“It may be that the big blast to destroy the earth happens any moment now/ It may also be that before the life is destroyed, a bigger blast of life takes place”.
With these words, the well-known contemporary poet Vinod Kumar Shukla offered his prayers when India tested her capability for destruction in the desert of pokhran on 11th may 1998. Such concerns have been voiced again and again by the peace loving citizens of the world ever since the USA dropped Atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. It is said that even during the Second World War, there were quite a few scientists who were opposed to the manufacturing of the bomb. A significant attempt to stop the nuclear madness was made with the Pugwash Conference and the release of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto in July 1955. The Hibakushas and peaceniks of Japan have also been holding world conference against the bomb since 1953. Besides, many more organizations are working in Four Corners of the globe towards this goal. Yet, the day appears to be not too near when all these efforts will bear fruits and the world will finally get rid of these devastating weapons. As we know, there are almost a dozen countries in Asia, which have tried to acquire and develop nuclear capability in last two decades and in that they got support not only from the military brass but also from a large section of the general public. Some of the reasons for their deadly desire may be described as follows-
1. Nuclear capability gives and boosts up an ephemeral notion of nationhood. A poor country ravaged by colonial rule and foreign marauders takes it to be the easy way to join the club of affluent nations.
2. It also provides with a false sense of national security. A government, which has failed to address to the basic problems of the country, thus attempts to divert attention from its own failings
3. In a male-dominated world order, it also perhaps fills the rulers with a sense of manhood. The supposed-to-be tough guys love to play with dangerous toys.
4. In the particular context of India, this also seems to be a case of mythology revisited. For the bramhinical politico-techno-sceintific establishment the bomb is nothing less than the Brahmastra described in the mythology. The spectacular brightness of the bomb explosion reminds them of the splendour of the god as depicted in Geeta.
What I am trying to suggest here is that the challenge before us today is two-fold. At one hand our fight is against the political powers that advocate and promote acquisition of nuclear weapons, and on the other hand we must also work towards changing the popular mindset, which has come to believe in the virtue and efficacy of the bomb.
America’s war on Iraq has in an unexpected way presented us with an opportunity to work for our mission with renewed vigour. As we all know, people throughout the world were outraged by the one-sided war launched by the US. In a spectacular show of solidarity with hapless Iraqi people, billions came out on the streets on 15th February 2003. The public opinion against the war and in favour of ever-lasting peace was mobilised in an unprecedented manner. The warmongers had not bargained for it.
People want peace more than ever. They have seen through the neo-imperial designs, and understood the consequences. They are also tired after witnessing wars small and not so small broken out in one part or another of the world. We should not lose time and seize this opportunity before the fatigue gives way to inertia and indifference. In my humble opinion, we will do well to consider and incorporate the following points in our campaign-
1. Effective linkages between anti-nuclear movements, be it national, regional or international; at least for the purpose of sharing of information, and whenever possible lending moral and physical support in the true spirit of world citizenry.
2. Foster ties with democratic movements active in different geographical regions and different action-fields.
3. Special efforts for education of women and youth on this issue. Both these vital segments of the society appear to be out of our area of influence. At least in third world countries like India. Although they are always the main victims of any war.
4. More effective dissemination of information about dangers of nuclear power as such, and not only the bomb. People are generally not aware of devastating effects of nuclear power related activities like Uranium mining and other practices for so-called peaceful purposes.
5. Deconstruction of the myth that the bomb serves as a deterrent. A large number of people believe that if only Iraq had bomb, America would not dare attack it. They also tend to believe that since bomb has not been used after 1945, it will never be used in future as well.
6. Mustering support of the scientists’ community, and highlighting it in all possible ways. It is the establishment scientists who steal the limelight, and persuade people in believing in the virtues of nuclear power.
7. Adoption of programmes for opposing all mass- media software- cartoons, movies, TV serials- that propagates bomb, weapons, war, and violence in every conceivable manner. What is the use of including peace education in school curriculum if the child is enamoured to ‘Superman’ and his ilk.
8. Production of literature on mass-scale in local languages to ensure effective communication with the silent majority living in villages, dark corners and far-away places.
I was asked to speak on the Global Campaign for abolition of nuclear weapons. Previous speakers have covered many aspects of the movement. I need not repeat what has already been said. I have also purposely chosen not to narrate the history of our collective efforts over the years. What I have tried to say is largely based on my personal experiences as a campaigner for peace with the hope that it may have some usefulness in the present context.
I opened my statement with a poem. I would like to end with the following stanza from Rudyard Kipling-
“Far-called, our navies melt away/ On dunes & headland sinks the fire
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday/ Is one with Nineveh & Tyre
Judge of the nations, spare us yet/ Lest we forget/ Lest we forget”
Text of the speech delivered in World Social Forum, Mumbai on 18th January 2004.