Land, Water and Forests have been the loci of various struggles worldwide for centuries. Specially so in the global south and also very much so in each of the constituents of the BRICS bloc. Why?
Because to begin with, the virgin, rich and abundant Natural resources in these unexplored terrains had the colonialists, licking their tongues. They muscled their way in, established kingdoms and ran governments and systematically – initially by sheer superior firepower and then through legislative mechanisms (like the draconian Land Acquisition Act 1894, Indian Forest Act 1927 etc applicable in India) looted the Natural resources, usurped land and grabbed whatever they could to bolster the economic might of their respective empires. The quantum of displacement and its resultant socio-economic, cultural psychological effects were devastating. People resisted. Continuous mass upsurges shook the crown. But the cunning colonialists appeased many subaltern peoples resistance like the one led by Black Christ (Birsa Munda) with unthinkably progressive regional land control acts like the CNTA (Chotanagpur tenancy act 1908) while nationally they usurped land under the dreaded Land Acquisition Act!
Post independence , mostly post second world war, in the countries in the global south and many of them from the current BRICS combine, people again faced huge displacements in the name of building modern self reliant industrial nations for these primarily industrially underdeveloped agriculture based countries. While in countries like India people were again torn asunder from their roots and livelihood sources because of the Nehruvian dream of building the monuments of modern India – Bhakra Nanagl Dam, the Damodar Valley Corporation, the Steel Plants etc, it was almost a similar story in the global south. And from the 1970s, when climate and environment and alternative energy to fossil fuel issues came in public discourse, many Environmental protection, Wildlife protection etc. acts were constructed to further ghettoize, terrorize, displace, disrupt natural resource based indigenous and other traditional such dwellers. In India, in the name of conservation and building environmental safeguards, indigenous people were evicted on a large scale. The real conservators of forest for centuries were now treated as encroachers or possible poachers by the nexus of the eminent domain and the special imperial government department – the Forest Department. Does it suffice to the objective of conservation in any way? Has it provided the democratic space to the citizens of India including indigenous people? Has it succeeded in protecting forests and wildlife diversity? Or was it a myth to control and loot the vast natural resources for catering to imperial needs. Or has it destroyed the local self-governing institutions that were far more sustainable in conserving forest and diversity as well as meeting their own livelihood needs.
What makes it so important to understand why even so called privileged sections wanted to get hold of these natural resources and thus simultaneously dispossess large section of the population – primarily indigenous people dependent for its livelihood and very living on the land, water, forests in a sustainable ecological paradigm. Thus, original residents became outsiders and alien colonial power and their partners became insiders.
Similarly, land acquisition happened since independence through the use of the draconian land acquisition law of 1894 in the name of development which was largely advised by *western developed countries and promoted by Indian Government. With no consent, no impact assessment, how were they able to acquire land and displace people in the name of development – a model which is now failing all over the world?
Extensive damming of riverine systems across the country for power and irrigation further displaced and disrupted millions whose lives were damned. Industrialization needed raw material – minerals and more coal for more power. Forests were mowed down, the earth was cut deep down. People were again thrown out of their traditional habitats. The project of modernity and industrialization , whether in India or any where in the global south including each constituent of the BRICS bloc completely shattered the lives of millions of traditionally natural resource based indigenous and other traditional communities.
With all this in mind and the larger questions of survival, livelihood and dignity, we need to examine the current developmental paradigm and the civilsational crisis we are faced with. India like all other BRICS countries are on their own path of modernization and undertaking massive infrastructure projects whether it is industrial corridors rebuilding, new trade routes like Sagarmala, Bharatmala, setting up of special economic zones, smart cities, integrated industrial townships, mega cities etc. and so on.
In this quest, BRICS countries have arrived at a complete consensus and after ravaging their own resources, are now colonizing other countries, mostly in Africa and erstwhile countries of the Soviet Bloc and in Latin America.
Against this consensus, the communities’ fight for their rights, justice and freedom and come up with their own alternatives to address the civilizational crisis.
In the backdrop of the fact that the global south is now again the focus for primary surplus creation for capital, similar to what happened 3 centuries ago and what has been continuing over the past 60-70 years of liberation for most of these countries(when these sites were the locale of primitive accumulation of capital, and)the imperial powers and their corporate partners are swooping in again, with a vengeance to usurp the natural resources of resource rich global south countries, the continuous resistance by indigenous and traditional natural resource based communities is the key to anti-capitalist struggles and building spaces for “another world”.
The workshop will look at the different approaches and perspectives to the issues of this intended new geo-political bloc BRICS and also ways in which peoples’ resistances and alternatives are being articulated and brought in to practice by people’s movements which is beginning to challenge the State and its institutions.
ORGANISERS: National Alliance of Peoples Movements (NAPM) | All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP) | National Fishworker Forum( NFF )