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Sunday, December 16, 2007

We have to be united if we hope to stop the march of imperialism: Nandigram

Ramsey Clark, former US Attorney General, anti-imperialist campaigner and President of the US-based International Action Center, was in Kolkata to attend the Anti-Imperialist International Conference and rally organised by the All India Anti-Imperialist Forum from 27th to 29th November. On 29th November, he visited Nandigram for a first-hand experience of the situation there. Returning to the closing session of the Conference, he made the following brief speech on the significance of Nandigram:

I had an extremely moving and enlightening experience at Nandigram today. What happened in Nandigram reveals most aspects of the crisis facing all people in the planet today, something that is not quite understood by merely reading about it. People who have lived on the lands of their ancestors going back 1500 years, a beautiful people, attacked by their own Government, killed, injured, their homes burnt- 119 homes in one part of Nandigram, we saw the homes and talked to the survivors, their property taken or destroyed, many still missing. I saw a boy hit by a bullet in the front forehead, I could also see the exit wound. He was able to stand up, but was unable to talk. The death toll is far greater than what we are told. In one small area that we visited, people were sure of a hundred.

Why? Why is the Government doing this to its people? It is doing it so that powerful foreign interests can come on to the lands of the Indian people to exploit not only people of India, but people of the whole world. In the SEZ they are planning, you will find chemical companies, perhaps Dow Chemicals again. Can you imagine Dow Chemicals returning to India after Bhopal? That's exactly what's being planned, to pollute life, to exploit resources. One plan is to manufacture munitions there. To kill Iraqis, perhaps? What nations will be assaulted with these munitions?

We have to be united if we hope to stop the march of imperialism. The concentration of power that comes from imperialism becomes so dramatically clear in Nandigram. People utterly impoverished have lost all they had, their loved ones, their homes, so that wealth can come in, poison the environment there, exploit the rest of the country, concentrating wealth in fewer hands, while the masses get poorer and poorer.

How incredibly courageous the movement has been! As of this moment, they have successfully defied enormous power, at tragic cost to themselves. They say they can't make it without our help. We can't make it without the help of each other and without reaching out to more and more people. During our civil rights movement in the US, the oppressed African-Americans said, `Power to the people'. They had it wrong. Power is in the people. The people must have the will and the intelligence to exercise that power. Who can defy the people? In the winter of 1978, I was in Teheran. The people shut down the city- the factories, markets, transport, colleges – the people were out on the streets, 4 to 5 million of them, marching. The Shah of Iran had 68 million dollars worth of arms from the US, the Shah had more tanks than the British Army. But with all his power, his soldiers, his tanks, he could kill only 48,000 people, he could not kill all the people. So as the people shut down the whole country, the Shah finally got up and left on his plane.

I am not sure we will find a better battle cry today that brings everything together than Nandigram- a struggle against power that destroys people and places for its own enrichment while impoverishing others. I hope we can carry the banner of these people, not just to help them, but to save ourselves from the march of imperialism which is at its most dangerous today... I am sure we will find ways to unite our action and our energies, and we then shall overcome.


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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