India is a truly amazing country - life comes at you from every angle and all
speeds. Indore is the largest city of the state of Madhya Pradesh and is
described as the commercial capital of the state. Indore is situated some 190 km
west of Bhopal, the state capital with a population of over 2 million.
Central Indore is the financial capital of the Madhya Pradesh and property
there is among the most expensive in the state. There is a large student
population and a number of important colleges and universities in Indore - it is
the only city in India to house both an Indian Institute of Technology and an
Indian Institute of Management.
I was met at the airport by Rao and my host Manohar Dev who is an engineer
and vice chair of the Indian Red Cross Society in Madhya Pradesh. I was so well
looked after during my stay and I am very grateful to Mr and Mrs Dev for making
me so comfortable and ensuring I enjoyed so many different types of wonderful food and the
occasional glass of Scotch! It was also a great opportunity to meet so many
people active in the peace movement in the region. But more of this later ...
The conference was initiated by Global Network Board member J Narayana Rao who
works from Nagpur but wisely thought that Indore could host a bigger,
international event. He managed to help put together an amazing organising
committee consisting of:
||Anand Mohan Mathur (Sr. Advocate and Ex Advocate General, Madhya Pradesh);
||Dr. Narendra P. Jain (Former Indian Secretary of Foreign Affairs,
Ambassador to UN, EU, Belgium, Nepal & Mexico);
||Prof. A. A. Abbasi (Ex Vice Chancellor, Indore University);
||Dr Savita Inamdar (Ex Chairperson, M.P. Mahila Ayog);
||Rameshwar Patel (Ex Minister, Madhya Pradesh).
The conference was also organised in collaboration with a number of local and
regional organisations, including:
- All India Peace & Solidarity Organisation (AIPSO), M.P.
- Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust, Indore
- Devi Ahilya Vishwa Vidyalaya, Indore
- Gandhi Peace Foundation New Delhi
- Centre for Cultural, Educational, Economic & Social Studies, Nagpur
- National Youth Project, New Delhi
- Antar Bharti, Pune
- Harmony Foundation, Indore
- Abhyas Mandal, Indore (Citizens Forum)
- Gandhi Mazdoor Memorial Trust, Indore
The programme was expansive and covered many issues over 3 days. There were
two languages used - English and Hindi and, although some presentations were
given in both languages there were many in Hindi that unfortunately I could not
follow. However, not everyone in the audience could follow English easily so it
was important that the should not feel frustrated by the proceedings. It was a
great audience with many young people from local schools and colleges.
He is a brief rundown of the sessions over the three day period:
Day 1 - October 4, 2013
9.00 – 10.00 am
Registration of Delegates
10.00 – 12.00 am
12.15 – 1.30 pm
Session 1: “Relevance of Gandhi in the 21st Century”
1.30 – 2.15 pm
2.15 – 5.00 pm
Session 1: Continued
5.00 – 5.30 pm
5.30 – 7.00 pm
These are some papers of interest and relevance to the
Sessions of Day 1:
Vishnu Bhagwat spoke on
"The Economic Ideology of Mahatma Gandhi". Former Chief of Naval Staff,
Admiral Bhagwat was a special guest of honour at the
conference and gave several extended presentations. He is a former Admiral and
chief of the naval staff of India, appointed on 30th September 1996 and then
fired on 30th December 1998, two days after he took over as chairman of the
Joints Chiefs of Staff Committee. The sacking was a consequence of the former
Admiral's refusal to accept the government's appointment of Vice-Admiral
Harinder Singh as deputy chief of the naval staff. A relevant 2010 paper of his
published by Global Research is entitled
"Globalization and Militarization: The Root Causes of the Worldwide War against
Niloufer Bhagwat (wife of the above) also presented an
excellent paper in Session 1 on
"The Political Relevance and Global Impact of Mahatma Gandhi" which was
later published on the web by "My Catbird Seat". Niloufer is a lawyer, Professor
of Comparative Constitutional Law at University of Mumbai, Vice President of the
Indian Lawyers Association and an International Tribunal Judge. She is also,
like her husband, a passionate and powerful speaker.
The cultural event was a wonderful programme of music and
dance performed by performers such as Suhasini Maheshwari (performing the
Saraswati Vandana Mantra, recitfor knowledge and wisdom), Ms Lily Dawar, Deepraj
(monologue on Gandhi), Dr Yadav (Mandolin Vadan recital); Urvi Dalal, Noopur
Soneja and Naveen Ghodapkar (Singing "Vidhvansha ki Kalpana"). There were also
group performances from students of Christian Eminent (performing a tabloid on
Gandhi); students of Manovriddhi,; Kasturba Gram Rural Institute; Choitram
College of Nursing and Barali Development Institute.
