rn: Indian activists too against WTO, World Bank (ACTION needed)


Jan Slakov

Date: Wed, 01 Dec 1999 12:49:11 -0600
From: Mark Douglas Whitaker <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Indigenous people (Adivasis) Invade World Bank Office in New

                **please circulate widely**

     Indigenous Peoples Occupy World Bank Premises in New Delhi
 Protest against the Destruction of Livelihoods and the Environment
                 by the World Bank and the WTO

More than 300 Adivasis [i.e. indigenous peoples] from the Indian state of
Madhya Pradesh, representing all mass-based Adivasi movements, jumped over
the fence of the World Bank building on the 24th of November at 12:00. They
blocked the building, covering it with posters, grafitti, cow shit and mud,
sang slogans and traditional songs at the gate, and went back only after Mr.
Lim, country director of the World Bank in India, went out to receive an
open letter signed by all their movements.

The letter, reproduced below, denounces the destructive impact of World Bank
investments in forestry and of the liberalisation in timber products
enshrined in the WTO system, which range from the commodification and
destruction of the forests to increasing violence, rape and assassinations.
The letter also clearly states their stand in relation to these
institutions: "We fought against the British and we will fight against the
new form of colonialism that you represent with all our might."

The attempts of the country director of the World Bank to deliver a speech
were refused by the Adivasis, who said that after talking with World Bank
officials for the last 5 years they had concluded that such 'dialogues' had
the only objective of betraying, misleading and deceiving the Adivasis while
pushing through commercial and industrial interests.

Adivasi organisations in Madhya Pradesh have repeatedly denounced the highly
destructive, so-called 'eco-development' programmes that the World Bank has
been funding for the last five years in their forests. Those programmes
involve the violent forced eviction of Adivasis from their lands (where all
means of force were used, including several killings), which as so many
other aspects of the 'eco-development' programmes of the WB goes against the
Operational Directives of the Bank, as well as a remarkably awkward
combination of bans on the activities on which Adivasis have based their
livelihoods since milennia (shifting cultivation, fishing, extraction of
forest produce, etc.) on 'environmental grounds', combined with the
liberalisation of commercial activities to 'make conservation a good
business'. A great business not for the Adivasis, but for the corrupt
administrative system exploiting the forest and the commercial and
industrial interests behind this sort of 'eco-development'. Hence, the
Adivasi communities see themselves forced to buy in the market the products
that they are not anymore allowed to extract from their forests.

The other target of the action was the WTO regime, an increasingly important
tool for the interests that are destroying the lives of indigenous peoples
all over the world. The attempts to include in the WTO system a new
agreement aimed at boosting timber extraction and trade were highlighted,
and the Adivasis expressed their determination to fight against it.

The open letter to the President of the World Bank concludes:

"For the World Bank and the WTO, our forests are a marketable commodity. But
for us, the forests are a home, our source of livelihood, the dwelling of
our gods, the burial grounds of our ancestors, the inspiration of our
culture. We do not need you to save our forests. We will not let you sell
our forests. So go back from our forests and our country."

Pictures of the action will soon be available at the PGA website,
(http://www.agp.org). In the next months more background information on this
issue will be slowly added to that webpage.

The name of the World Bank President is James D. Wolfensohn and his address
is The World Bank, 1818 H Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20433 U.S.A. Please
send copies of the letters to <•••@••.•••>


To the President of the World Bank:

We, the tribal people of India, demand that the World Bank immediately stop
its attempts to take over our forests. The Madhya Pradesh Forestry Project
and other such projects only intensify the colonial takeover of our forests
that began with British rule in our country. We fought the British and we
will fight the new form of colonialism that you represent  with all our

For us the MPFP and other such projects have meant an increasing threat to
our rights over our land, our rights to extraction of forest produce, the
loss of our grazing lands our fishing rights. It has meant increasing
violence against our people. It has deliberately attempted to foster
conflicts among our people in the old colonial tradition of 'divide and
rule'. It has endorsed rape in Hoshangabad, killings in Khandwa, the burning
down of homes and fields in Mandla and Dindori, beatings, extortion, and
criminal cases against our people when they have attempted to protect their
rights and livelihood.

You know nothing about our forest or about how we have lived in them for
centuries. You did not even consult us before you devised the MPFP and other
forestry projects. You have never bothered to ask us how we have been
affected by your projects. But with unforgivable arrogance you are
attempting to take away our rights over our forests on the grounds that it
is we who are destroying the forests that are our home, our source of
livelihood. Even though it is so well known that it is the commercial and
industrial interests that you represent that have destroyed our forests.

Our forests can only be saved by us, the people of the forests. You know
that. That is why you talk of 'Joint Forest Management'. But your 'Joint
Forest Management' is a sham - a ruse that you use to pretend that you have
our consent when you wrest our forests from us.

Your Operational Directives assure us that you will seek our consent and
fully informed participation in your projects. They assure us that your
projects will not affect us adversely. You have betrayed that promise and
violated your own Operational Directives. You have repeatedly ignored our
protests. We agreed to participate in a Joint Mission with you in this
regard, but you abandoned the Mission when it became clear that your project
has so seriously violated our rights.

