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Nuclear Disarmament and Peace

The setting up of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace at the conclusion of the national convention held in New Delhi recently gives India's peace movement an organised presence and profile.

They came from near the uranium mines of Jaduguda and the nuclear test site at Pokhran. They represented the adivasis of the Narmada Valley, the industrial workers of Mumbai, the fisherfolk of Tamil Nadu and the peasants of the Gangetic delta of West Bengal. Some journeyed from the semi-desert of Baluchistan, the lush-green south of Sri Lanka, the paddy-growing plains of Bangladesh. The 600-plus delegates to India’s first-ever National Convention for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace held in New Delhi comprised, as former chief of naval staff L Ramdas put it, “a veritable peace fest... and an altogether exciting historic landmark”. The convention was the culmination of a one-year-long process of meetings and consultations involving nearly 120 groups and organisations, as well as individual peace activists, in more than 10 Indian cities. It was also the beginning of a new phase in India’s broad-based movement for nuclear weapons abolition. The convention offered Indian peace activists the first national-level opportunity to debate a range of theoretical and practical issues, exchange experiences, and achieve a degree of clarity on aims and methods. It established India’s first-ever Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), a network with a 50-member coordination committee.

The coalition gives India’s peace movement an organised national presence and profile. This fills a major void. Since the 1998 nuclear tests, there have been sustained – and growing – protests in more than 40 cities against weapons of mass destruction and India’s nuclear policy volte-face. These tended to be discrete, and unconnected to a coalitional structure with a national (and international) presence, profile and perspective. Matters changed with networking among different groups early in 2000 and the holding of preparatory meetings in Nagpur and Delhi. Three-fourths of the convention’s delegates came from outside Delhi. They all paid for their own travel and on an average spent a week in preparing for and attending the convention. There were 50 delegates from Pakistan, 15 from the rest of south Asia, and about 20 peace activists from Australasia, north-east and south-east Asia, Africa, Europe and America. They included experienced campaigners from the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), representatives of the Abolition-2000 network, and Japanese activists, besides the Pakistan Peace Coalition.

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