Day 2 - October 5, 2013
10.00 – 12.00 am
Session 2: “People Oriented Development and Corporate Oriented
12.00 – 2.00 pm
Session 3: “Disarmament, Abolition of Nuclear Weapons and Prevention
of an Arms Race in Outer Space”
2.00 – 2.45 pm
2.45 – 4.30 pm
Session 4: “Disarmament, Reduction of Global Military Expenditure”
4.30 – 5.30 pm
The main contribution from Global Network members (i.e. Rao
and me) was on
Day 2 during the session 3 on "Disarmament, Abolition of Nuclear Weapons and the
Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space". Other speakers on the panel were:
G. Parthasarthy, former Indian Ambassador to Myanmar (1992-95); High Commissioner of
India to Australia (1995-98); High Commissioner to Pakistan (1998-2000)
and High Commissioner to Cyprus (1990-92). He later became spokesperson of
the Ministry of External Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office and is
now a Visiting Professor in the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi
Senior Fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies and a
member of the Executive Committee of the Centre for Air Power Studies in
New Delhi. He is regarded as a "hawk" when it comes to matters of defence
and policies on Pakistan and terrorism. He addressed the conference in
Dr Ajay Lele, from the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Delhi.
Whose expertise is in
Weapons of Mass Destructions with a major emphasis on Biological Weapons,
Space and National Security and Non Military Threats. His recent
Asian Space Race: Rhetoric or Reality? (published
by Springer, 2013) and
Strategic Technologies for the Military: Breaking New Frontiers (a SAGE
Publication, 2009). Unfortunately his presentation was also in Hindi
so I cannot comment further but it was well received by the audience!
N.D. Jayaprakash, political activist, Joint Secretary of the Delhi Science Forum, Member of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and
and author of "The
Tragic Fate of Rajiv Gandhi's 'Action Plan'" which was published in Counter
Punch in June 2013. He is also Co-Convener of the Bhopal Gas Peedith
Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti (BGPSSS) – a coalition of organizations supporting the cause of the Bhopal gas victims. He can be reached at:
Bernie Meyer, long-time peace activist who, dressed in traditional
dhoti with walking stick, brings the legendary Mahatma Gandhi to life. Bernie
began portraying Gandhi in the US in February 2002 and was first invited to
India in 2004, where he is now known as "the American Gandhi.” He continues to bring
Gandhi to the issues and needs of the day, Gandhi shows us the way he says - we
can 'be the change' we want.
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Dept. of Political Science, University of Hyderabad.
Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's speech on
"A World Free of Nuclear Weapons" to the UN General Assembly in June 1988
was often referred to, it contains a quote from Mahatma
Gandhi "The moral to be
legitimately drawn from the supreme tragedy of the bomb is that it will not be
destroyed by counter bombs, even as, violence cannot be destroyed by counter-
violence. Mankind has to get out of violence only through non-violence" and
also a statement that has become even more important: "the
of international relations to sustain a world beyond nuclear weapons will have
to be based on the principles of coexistence, the non-use of force,
non-intervention in the internal affairs on other countries, and the right of
every state to pursue its own path of development."
A paper on US missile defence called
"A Threat to Nuclear Disarmament" by GN member Vladimir Radyuhin,
was also circulated although Vladimir was not present (at least I didn't see
him). The paper has this interesting quote from Professor Alexander Radchuk,
adviser to the Chief of General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, "Whereas
in the 20th century nuclear weapons were a privilege of the powerful and
technologically advanced nations, in the 21st century the opposite tendency is
emerging: nuclear weapons attract countries that want to compensate for their
technological weaknesses" - this is certainly the case for the UK! The paper
also ends on a positive note - suggesting that there is a good relationship and
understanding between the US and Russian leaders.
Iraklis Tsavdaridis, the Executive Secretary of the World
Peace Council, presented an important paper on the
"Abolition of Multilateral Military Bases and Military Alliances";
Ogata Yasup, co-chair of the World Conference Against A&H
Bombs and vice-chair of the Executive Committee of the Japanese Communist party
presented a paper on
"Mahatma Gandhi and Japan - An Approach Towards East Asian Peace";
Another paper by
Vishnu Bhagwat on
"The Weaponization of Space: Corporate Driven Military Unleashes Preemptive
Wars" was not presented at the conference but is well worth reading in
Day 3 - October 6, 2013
10.00 – 11.30 am
Session 5: “Asian Union for Peace and Development”
11.30 – 1.30 pm
This final session on an Asian Union for Peace and Development was very
interesting there were some excellent papers and I learnt a lot about ASEAN and
SAARC and the Asia Cooperation Dialogue.
The Valedictory session gave an opportunity for some of the speakers to give
their impressions of the conference. I was on the panel alongside the following:
||Chief Guest was Justice C. S. Dharmadhikari, a very well known and
respected Indian independence movement activist, a lawyer, a judge and an
author. He was acting chief justice of Bombay High Court and is President
and Co-Founder of the Global Schools Foundation. He gave a long speech in
Hindi which was much appreciated by the audience.
||A.M. Mathur gave his review of the conference, also in Hindi.
||Dr N.P. Jain presented the
Indore Conference Declaration which had been put together and agreed
by the conference organisers and presenters.
||Ikralis Tsavardis, Executive Secretary-General, World Peace Council,
welcomed the Declaration and presented his thanks to the organisers and
best wishes for the future.
||Ogata Yasup, Co-chairperson of the world conference against A&H Bombs,
Vice Chairperson of the Executive Committee of the Japanese Communist
Party and former member of the House of Councillors.
