PUCL April, 2003

Anti-war protests in Rajesthan - a report
-- By Kavita Srivastava, PUCL Rajasthan

The citizens of Rajasthan were no exception in expressing their disapproval to the naked aggression of the US and British led coalition against the Iraqi citizens. The protests against Imperialism began in Jaipur in December itself and built up into a wide spread anti war movement in the month of March and April after the Coalition forces bombarded and started devastating Iraq. The public protests in border towns like Barmer and Bikaner where there is a glory about army and war manifested that really wanted to express solidarity with the misery of the Iraqis.

It was as spontaneous an expression like the one seen after the earthquake in Gujarat. Angry protest rallies with men and women raising anti war and anti US and UK slogans lined scores of cities and mofussil towns in Rajasthan. What is interesting is that regional newspapers which have a parochial mindset also shifted their standpoint.

The first march that was held in the streets of Jaipur towards the end of December had about 200 people protesting the US policy on Iraq. It was initiated by a total of 18 organisations belonging to various left parties and other civil society groups. One local newspapers blasted the rallyists saying " 18 organisations could bring together only 28 people............... and that it is our advice that they must not waste time on these issues and if they are worried about attacks they must raise the issue of Kashmir and speak out against Pakistan".

Undeterred by this about twenty groups in Jaipur in early February once again carried out a week long programme in the city against the US threat of attack on Iraq. On a fifty metre long cloth a signature campaign was launched from the University. Several hundred students and teachers along with the Vice Chancellor and senior Gandhian leader Siddhraj Dhadda signed it and local theatre groups performed plays. The cloth went around more than twenty points in the city. Outside the State Secretariat, Collectorate, public parks, city squares, Idgah grounds and market places. The fifty metres obviously got covered in the first two days itself and two more fifty metre pieces had to be added. At the end we had more than one hundred and fifty metres of cloth covered on both sides with signatures against the war.

The signatories were students, government employees, common persons, traders, peasants and unemployed youth. More than seventy five thousand signatures and messages against the war were expressed. There were only one or two dissenters. One of them called our effort a Pakistan sponsored activity and asked why were we raising our voices against the attack on Iraq and not against killings pf Hindus in J&K. Another felt Iraq deserved to be attacked as it had Weapons of Mass Destruction and was the aggressor State. All local newspapers of course reported positively about the campaign except one which carried a photograph on the top of the front page that showed a portion of the cloth with a mischievous inscription out of tune with the general sentiments expressed in the messages on the campaign cloth. This inscription, which was an exception, threatened America with a repetition of Sept. 11.

The biggest anti war demonstration happened on the 23rd of April in Jaipur when more than fifteen thousand people gathered from all walks of life and held a rally and meeting. The angry crowd burnt effigies of George Bush and Tony Blair. The people also took a pledge to boycott US and UK products.


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