Brief description of Indian movements
participating in the ICC


The Karnataka Rajysa Raitha Sangha (KRRS, Karnataka State Farmers' Association) is the biggest movement of small and medium farmers and landless labourers in India. It was launched in 1980 and today several million peasants are organised in KRRS. The KRRS plays a key-role not only in mobilising people in the Indian state Karnataka but also at national level (bringing movements together in networks such as JAFIP and BKU) and in international networking (through Via Campesina and Peoples Global Action).
The issues KRRS is working in are manyfold and stretch far beyond an agricultural framework:

  • Resistance against the "Green Revolution" (cultivation of modified, so called "high-yielding" varieties with a high input of mechanisation and chemicals, like fertilisers and pesticides)
  • Raising awareness of the negative impact of biotechnology in agriculture (especially genetically modified seeds and plants leading to a "second" Green Revolution).
  • Resistance against Free Trade, multilateral institutions (IMF, WB, WTO) and transnational corporations. It's really impressive how KRRS manages to bring such complex issues to the grassroot-level, how they combine the global policy-making with the everyday-effects suffered by the Indian peasantry. KRRS was the first movement that managed to bring half a million people together to protest against trade liberalisation in 1993, especially the "Dunkel-Draft" (a proposal to finish the Uruguay-Round, the negociations that led to the foundation of the WTO. The draft was contenting far reaching measures to liberalise trade in the agricultural, industrial and service-sector and with intellectual property rights)
  • They also highlight the role of multinational corporations as the main actors and beneficiaries in the new globalised structure of exploitation. Direct actions and campaigns against multinationals like Cargill, Monsanto and Kentucky Fried Chicken have brought this aspect of liberalisation in the wider public.
  • Challenging the unjust social system, backed by the religious-based caste-system, that is still powerful in intimidating and discouraging people to claim their rights. Promoting secular, "self-respect" weddings without brahmins, instead of conventional marriages, which lead quite often to high indebtedness of families.
  • KRRS also works in practising and teaching alternative agriculture, which is based on self-reliance, sustainability and traditional forms of cultivation.
  • Fighting for a better role of women in the society and in the movements itself. There are special women´s-programs and -rallies, and in committees of KRRS as well as in panchayats of the state there is a fixed quotation of seats reserved for women.

KRRS has a clear concept of direct action and civil disobedience. Members of the KRRS can go for election, but only when voted and financed by their constituency. Any form of alliances is rejected. The proposal of KRRS for an alternative model of development is based on the gandhian concept of "village republic", which they see as the only way to bring the power and decision-making about political, technological and economic issues in the hand of people. All issues should be solved on the same level on which the people are affected by it.

KRRS receives neither foreign funds nor any financial support from any party, state or government. All the money required comes from the members of KRRS. It is collected on village level for the own organisational needs - the villages finance the district level, the districts finance the state level. During demonstrations money is collected as well.


The Bharat Kishan Union has its roots in the south-indian state of Tamil

Nadu when farmers started to organise themselves in the end of the 70s. After that several farmers' movements in different states, especially in the North of India, came up as BKU-units and in the middle of the 80s the Indian Farmers Association was formed. For the first time landowning peasantry and landless workers came together with similar demands:

  • better prices for their food-products, subsidies for seed and fertilisers,
  • lower prices for energy, improvement of water supply through new irrigation systems,...

The reason was the "Green Revolution", that caused a fundamental change in the structure of agriculture.
Due to the highly capital intensive form of cultivation (mechanisation, chemicals, water-systems) many small farmers were brought into debt crisis and dependency on money-lenders or big farmers, who benefited the most through it.

The process of liberalisation and especially the introduction of the "New Economic Policy" by the Indian government under the dictate of the IMF was (and still is) having such a huge impact on the agricultural sector, that in some states the BKU has developed a political standpoint on this process: rejection of Free Trade and of the international institutions which are pushing the liberalisation-process forward. Instead of being dependent on export and the world market the agricultural sector has to emphasise self-sufficiency and traditional forms of cultivation. This didn't find the agreement of all movements organised in the BKU.

