Manipuri rights activist Irom Sharmila Chanu was unanimously elected as the chairperson of the Green Alliance, a forum of various environmental organisations that came together to form a single national-level platform on Sunday.
The idea for an “eco-political party” was floated and the forum resolved to form a separate political front called “India Greens” which is to be headed by acting convener Suresh Nautiyal.
In a brainstorming conference at the Indian Social Institute over the weekend, ideologues and activists spoke on issues ranging from water scarcity, tribal rights, media and alternative politics.
Water and community activist Siraj Kesar spoke of the grave situation in rural areas and the problems faced by the extremely poor including issues of “water wives” and “water orphans”. “In Maharashtra, patriarchs marry twice or thrice just because someone from the family needs to go miles to fetch water. So, one wife goes to fetch water and the other stays at home doing daily chores. Apart from that, many people have committed suicide because of unavailability of water leaving behind orphans to suffer,” he said in his presentation.
Kashmiri activist and journalist Sahil Maqbool talked about a village in the valley called Begonada. He said, “The dwellers of that village were born speechless for a long time. Due to superstitions, the real problem was never found until recently, when, a government survey found that the people in the area suffered from iodine deficiency. With the coming of iodised salts, the people of the village have started to talk again.”
Academician and activist Bhupen Singh questioned the role of corporate media and politics and spoke about new media as a platform for alternative politics. He said the media is mostly corporatised and one cannot expect good journalism from these so-called media houses.
Speaking on the occasion, anthropologist Daniel Taghioff said, “We need to have effective politics around the natural resources, as the declining labour movement is to be substituted well by green politics.” He added that green was not a rightist or a monolithic idea.
Journalist and former Green Peace activist Prashant Tandon talked about the perceptual war in dominating the narrative, if a Green Party is formed.
He said, “When I told people I am going to this very interesting programme today organised by the Green Forum India, they replied intriguingly asking me ‘are you going to plant trees?’” He said that the party needs to set up a public discourse. “Issues of farmers, mob lynching, Dalits being beaten up, the kind of energy being produced in the country, all these are green issues and we must talk about them.” He reminded the house that the informal sector holds 93 per cent of the jobs and contributes a massive 46 per cent to the GDP. He said these people are Green and they are the target population of a Green Party.
Suresh Nautiyal, the convener of the Green Forum India, said: “I have taken my inspiration from the Uttarakhand Andolan, which rejected offers from ULFA and other separatist groups to take up arms and took the path of non-violence to assert their demand to a separate state.” He also spoke about Paraguay, the first country in the world to give its natural resources the status of being ‘alive’. And according to him, this has inspired India and now we have a law which declared the Ganga as a living being. He further spoke about the role of corporates in degrading the environment mentioning the Adani Group which went to Australia to invest huge sums in mining there.
While speaking about the prospects of a party, he said that he along with activist Anandi Sharan formed the Green Party of India a few years ago, but the idea didn’t catch on. Now, he wants to form a pan-Indian political platform uniting all the ecological activists and thinkers of India.
Irom Sharmila Chanu addressed the gathering as the last speaker. She said, “Green politics is a fairly new concept in India. I am aware of the issues concerning Mother Earth and the atrocities she is being constantly subjected to through man-made disasters, global warming and other such issues. I would like to get a better knowledge about them and spread awareness among the masses over the same.” She said, “If it is the will of God, then I agree with your souls”, and gave a heads-up to lead the alliance. However, she said she won’t be part of the political party as of now.
A 21-member steering committee of the Green Alliance was formed consisting members from all over India. Sharmila was elected the chairperson unanimously and activist Anita Nautiyal will be the acting convener of the committee. “The constitution, manifesto and policies (of India Greens) will be drafted according to the Global Greens Charter, 2001,” said Nautiyal.