First National Convention for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace

First National Convention for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace:

A report

Newsletter March 2001

Indian government exploded nuclear bombs in May 1998 and Pakistani government followed the suit within a couple of weeks. Many groups, individuals in different towns and cities in both countries have protested against the South Asian nuiclearisation. Ever since a need was felt for the concerned groups to come together, to share the views, to obtain information about government activities trying to further the cause and to widen the network of protestors further to include the groups already in existence worldwide. Over the past one year, there were discussions about holding a notional level convention of all the anti-nulcear groups in order to consolidate thee position. Two preparatory meetings were held in Nagpur, one in Delhi to discuss the scope and the programme for the Convention. November 11 to 13, 2000 were the days the National Convention for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace took place in Delhi.

Morning of 11th November 2000 saw people trickling in on the grounds of Springdales School in Dhaula Kuan. The Organisers were overwhelmed as the number of registered participants swelled to nearly 600! There were representatives of more than 100 organisations and Saheli was a part of them. Participants included feminists and social activists, trade unionists and kisan sabha workers, writers and journalists, physicians and engineers, teachers and students, environmentalists and people’s science activists, Gandhians and post-modernists, human-rights campaigners and social scientists, artists and film-makers, musicians and theatre people, even former generals and admirals. South Asian region was well represented with a large number of delegates from Pakistan and a few from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Participants also came from Japan, England, Holland, Malaysia, America, Australasia, South Africa and France.

The programme lasting two and a half days of intense discussions and half a day of cultural activity included interests of most of the participants. In addition to updating participants on the historical perspective of the Indian Nuclear Policy there were group discussions on the following themes : a case against nuclear weapons, impact of nuclear weapons upon the Indian people, movement in India against the nuclear weapons. A separate session was devoted on discussing availability, sharing and preparing campaign tools, modes and forms of networking etc. Throughout the two and a half day period many documentaries depicting the effects of nuclearisation on people were shown. A film made on the lives of people in Jaduguda – where uranium mining continues till date affecting the flora and fauna of Jaduguda adversely – was screened. The title of the film – Buddha weeps in Jaduguda – was particularly apt and many viewers were also seen wiping tears in their eyes. On the last day of the convention, a unanimous decision resulted in the formation of ‘Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace’ with a national level co-ordination committee of about 50 members. The Convention ended with cultural events with live music, theatre and poetry recital.

The three-day deliberations ended with the adoption of an Action Plan and an Interim Charter. The Action Plan includes a number of specific programmes and campaigns, including regional disarmament conventions and sectoral meetings of professionals, advocacy and lobbying of political parties, ‘twinning’ of 10 anti-nuclear weapons schools and colleges in India and Pakistan, institutionalising a ‘Nuclear Disarmament and Peace Week’ from August 4 to 10 every year, and setting up a national federation of radiation victims, besides enhancing the South Asian peace movement’s presence in international peace forums.