Pratap Vaidik, eminent journalist and social activist.
The final session and singing of "We will Overcome"
A.M. Mathur, C. S. Dharmadhikari, Ved
Pratap Vaidik, Ogata Yasup, Ikralis Tsavardis, N.P. Jain, Dave Webb, A.
A. Abbasi, N. J. Rao
Dave Webb, Ved Pratap Vaidik (eminent journalist and social activist), Iraklis Tsavdaridis
(Executive Secretary-General, World Peace Council), Manisha Gaur (life coach and
Ogata Yasup, Niloufer Bagwhat , Manohar Dev and Vishni Bagwhat
at Mr Dev's house during setting out for the visit to Maheshwar
After the conference my host Manohar Dev took a group of us for a trip out to
the city of Maheshwar in the Khargone district, on the north bank of the Narmada
River. This was the capital of the Malwa kingdom until 1818.
The Fort at Maheshwar
We arrived just as the evening was drawing in and walked around the
battlements of the fort built by Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar who was the Holkar Queen of the
Maratha in the late 18th century. She established the capital here and her husband Khanderao Holkar was killed in the battle of Kumbher in
1754. 12 years later, her father-in-law,
Malhar Rao Holkar, died and the following year she was made queen. To protect her kingdom from plunderers
she personally led armies into battle and appointed Tukojirao Holkar as the Chief of Army.
She was responsible for the development of Indore from a small village to a
large, busy city. She also built a number of Hindu temples and
Dharmshala (free lodgings) at a number of sacred sites. In "Discovery
of India" (2004), Jawaharlal Nehru says that "The reign of Ahilyabai,
of Indore in central India, lasted for 30 Yrs. This has become almost legendary
as a period during which perfect order and good Government prevailed and the
people prospered. She was a very able ruler and organizer, highly respected
during her lifetime, and considered as a saint by a grateful people after her
However, after the British defeated the Holkars, the capital was moved to Indore
and Maheshwar's importance began to decline.
Ahilya Bal's temple (left in July 2012 and right as we saw it
in fading light in October 2013)
As it got darker Manohar organised a flat bottomed boat to take us
out to the centre of the river where we drifted along for a while in the quiet
of the evening. We got back to the bank just as it started to rain and Manohar
told us how the river had flooded a month or two earlier. There are increasing
problems with flooding in the region and elsewhere, climate change is really
starting to take a toll. The melting of snow and glaciers in the Himalayas is
having a huge effects - leading to dramatic changes in water supplies and river
Over the next few days I was looked after by Manisha Gaura local pace campaigner
and activist. She took Rao and me to visits to a local college and a local
school to talk about the militarisation of space, nuclear weapons and
development. The first visit was to Vishisht School of Management and a
symposium on "Disarmament and Development" with Manisha, Rao and me giving
presentations. We were greeted by the Institute Director Mr Naveen Narang
and the Academic Director Dr. S. M. Anas Iqbal and led to the main hall where
there was a presentation to speakers by the staff and a gracious introduction by
students. Then the three of us spoke for about 15 minutes each.
Manisha and Rao spoke in Hindi as that is the first language of those present I
spoke in English and Manisha translated. There was enough time for a number of
very interesting questions from the students after we had spoken. It was great
to see so much interest in disarmament and development issues from young people
studying business and management - hopefully they will not be making the same
mistakes as those western business people who put profit before people.
Thanks to all at the college for welcoming us and for recognising the importance
of the issues.
Next day we visited The
Vidhyanjali International School we had been invited to talk to the students
there by the Principal Ms Ruchi Gandhi (who was at school with Manisha).
Traditional lighting of the lamp at the start of the meeting
Welcome from the senior students
Welcome dance from the students
Senior students and staff
This is a small, well resourced private girls' school affiliated to CBSE (the
Central Board of Secondary Education) who approve their syllabus which is based
upon the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). On
arrival we were met by the principal who introduced a short programme of welcome
- an excellent performance from the senior students. We started outside in the
open but when the rain started to fall it soon became clear that the students
were all so well organised. In a short time we had all moved under cover and
were able to carry on with the programme.
After the formal session we were invited to an excellent lunch in the school
dining room and in the Principal's office we were shown some of the work that
the students had produced on peace and development issues.
During both of these visits (and the conference itself) it was enormously
encouraging to see how seriously young people in India are taking these issues -
they are reminded of the failures of western systems to address the needs of all
people and there is a real desire to find alternative and more just methods to
ensure a sustainable future development for the country and its citizens.
I hope very much they are able to achieve this and help create a world free from
the threat of nuclear war the heavens void of military space objects.
I would very much like to thank again Rao for initiating these events and seeing
them through; to all of those involved in putting the conference together and
ensuring it ran smoothly; to Mr and Mrs Dev for their wonderful
hospitality; to Manisha Gaur for her time, her help and friendly guidance and to Anil Bhandari who took me to a wonderful dance celebration in a sports stadium on my
final evening during the Hindu Festival that had just started during the run up
to Diwali. To everyone who made me so welcome and helped to make this, my first
visit to India, so interesting and rewarding - a huge thank you.