Tibet Issue Successfully Highlighted at the 2004 World Social Forum
Dharamsala, 28 January: The 4th World Social Forum was held in the Indian city of Mumbai from Jan 16-21, 2004. About 100,000 people from all over the world participated at this largest gathering of civil society groups. A Tibetan delegation of about 400 from all section of the community including school children, monks and nuns was very successful in highlighting the issue of Tibet and garnering support. In the WSF opening ceremony speech by Arundhati Roy, she referred to the illegal occupation of Tibet.
With the main theme of the WSF being “Another World is Possible”, the Tibetans urged the participants to make this theme a reality with our proposal, “Make Tibet a Zone of Peace”. As a mutually beneficial solution to the issue of Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has repeatedly proposed to People’s Republic of China to make Tibet into a Zone of Ahimsa (Peace and Non-violence) within the framework of the constitution of China.
On the 18th, a conference on “Make Tibet a Zone of Ahimsa” was organized and the hall was packed with about 300 people. The speakers include Ms. Nirmala Deshpande, a renowned Gandhian and social activist, Ajarn Sulak Sivaraksa, a leading Buddhist thinker and social activist, Mr. Pema Jugney, Speaker of Tibetan Parliament-in-exile and Major General (retd) Vinod Saighal, a defence analyst. On the 20th, Ajarn Sulak released the annual report on the human rights situation in Tibet published by the Tibetan Centre of Human Rights and Democracy at a seminar where ex-political prisoners from Tibet gave their testimonies.
On the sidelines of the WSF, the 4th World Parliamentary Forum was organized from Jan 18-19. Initially, participation of the Tibetan parliamentarians was rejected by the WPF Coordination Committee. The Tibetans sat in dharna with their mouth gagged at the WPF venue on the 18th morning while at the same time lobbying for inclusion. With strong support from the Italian parliamentarians and the efforts of the Tibetan delegation, the speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile, Mr. Pema Jugney, was able to participate in the proceedings. He presented the peace initiative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and received support from many of the parliamentarians.
The Tibetan delegation also participated at the Intercontinental Youth Camp that was held alongside the WSF. A photo exhibition on Tibet was held by the Gu-chu-sum organization. The Tibetan delegation also delivered talks on Tibet at the IYC and participated in cultural and other activities.
At the WSF, the Tibetan delegation held peace march, candle light vigils and prayers which were joined by other participants. Thousands of people witnessed the construction and dismantling of sand mandala and chanting by Tibetan nuns. The WSF participants also visited the photo exhibitions by Tibet Museum. The traditional Tibetan dances performed by students from Mundgod were warmly received by the audience. The Tibetans distributed thousands of copies of our delegation statement- Another World is Possible: Make Tibet a Zone of Peace in both Hindi and English-, pamphlets, brochures and other information materials on Tibet. Banners, posters and fliers with the slogan: Another World is Possible: Make Tibet a Zone of Peace were pasted everywhere within the venue and main public areas in Mumbai. Signature campaign for release of political prisoners was carried out. The Tibetans also attended and participated in various panel discussions, conferences and seminars. Some of the Tibetan delegates had good discussions with many of the participants from China on individual basis. A peace march to the historic Azad Maidan was the highpoint of the WSF closing ceremony on the 21st and it was led by the Tibetan delegation.