three stories together.
Although at first it was by and large just a paste-up job, we will happily confess that we did hope that by doing so – by juxtaposing the two and sometimes maybe the three movements – readers would get a sense of at least the potentiality of something larger taking shape in New Delhi, the capital of a country that is today so widely being lionised for its economic reforms, but where it is precisely these reforms that are not only economically but also politically marginalising the vast majority in this country that is still labouring and still poor; such as those in these demos. And we also hoped that doing this interweaving might even impact on, in some small ways, the way the three movements conducted their politics.
Although we have got some words of appreciation from those in the movement and their supporters, and also some notes from readers, we still have little idea of how useful these Bulletins have been. Within the CACIM team, now that the ‘Delhi Demos’ around which all this started are over, we are now working out what our next steps should be. We would therefore be very glad to hear from readers about your impressions; and with any suggestions you might have as to how we could and should follow this.
Jai Sen, for CACIM
[1] Delhi Demo Diary Notes (April 19)
[2] “Time Has Come to Squarely Address the Issues of Development, Displacement and Environment” : Prime Minister Of India (April 18/19)
Note : All back issues of this Bulletin (the CACIM
Delhi Demos Bulletin), number 0 onwards, are available here.
April 19 2006
NARMADA : A first post-demo coordination meeting among Delhi NBA support groups took place yesterday, April 18, at GPF (the Gandhi Peace Foundation, an institution in Delhi that is widely used by civil movements for meetings), and came to some tentative conclusions, including regarding mobilisation in the Narmada valley and in Delhi. A second meeting is taking place this evening.
In the meanwhile, Medha Patkar left for Bhopal last night (Tuesday), to mobilise support there.
BHOPAL : We have no info as yet as to how the meeting that was to take place yesterday in Bhopal went, between the Bhopal movement and the Fact Finding Team. There was a meeting and press conference scheduled in Bhopal for 2 pm today, to welcome the padayatris (‘foot rallyists’) and hunger strikers home, to celebrate the victory, and to give the press and people of Bhopal an update on developments and what details have been proposed by officials from the Ministry of Chemicals to flesh out the agreement to the demands.
Much remains to be clarified, and to be put down in detail (and in writing), and further commitments secured.
As of 9 pm today (IST), there was no sign of a press release on the Indian PM’s website on his meeting with the Bhopal delegation day before yesterday (April 17) and of the commitments he made, nor are there any pictures of the meeting, in spite of the office saying at the meeting that they would issue something. This cannot be a problem of time, as pictures of the PM’s attendance at the Confederation of Indian Industry’s National conference yesterday (April 18) has already been uploaded, along with his speech, which includes a sop of a mention of fostering development, ‘credible mechanisms’ to ensure that development is done in a ‘cost-effective, environment-friendly and least disruptive manner’ and ‘expanding the pie’ :
Headline to Press Release :
For a detailed quote, see item 2 below.
Obviously, the Bhopal campaign does not end here. The Bhopalis are now going to be busy ensuring that what was promised is finally delivered. Many details need to be ironed out, and a comprehensive timeline and list of responsible officials secured for the implementation of the various projects. Also, the Bhopalis and their supporters will be devising strategies to continue their campaign to make Dow and Union Carbide legally accountable for the tragedy, and hoping that all who have given them invaluable support during this campaign will stay involved and participate in this crucial activity also. The Bhopalis have travelled quite a distance these past few months, but the road ahead is still long, though cautious hope is in the air.
Check out for photos of delighted padayatris after news came through of the PM’s meeting and for coverage of end of strike
JANTAR MANTAR / THE DELHI DEMOS SITE : Yesterday was a strange day… Slowly, throughout the day the camps on both sides of Jantar Mantar gradually reduced. By the time I returned in mid afternoon, having left at 9.30 in the morning, the Narmada group had already taken down all of their banners, flags, posters and photographs. The beautiful bright rainbow of slogans and demands had been packed away, tied up in bundles to be unfurled some other day in some other place (or sadly, perhaps back in the same place once again), and the street was very much the greyer for their absence. It was sad to watch the people slowly trickle away as the light began to fade, having been such a dominant, vibrant, assertive force over this past month in Jantar Mantar. It was disappointing to see their bags being packed and put on their shoulders when they had as yet to receive an appropriate or adequate response to their complaints. But of course, I also knew that the Narmadans were off to continue their struggle elsewhere, far from defeated, adamant as ever that their voices must be heard and heeded.
Meanwhile, we are slowly dismantling the Bhopal camp, taking apart the ingeniously constructed structure which has been our shelter for these past three weeks, untying string from bamboo, banners from railings, rolling up bedding and shaking out durries, and gathering together the piles of old newspapers we have carefully scanned for reports of our progress. It feels very strange to take apart this temporary home, this tent on the street, this shade from the wind and the glaring sun, to be dismantling this apparatus of support to its component elements, packing it all up to be transported by Bhopal and maybe used again some day in the future.
