ANTI-WAR protests have been taking place the world over, the most recent one being in Italy where thousands of people gathered to denounce the shrill war cries from the United States and the United Kingdom. In October, protests took place all over Europe to coincide with demonstrations in several cities across the U.S. Peace has been the overwhelming message of all these protest actions.
Expressing solidarity with the beleaguered Iraqi people and with the protests the world over, thousands of people marched from Mandi House to Parliament Street in New Delhi on November 14. Led by the major Left parties and the Janata Dal (Secular), the protesters shouted anti-war slogans and lashed out at the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government for not taking a pro-active position on the critical situation facing Iraq. Two former Prime Ministers, V.P. Singh and H.D. Deve Gowda, participated in the rally. Apart from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) also joined the rally. Other parties in the Left Front, including the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) and the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) were also represented. It was announced that over the next two months, a campaign would take place all over the country. Further, the parties pledged to carry on the struggle against the imperialist war designs of the George Bush-Tony Blair combine.
Addressing the demonstration, CPI(M) general secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet pointed out that the U.S. had become particularly emboldened after the break-up of the former Soviet Union. The balance of power that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was able to sustain internationally was now tilted in favour of the U.S. This had enabled it to assume the prerogative to attack any country at any time, he said. The CPI(M) leader said that it was a shame that this issue was not important enough for the Indian government. "Today if it is Iraq - tomorrow it can be India," cautioned Surjeet. He said that the U.S. President had distorted the views of his own people. He added that it was not a time for long speeches, but a time for concerted action to resist the expansionist forces. Commenting on India's past role in such situations, he said that the country had always come forward to support the democratic interests of other countries. Surjeet said that they would demand that India make its position on the issue clear in the forthcoming session of Parliament. All former governments had a clearly enunciated foreign policy and had intervened forcefully, he pointed out.
Deve Gowda exhorted the rallyists to send a message of peace to the self-declared "superpowers of the world", who have been labelled by Noam Chomsky as the masters of the universe. Deve Gowda referred to the dual policy of the U.S. on the issue of Palestine. He said that Saddam Hussein had never failed to cooperate with international inspection agencies and had even accepted the amended United Nation's Resolution. But the U.S. President just wanted to use any pretext to attack Iraq. He said that the meeting should demand all members of the U.N. to fight against the dictatorship of the U.S. "This kind of bullying will not be tolerated by the member countries," the former Prime Minister said. He exhorted the Indian government to come out with a categorical statement against the war-mongering.
Prakash Karat, senior member of the CPI(M) Polit Bureau, said that even the latest U.N. inspection team appeared to be an excuse to attack Iraq. The U.S. was attempting to attack Iraq unilaterally and was trying all kinds of machinations to change the present Iraqi government. Karat said that in the U.N. Security Council, barring two countries, the rest supported a peaceful resolution of the crisis. It was a national shame that the BJP government was not raising its voice against the U.S. aggression, he said. The NDA had rendered the policy of non-alignment redundant, Karat said. An overwhelming number of Indian people desired friendship with Iraq, he said.
General secretary of the CPI A.B. Bardhan referred to the mass protests all over Europe and even in several cities of the U.S. He said that the U.S. was desperate to get a green signal from the U.N. to attack Iraq. Bardhan recalled the sufferings of the Iraqi people, especially the children, who were being deprived of essential commodities such as milk and medicines, owing to the tough U.N. sanctions against the country. He wondered how amidst such dismal state of affairs Iraq was capable of making weapons of mass destruction. The inspection by the U.N. team was an excuse, he said, and it was the rich oil reserves of Iraq that lay behind these interventionist designs.
Echoing similar views, Dipankar Bhattacharya, general secretary, CPI(ML), said: "They say that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, we say that the largest cache of weapons the world over is not with Iraq, Cuba or China but with the U.S." In a forceful speech, he said that the U.S.' aggression was not only for oil reserves, but to teach Iraq a lesson for challenging U.S. hegemony. It was time to renew the fight against U.S. imperialism more vigorously, he said. RSP leader Manoj Bhattacharya and the AIFB leader, G. Devarajan, too raised the issues of Iraq's sovereignty and the suffering of the Iraqi people under the U.N. embargo.