‘Mother of Democracy’ Fails To Protect Democratic Rights;
Delhi Police Cancels the Day 3 proceedings;
Summit Vows to Protect People and Nature over Profits
New Delhi, 20.08.23 : The We20: Peoples’ Summit on G20 organised by over 70 organisations from different parts of the country concluded with much vigour and energy, albeit a day earlier due to the pressure from the police who rejected the permission to hold the event on Day 3.
In a declaration adopted by the Summit, it called “for solidarity and unity among all democratic forces, peoples’ movements, civil society organizations, human rights defenders and progressive individuals to demand robust South-South cooperation, and a just, inclusive, transparent and equitable future for people all over the world.”
It also said that there are thousands of grounded, community-led initiatives towards genuine, just, equitable and ecologically wise ways of meeting human needs available across the G20 countries, which governments and others can learn from and help expand to communities.
In the early morning on Day 3 Delhi Police came marching with a written order which forced the closing down of the program. The event, being held at Surjeet Bhawan faced hurdles on Day 2 with the Delhi police trying to interrupt the peaceful proceedings, but with peoples’ resistance and remarkable show of spirit, they backed out, and the program continued as scheduled. Under duress the Summit had to be curtailed. But we hold the legal right to challenge the order in Court.
Several movement leaders and activists who were present at the venue strongly condemned the police action, calling it deeply undemocratic and against the ethos of our constitution. Senior activist, Medha Patkar, remarked that “this is not the end, and we need to continue these struggles at the level of villages and towns, and give voice to the issues of the people.” Thomas Franco from People First said, “Article 19 (1) of the constitution provides for freedom of speech and freedom of expression. No law prevents people from gathering for a peaceful discussion. We condemn the BJP government, who are trying to take away the rights of the people.”
Shaktiman Ghosh of National Hawkers’ Federation condemned the police action and added that “we will fight against these fascist trends, come what may.”
The We20 Peoples’ Summit was being held in the backdrop of G20 Leaders Summit set to be held in Delhi in early September. However, despite spending crores on advertising, the G20 summit remains an informal elite club, holding all its discussions closed door, with no participation from people who are affected by their decisions and recommendations. It is going to be less about real concerns of the people and more of a prescription from the ‘masters.’
Whereas, as remarked by Rajkumar Sinha, from Bargi Bandh Vishthapit Sangh, “The G20 has neglected the concerns and issues of a large population. The Peoples’ Summit gave us the opportunity to talk about the key issues like inequality, climate crisis, just energy transition, labour rights, social protection, corporatisation of agriculture, attack on natural resources and real alternatives and much more.”
Over 700 delegates from different parts of the country, representing people’s movements, trade unions and Civil Society Organisations came together at the Inaugural program that saw participation from Teesta Setalvad, Medha Patkar, Jayati Ghosh, Manoj Jha, Harsh Mander, Arun Kumar, Brinda Karat, Hannan Mollah, Rajeev Gowda among others. The 6 workshops, on issues ranging from Global Finance, Big Banks, and its Impact on People, Right to Information, Digital Data and Surveillance, Climate Change & India and G20 witnessed speakers including Jairam Ramesh, Vandana Shiva, Anjali Bhardwaj, Amrita Johri, Nikhil Dey and others.
By sending the police to stop the Peoples’ Summit, the Modi administration, under which the police department is, was sending a clear message that they do not want to listen to peoples’ issues. It wants to show to the world a clean and shining India by demolishing hutments of the poor and marginalised and ‘beautifying’ the city. That, it is bent upon curbing any voices of dissent.
While in the official G20 summit there are claims of us being the “Mother of Democracy”, the state of affairs that we have witnessed here at the We20 Peoples’ Summit only goes on to show how we are inching closer to being a police state. One where even dialogues, deliberations inside the four walls and thoughts are being policed.
The declaration ‘People and Nature over Profits for a Just, Inclusive, Transparent and Equitable Future’ condemned the police action and while critically looking at the G20 and demanding the overhaul of the international financial architecture. It called out the false market-based solutions to the climate crisis proposed by the G20 which have resulted in financialisation of nature and deprivation of natural resource-dependent communities, and greater debt distress. It rejected corporate capital’s capture of global food governance through the Agreement on Agriculture in the WTO, and emerging bilateral and multilateral trade agreements.
The Declaration also said that the root causes for rising inequalities are unchecked capitalist expansion supported by pliant nation-states, tax evasion and avoidance by powerful rich actors. It opposed the commodification and privatization of healthcare promoted by the ‘One Health’ approach.
It rejected the blue economy agenda of the G20 that aims to economically exploit the marine ecosystem and resources, and turn conservation into a profitable venture. It expressed deep concern at the weakening of environmental and ecological safeguards in the name of ‘Be Ready’ or for the single-minded pursuit of economic growth.
The declaration also strongly condemned the erosion of democratic institutions and spaces, the attack on the constitutional values, civil society groups, human rights defenders and academic bodies, the use of digital surveillance and data privacy, the dilution of laws related to right to information, criminalisation of dissent, unjust use of government agencies to suppress peoples’ voices, and increased social antagonisms and communal tension engineered by rightwing forces.
People vowed to raise issues of G20 in their respective states and towns in the coming days.