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500 angry peasants on the road to the power centres of the world

Activists from India and Europe are preparing for a month long tour of Europe. Around 500 Indian peasants feel that is high time that their problems in wealthy Europe are made known. Multinationals, and the liberalising measures of the World Trade Organisation WTO in particular, constitue a huge threat to their current income, way of life and natural surroundings.

The Indian peasants want to protest against multinationals and 'free trade' institutions, and plan to do so (to name but two occasions) during the European summit and the G8 summit that are to take place in Cologne in June.

The initiator of the caravan is the KRRS (Karnataka Raiya Ryota Sanghe), based in the South Indian federal state of Karnataka. The KRRS has an impressive history and is reknowing for its radical campaings against multinationals. The globally active peasant organisation Via Campesina and People's Global Action are both supporters of the caravan.

The Indian peasants wanted to take part in the protest, held in Geneva in Mai 1998, in connection with the the fifthiest anniversary of the free trade organisations GATT and WTO. However it proved impossible for them to acquire visas in time, in May 1999, the 500 Indian peasants will finally arrive on European soil. They will form a caravan of twenty buses and tour eight countries in one month. Beside these from India, activists from other continents will also be joining the actions.

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Agriculture in the 'Third World'

The peasants are coming to Europe in order to meet people and to relate how the so-called 'free'-market economy is negatively affecting their own lives and the lives of the millions of peasants in developing nations. The WTO does not allow third world countries to safeguard their economies against unfair competition and unwanted products. Under pressure from the WTO, laws are made in India granting multinationals power over seeds, even seeds that have always been used by the peasants. The peasants strongly are against this. "We are the original growers of the seed and we will not cooperate with the execution of laws that deny us our inalienable rights to the seed". Patents on animals and plants are rejected by the peasants anyway, because it is immoral and goes against their traditions.

By means of the caravan, the peasants hope to make it clear that the free market ideology constitutes a dead end road: it is the number one cause of poverty and the destruction of nature on earth. Yet politicians claim it to the enormous amout of problems facing humanity nowaydays. The peasants would like to see us unite all over the world to put the economy at the service of the needs of people, while at the same time respecting nature.

top, agriculture in the 'Third World', the KRRS, caravan in europe


The 500 angry peasants who are coming to Europe are, for the most part, members of the organisation KRRS (Karnataka Raiya Ryota Sanghe) which is based in the South Indian federal state of Karnataka. In Karnataka, of the 60 million inhabitants, between 5 and 10 million are members of the KRRS. Usually, whole villages join, which is why the exact number of members is unclear. Members are usually smallholders and leasehold-farmers, but many are also agricultural labourers owing no land of their own.

The KRRS has organised various spectacular action in recent years: the 'dismantling', with bare hands, of Cargill, amultinational trading in wheat and seed, the 'disabling' of the first Kentucky Fried Chicken in India; and a demonstration against the WTO involving 300,000 people. Regular protests are held at village and district level against corrupt politicians and civil servants.

At the end of May 1995, the KRRS, together with The Third World Network (an umbrella organisation of environmental groups from the third world), established an International Institute for Sustainable Agriculture in Bangelore. The Institute provides training programmes for farmers who want to switch to biological agriculture and helps with the gathering indigenous seeds, the founding of local seed banks and the reintroduction of traditional breeds of plants.

According to the philosophy of the KRRS, direct action is necessary in order to facilitate changes. Nanjundaswamy, the current KRRS president, regards the WTO policy as a new form of colonialism. He feels direct action is the only way and has no trust in political parties because none of them want, or dare, to undertake any form of action which attacks the the WTO and multinationals.

decentralised organisation
The organisation and mobilisation for protests takes place at village, taluk (a couple of dozen villages), district and federal state level. Each village elects a secretary and a president from its midst. These chosen representatives meet each other at taluk and district level. From among them, a kind of executive committee is elected. At a national level, the KRRS forms a part of the umbrella organisation All India People's Resistance Forum (AIPRF), consisting of about 50 Indian mass organisations. Together, these organisations are calling for their government to step out of the WTO and to deny multinationals that misuse the Indian natural resources the right to land.

There's a chapter about the KRRS whith more information.

top, agriculture in the 'Third World', the KRRS, caravan in europe

Caravan in Europe

During an international seminar about globalisation and resistance, that was held in Geneva, between 16 and 31 August, the proposal for the May/June 1999 caravan was presented. The participants, activists from around 17 countries, reacted with enthusiasm. Information evenings in the Netherlands and other countries have also proved that many people think that the project is a good idea. In the mean time, welcoming committees have been established. The Dutch committee is already hard at work. A European committee is acting as coordinator and keeps in touch with the KRRS.

The caravan will commence on 22 May in the Netherlands and end on 22 June in Cologne. The idea is that, in each country, the Indian peasants will have time for effecting direct action in the form of attention-grabbing protest, taking part in public meetings, press conferences and meetings with farmers organisations and having some rest and relaxation. Link to the program page

Goals of the caravan

The peasants are coming to Europe for the following reasons:

  • to confront people in the countries they visit with the consequences of economic globalisation. The Welcoming committee wants to involve as many people from different backgrounds in the organisation and activities of the project.
  • to promote understanding and cooperation between the Indian peasants and European organisations like trade unions, environmental organisations and, of course, farmer organisations.
  • to attract the attention of local, national and international media to the disadvantages of free trade and to protest against the WTO.
  • to promote non-violent civil disobedience as a means of action for political change.
  • to effect mobilisation in order to hold decentralised mass actions and resistance during the next ministerial conference of the WTO which is to take place in Washington the autumn of 1999.

Protest issues

The caravan will, in all cases devote attention to the following issues. Listed below, together with these issues, are a number of possible protest venues.

  • The world's leading political organisations. Good occasions are the European Summit and the G8-meeting in Cologne. Good locations include: the WTO headquarters in Geneva; OECD in Paris; the European Commission and Parliament in Brussels and national parliaments.
  • Multinationals. Actions at various headquarters, lobby groups like the European Round Table of Industrialists, EuropaBio, World Economic Forum, and possibly at stock exchanges, banks and the European Central Bank.
  • Agro industries, Green Revolution, biotechnology, patents on life. For these issues protests could be held at FAO, the European Commission, EuropaBio, Monsanto, Novartis, Nestle, Unilever, Cargill and Bayer.
  • 'Third World' debt problems. With actions at the G8 meeting, at banks and at public institutions like ministries and parliaments.
  • Militarism and nuclear issues. Possible participation in a peace demonstration ending at the NATO headquarters in Brussels.

top, agriculture in the 'Third World', the KRRS, caravan in europe