Special Correspondent

People's SAARC seeks free mobility across the region

  • Expresses solidarity with the people of Nepal
  • Immediate end sought to violence in Sri Lanka

    NEW DELHI: Describing the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meets as mere ceremonial occasions, the People's SAARC comprising Parliamentarians, writers, women's rights activists and civil society organisations from across the region has asked the official SAARC participants to adopt pro-people policies.

    The People's SAARC conclave was held in Kathmandu last month. More than 10,000 people gathered to voice their concerns over the official SAARC process, where the common people's interests were totally ignored.

    Releasing here on Monday the declaration adopted at Kathmandu, Arjun Karki, coordinator, South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication, said that SAARC, contrary to its conceived role, had failed to fulfil the aspirations of the common people. Largely, it remained an interaction among the governments, thereby aggravating the process of exclusion, denial of rights and democratic freedom.

    Alternative system

    The People's SAARC is an attempt to create a vision of an alternative political, socio-economic and cultural system free from the baggage of history and to create a collective beyond the artificial boundaries.

    "The first step towards creating this momentum is the demand for a South Asian Parliamentary Forum with a clear aim to connect institutional democracies across the region with members of Parliament from the seven SAARC countries," said Nepal MP Ananda Pokharel.

    According to social activist Kamal Mitra Chenoy, the SAARC often ended up taking up bilateral "squabbles" such as the Kashmir issue and never addressed the aspirations of the people of the region.

    Women's issues

    Women's issues, particularly those of Muslims, also figured in the People's SAARC. It was felt that politics of religious hate and divide was going on in the region. "The women got together to decide how to resist this kind of politics that was responsible for human rights violations. Women also sought a platform to raise their issues," said Zakia Jowhar of the Indian Muslim Women's Movement.

    The declaration sought free mobility across the region, strengthening and institutionalisation of democracy, human rights and justice, besides demilitarisation and de-nuclearisation of the states.

    The conclave expressed solidarity with the people of Nepal in their struggle for realising democracy and further strengthening the gains of the pro-democracy movement. It expressed concern over the present predicament of the peace process in Sri Lanka and demanded that the negotiations be recommenced and the armed hostility be ended immediately.