A group around Sharad Joshi, one of the leaders of the Shetkari Sangathan, left BKU: They are in favour of Free Trade and liberalisation and want the state to get out of the economy, because they think farmers would get a better deal from the market than from the state. In an unrestricted competition the Indian agricultural sector -according to them- would gain high benefits on the world market.
Sharad Joshi has been trying to build up an opposition to the BKU from then on.

Today, the BKU is increasingly adopting a policy of confrontation and intensifying the attempt to strengthen the voice of the resisting peasantry. Through participation in the "Joint Action Forum of Indian People" (JAFIP, see below) they are in a network together with labourer-movements, marxist movements and other radical leftists in India.
This is a new step in the history of the BKU.


The "Joint Action Forum of Indian People against the WTO and Anti-People-Policy" (JAFIP) was launched in April/May 1998 with a convention and a big demonstration in Hyderabad demanding India's withdrawal from the WTO.
It was a meeting of leaders and activists from several strong movements from all over India, like the KRRS, BKU, CMM (Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha = Chattisgarh Liberation Front) and AIPRF (All Indian Peoples Resistance Forum, a network of marxist movements, labourer organisations, liberation-groups and marxist-leninists, the political wing of the armed struggle in India).

It is probably the biggest forum of people's movements against the WTO today and it has the capacity to grow bigger and stronger, because movements from quite different sectors of the society in India are coming together in this forum and are mobilising and campaigning under a common declaration. They realised that the liberalisation process and the incorporation of India into the global market is a threat to all of them.


The Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement) was formed in the middle of the 80s to fight against the "Narmada Development Project", which comprises the construction of 30 big, hundreds of medium and thousands of small dams along the river Narmada, crossing the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharastra.

NBA formed a new way of environmental activism.
For the first time affected people did not only ask for better compensation, when a project was going to destroy their environment, but developed a confrontational attitude without compromise.
They simply didn't allow the government to decide about the destiny of their valley, their environment and their livelihood, but were claiming self-rule: "Our village, our rule". Thousands of people were mobilised in the valley and the struggle became known at national and international level.

Through confrontational direct actions, like blockades and hungerstrikes, combined with international support, NBA forced the Worldbank in 1993 to pull out of the Sardar Sardovar project, one of the biggest dams in the whole "Narmada Development Project".

Unfortunately the Indian government continued the project on its own and built up the dam to a height of 80 metres. Only through intensifying the resistance and taking the risk of getting submerged ("Nobody will move, the dam will not be built"), NBA could prevent the shut-down of the dam-gates and any further construction. Apart from this dam, NBA stopped three other dam-projects as well.

Nevertheless, the fight continues. The government is determined to re-start the construction of the Sardar Sardovar dam, and other dams are already in construction, e.g. the Maheshwar-dam-project, the first fully privatised mega-project in India, financially backed by the Indian government, but built and run by private companies, including foreign Multinationals, such as Siemens, ABB, Hypobank.


The National Forum of Fishworkers (NFF) was formed in the beginning of the 90s through the initiative of the fisherfolk movement in Kerala. It was intented to bring the struggle of the different movements all along the Indian coasts together in a network on national scale. The main issues are:

  • The fight against fish-trawlers with big fishing-nets, run by so-called "joint-ventures" with foreign Multinationals, that jeopardise the livelihood of the traditional fishers. The fishing-grounds, on which the fisherfolk is dependent on, are becoming empty.
  • Resistance against large-scale-fishery. It destroys the diversity of the coastal and deep-sea fishing grounds and the whole eco-system of the sea is in danger.
  • Alternatives to the industrial fish production. The industrial production prevents the development of small-scale-fishing-industry on village-level and and neglects the need of the local population.

With their strategy of direct action and clear confrontation along with pressure on the government and tribunals, NFF has managed to get the joint-ventures and the industrial fish-trawlers banned from India. NFF and Fisherfolk movements from other continents have recently created the World Forum of Fisherfolk. Like the farmer movements, the fisherfolk movements are in the process of co-ordinating their resistance on a global level.