26th July 2008
Sebastian Rodrigues, Co-ordinator of Mand – An Adivasi-rights Resource Centre, An initiative of Gawada, Kunbi, Velip and Dhangar Federation (GAKUVED) represented India at South Asian People’s Assembly (People’s SAARC – 2008) from July 18-20, 2008 at Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The three day program was attended by around 3000 Cultural and Social Activists from various South Asian and South East Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Burma, Afghanistan, India and Philippines.
On July 19, 2008 Sebastian participated in workshop titled “Democracy & Governance/People’s participation” where in he made presentation of Indian situation with special reference to tagging of various activists by the State agencies as Terrorists, Smugglers, and Naxalites. He narrated his personal experience after being tagged as “Naxalite” by the Goa Government Leader of the Opposition on June 19, 2008 at the ad-hoc committee meeting of the Home Ministry.
Large number of International delegates expressed solidarity with Sebastian and various movements in Goa opposing open Cast Mining, Real Estates, and Special Economic Zones (SEZ). Sebastian in turn expressed support to various democratic movements taking place in Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Burma and Pakistan.
He also expressed Solidarity with other tagged activists of India particularly Dr. Binayak Sen of Rupantar, Chatisgarh who has been tagged as terrorist and put behind bar, Leo Saldanha of Environment Support Group (ESG), Bangalore, Karnataka that has been branded as Sandalwood smuggler, and Roma Chawdury of National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers (NFFPFW) in Uttar Pradesh who was booked, arrested and released under National Security Act (NSA).
He also offered Solidarity with Adivasi groups from Sri Lanka that was present during the third day of the program.
Sebastian also participated in Solidarity Rally in Support of South Asian Movements in the Streets of Colombo on July 20, 2008.
Besides, Sebastian took part in number of bi-lateral and multi-lateral discussions promoting People-to-People contact and visa free movement within South Asian Countries.
Further, Sebastian participated in workshops dealing with ‘Democracy movement in Burma’ and ‘Disability Rights in South Asia’.
GAKUVED congratulates and appreciate Sebastian Rodrigues for establishing International contacts and forging networks with movements in Goa and promoting Peace and International understanding in South Asia.