I try to imagine how everyone must feel, returning to Bhopal after so long sitting on the dusty dry pavement in New Delhi demanding that the state take responsibility for its citizens. Some of the padayatris have not been home since they left Bhopal on 20th February. How long ago that seems to all of us.
And so the pavement at Jantar Mantar, a site of anger, hope, frustration, despair, hunger, determination, friendship and solidarity, among a myriad other feelings, is bare, with almost no sign left of the fierce struggles which had been waged, and won and lost, here in the heat and the dust, in this authorized central space for dissent and protest. We head off to the train station, all sharing a last meal together on the platform. There is a scramble for seats, all helping each other to secure as many as possible. The Narmadans are here too, leaving Delhi on the same train. And so again, the Bhopalis and Narmadans are ‘ke saath’, in the train, their campaigns may not have always formally joined each other, but the people themselves are definitely together, travelling together forwards in the same carriage of the train, on to build on their Delhi days, and continue struggling and holding the Indian government and state to account. I suspect there will be many voices singing together on the Bhopal Express as the train speeds away from Delhi.
Meanwhile, protests at Jantar Mantar continue, and the exit of the Bhopalis and Narmada camp also inevitably opens up space for other protests. Yesterday, over 50 people staged a march protesting the plans of the Government of India to construct a gas pipeline in cooperation with the Burmese military junta. The Shwe Gas pipeline would bring gas from the Shwe gas fields in Western Burma eventually to Kolkata in West Bengal. It had been planned for the pipeline to pass through Bangladesh, but political issued between that country and India have stalled the development of the project, and plans to reroute the pipeline completely through the North East of India are being made. The protestors pointed out that previous gas pipelines constructed by the junta, to bring gas to Thailand, have resulted in well-documented cases of gross human rights violations, including forced labour, rape, mass displacement, loss of livelihood as well as serious environmental degradation and increased militarisation. Furthermore profits from the sale of such gas go to line the pockets of the military junta, and do not make it to the Burmese people. The protestors argued that the Indian state should not be doing business with the military junta and should not purchase oil from the country until democracy is restored, as such actions would involve complicity in human rights violations as well as helping to further entrench the military regime. Protestors also anticipated that the project could cause serious problems in the various North Eastern states it may pass through, causing environmental degradation, mass displacement, and increased militarisation, and noted the lack of consultation so far of people of the area regarding this project. The record of the government of India is hardly reassuring on this matter, they noted, making reference to the continued dharna of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The largest democracy in the world should not be doing business with and establishing friendly ties with one of the most repressive military regimes in the world.
Speech at CII (Confederation Of Indian Industry) National Conference and Annual Session – 2006
Quote from the Press Release on the Prime Minister of India’s website
The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has said that the time had come to squarely address the issues of development, displacement and environment. Speaking at the inaugural plenary session of the two-day “CII National Conference and Annual Session – Sustaining Competitiveness: Fostering Development”, here today, the Prime Minister said that credible mechanisms needed to be quickly evolved in such a way so that development was not perceived to be a threat to people’s lives and habitats and development was done in a cost-effective, environment-friendly and least disruptive manner. “Expanding the pie through rapid economic development is essential if we have to meet the challenge of eliminating chronic poverty, ignorance and disease”, Dr. Singh said.
A more detailed quote of the relevant section in his
speech :
“Indian industry must pay closer attention to the environmental consequences of industrial development and that’s why I welcome the emphasis on sustainability while you are discussing the issues of competitiveness. You must pay more attention to the rehabilitation of people displaced by the spread of industrial activity and by urbanization. I think the time has come to squarely address the issue of development, displacement and environment. Expanding the pie through rapid economic development is essential, if we have to meet the challenge of eliminating chronic poverty, ignorance and disease. At the same time, we are frequently faced with situations where developmental activities displace people from their traditional habitat, vocations and lifestyles; where industrial growth can have adverse environmental implications. We need to quickly evolve credible mechanisms, whereby these issues do not degenerate into confrontations between sections of our society; whereby development is not perceived as a threat to people’s lives and habitats; whereby development is done in the most cost-effective, environment friendly and least disruptive manner; where all stakeholders benefit in varying degrees from processes of development. This is I believe, the only path to the prosperous future we dream of. And our government is committed to addressing these issues in full measure.”
CACIM – India Institute for Critical Action : Centre
in Movement
A-3 Defence Colony, New Delhi 110 024, India
Ph 91-11-5155 1521, 2433 2451

Share this:


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.