Of The Unlettered
By Aniket Alam
20 January, 2004
Allegre was more academic, but Mumbai is a sheer carnival of the unlettered
and the dispossessed" says Silumko Nondwangu, general secretary
of the South African Metalworkers Union comparing the World Social Forum
currently on in Mumbai with the three previous editions in Porto Allegre
Carolina Gil from
Brazil agrees that WSF Mumbai has seen an unprecedented participation
from the poor and marginalised communities.
"That is the
reason for so much sound and dance through the day", she adds,
referring to the incessant rounds of dancing and singing and drum beating
that has characterised the WSF since its start on January 16.
In fact there was
a troupe of drummers and dancers from Jharkhand who wound their way
into a debate on WTO and disinvestment.
The speakers stopped
for some time as the drums rolled on.
The drummers with
paint and traditional costumes would, perhaps, not have understood the
grave arguments that were being offered in English, Spanish and French,
but they announced that they too were part of the WSF.
Many are the seminars
and debates which have been drowned in the sound of drums, singing and
slogan shouting. When this correspondent pointed it out to Ian C. Rivera,
a Filipino working with agricultural workers, he replied that dance,
slogans and music were the way the poor and illiterate people were participating
in the WSF.
"It is important
to realise that they may not have attended the big seminars and participated
in the debates, but they have seen each other and gained strength from
being witness to the struggles from all over the world", he said.
Lushai and Meshing Ching Marma from Bandarban district of Bangladesh
these young girls from the Chittagong Hill Tracts have never visited
Dhaka but now speak of meeting young women like them from South Africa
who are struggling with HIV/AIDs and with sex workers in Mumbai. She
understood how these women were organising movements.
The main road inside
the WSF campus had become a permanent platform for every movement attending
the WSF as hundreds of activists mingle with their posters, banners
and music with each other in a sea of humanity.
from Karnataka and tribals from Madhya Pradesh were huddled on the platform
of Goregaon station singing songs and baking rotis.
They too were WSF
participants, as their badges announced.
Bamba Niang from
Senegal said that unlike in Porto Allegre there are many more people
and a larger variety of concerns at WSF Mumbai.
He said George Bush
and his war on Iraq has united everyone and the concerns for food security,
job security, security from pollution and security from war were now
woven in one single strand. That is the abiding contribution of WSF
Mumbai, he said.