We know that in the Seattle Round of the WTO, there is a plan to hand over
our forests to commercial and industrial interests. We will resist this too,
with all our might. For the World Bank and the WTO, our forests are a
marketable commodity. But for us, the forests are a home, our source of
livelihood, the dwelling of our gods, the burial grounds of our ancestors,
the inspiration of our culture. We do not need you to save our forests. We
will not let you sell our forests. So go back from our forests and our country.

On behalf of our people:

* Ekta Parishad, Madhya Pradesh (M.P.) and Orissa
* Adivasi Mukti Sangathan, M.P.
* Shramik Adivasi Sangathan, M.P.
* Kisan Adivasi Sangathan, M.P.
* Jan Van Andolan, M.P.
* Pench National Park Sangharsha Samiti, M.P.
* Bandhavagash Rashtriya Udyan Sangharsha Sangathan, M.P.
* Sanjay Rashtriya Udyan Sangharsha Samiti, M.P.
* Sitanadi Abhayaranya Sangharsha Samiti, M.P.
* Nagarhole Restoration Movement, Karnataka
* Vikalpa, Uttar Pradesh (U.P.)
* Mazdoor Morcha, U.P.
* Ghat Kshetra Samiti, U.P.
* Kalpavriksha, Delhi
* Samajwadi Jan Parishad
* Narmada Bachao Andolan
* National Alliance of People's Movements
* Centre for Law and the Environment, New Delhi
* Coorg Organisation for Rural Development, Karnataka
* Budakattu Krishikara Sangha, Karnataka


Press Release

The forestry projects funded by the World Bank and other international
agencies are a part of a major conspiracy to take over our forests and deny
the basic rights of tribals. In the last five years, forestry projects have
been initiated in nearly all the states of India. The secretly planned  $32
billion National Forestry Action Plan would also be funded by international
agencies. On the one hand, these forestry programmes are undertaken in the
name of conserving forests, wildlife and the biodiversity and on the on the
other hand in the Seattle round the same agencies plan to introduce a new
agenda to open up native forests to logging and to weaken environmental
protection in the interests of multinational companies. All this is a part
of the destructive process of globalization which is driving tribals out of
the forests and reducing their rights to them. These were the conclusions
reached in the two day meeting on "Debt in the Forestry Sector: its Impact
on the Forests, the Tribals and the Economy" organised by the mass and
tribal organizations of Madhya Pradesh on 22nd and 23rd November, 1999. On
24th November, a demonstration was organised against the World Bank at its
Delhi office in which hundreds of tribals from Madhya Pradesh as well as
other human rights activists registered their protest against the World
Bank's interference in our forests. "World Bank go back" and "our forests
belong to us" were some of the slogans through which the tribals expressed
their anger against the World Bank. Ekta Parishad, Adivasi Mukti Sangathan,
Shramik Adivasi Sangathan, Kisan Adivasi Sangathan, Narmada Bachao Andolan
and other organizations participated in the demonstration. Besides these
organizations from Madhya Pradesh, representatives from the National
Alliance of People's Movements and organizations from Orissa. Bihar, Uttar
Pradesh, Maharashtra and activists from Delhi also participated in the
demonstration. The World Bank funded Madhya Pradesh Forestry Project was
specially focussed upon. This massive project worth Rs. 800 crores is based
on the unproven premise that in order to protect and conserve the forests
the dependence of forests dwellers on them be reduced to the minimum. In
reality such programmes are an attempt to separate tribals from the forests,
a process beneficial to neither. The ongoing MPFP has violated the basic
livelihood rights of tribals as well as the World Bank's own Operational
Directive 4.20 in this regard. It has also increased atrocities on tribals.
This is evident from the report of the joint mission of the representatives
of the World Bank, the M.P. Forest department and the mass and tribal
organizations of M.P. The sudden and unexplained withdrawal of the World
Bank and the M.P. forest department from the mission in its final stages and
the continuation of the MPFP without resolving the problems investigated by
the mission has revealed the World bank's hypocrisy. The World Bank's
oft-expressed concern for people's participation, joint forest management,
transparency and tribal welfare have all proved to be a major farce. In the
name of joint forest management the MPFP has led to serious village level
conflict in line to the British policy of divide and rule. For the last five
years the mass and tribal organizations of M.P. have raised their voices at
all levels within the state against the Project, the present forest policy
and atrocities against the tribal, but all in vain. We are now compelled to
intensify our struggle in Delhi.

Besides denying their basic rights to livelihood the project has led to an
increase in atrocities among tribals. In Dainala village of the Gurungpur
forest division of Khandwa district and at Katukia village of Bagli forest
division of Devaas district, tribals have been shot dead by the forest
department. In Mandla and Dindhori districts the hutments and crops of
"primitive" Baiga tribals were burnt down and they were beaten and jailed.
In Hoshnagabad district, a Ranger who repeatedly raped a tribal girl has not
only not been punished but has been rewarded with a foreign trip under the
MPFP. Harassment and criminal cases against tribals who attempt to protect
their rights are common allover the state.

At the WTO Seattle conference there is a plan to clear the way for
exploitation of the forests by multinationals. There is a plan to grab the
forests from the people of the third world countries and to entrap them in
the form of the "globalization" which is detrimental to their basic
interests but tribals and other forests dwellers as well as their
representative organisation has pledged to fight the interference of the
World Bank and other international agencies and their forests and unlike an
elected government refuse to become pawns in their hands.
Sergio Oceransky       <•••@••.•••>
--- End Forwarded Message ---