Meeting on “Sovereignty – in whose hands?”

The question of where sovereignty lies and should lie, in a modern society, has been posed very starkly by recent developments in our country and throughout the world. A public meeting was organized on 11th September 2011 by Lok Raj Sangathan in Delhi on this important issue. It was attended by activists from the movement for empowerment of people.

The question of where sovereignty lies and should lie, in a modern society, has been posed very starkly by recent developments in our country and throughout the world. A public meeting was organized on 11th September 2011 by Lok Raj Sangathan in Delhi on this important issue. It was attended by activists from the movement for empowerment of people. A large number of youth participated in the meeting. Com. Prakash Rao was the main speaker. He addressed this question in an all-sided way.

Com. Prakash Rao recalled that the day marked the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York in which thousands of innocent people lost their lives. Using these terrorist attacks as the pretext, the Bush regime launched the "war against terrorism" and invaded Afghanistan. US imperialism and its allies — Britain and France, have declared they do not respect the sovereignty of countries and peoples. They have declared that might is right. In the name of "war against terror", "humanitarian assistance" and such like deceptions, they have given themselves the right to invade any country. US imperialism has carried out the invasion and occupation of Iraq under the pretext that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Now it has led imperialist powers to bomb and occupy Libya. It is threatening Syria, Iran and North Korea. It has carried out bombings of Pakistan, Somalia and so many nations. These are acts of blatant violation of sovereignty by the imperialists who want to deny that the people of a country have the right to decide the system they will establish and follow. The imperialists are using force to carry out regime change in those countries that are trying to follow a course which blocks the imperialists' interests to the slightest degree.

The meeting observed a minute’s silence in memory of all those killed in the terrorist attacks in the US 10 years ago, the victims of terrorist attacks throughout the world since then, including the victims of the Delhi High Court bomb blasts, as well as the tens of thousands of people who have been killed in the wars of aggression launched by the imperialists in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and other countries.

Com Prakash Rao then dealt with the question of sovereignty of the nations and peoples who constitute the Indian Union. These nations and peoples have the sovereign right to determine their own destiny, including whether they should be part of the Indian Union or not. However, the Indian Union is constituted in such a way that it does not even recognise the existence of these nations and peoples, let alone guarantee their rights. Every day, the people of Kashmir, Manipur, Assam and others are reminded that sovereignty is not vested in them, with the Indian state occupying their land by force and its armed forces killing and raping the people with impunity. These people are attacked as terrorists for demanding their sovereignty.

Further on, Comrade Prakash Rao elaborated that the question of sovereignty and where it vests has been thrown up for debate in the recent movement against corruption, when the people’s right to initiate legislation has been challenged. Likewise, people have put forward legislations related to land acquisition, opposing the forcible acquisition of their lands by the state and the capitalists, the right to food through a universal public distribution system, the right to social security and the right to work. The system has simply blocked all these proposals, and the rulers arrogantly declare that only the executive of the day can propose legislations. People have incessantly demanded the repeal of the hated Armed Forces Special Powers act. No action has been taken on this, because people have no say under the present political system and process.

Talking of the need for clear cut reforms in the political process, Prakash Rao explained that a fundamental renewal of the present political system and process is needed to ensure that sovereignty vests with the people and their collectives. In the present system, the “elected” representatives are representatives of their parties, not of the people. It is the parties that select them. Moreover, the whip and the anti-defection law are used to ensure that these representatives cannot exercise their right to conscience while voting in the Parliament and Assemblies, or represent the views of the people of their constituency.

For people to be politically empowered, peoples’ samitis must be formed on a non-partisan basis in bastis and chawls, residential areas, work places, villages, etc. and they must select the candidates. Electoral laws must be changed to ensure the right to recall. This right must vest in the people, and can be initiated by the samitis. Those elected must render periodic accounts to the people of their constituency and consult them on important legislations. The people, organised in their samitis, must also have the right to initiate legislation.

Com. Prakash Rao called for a review and redefinition of the role of political parties. Political parties are ruling in the name of the people, declaring that people cannot rule themselves. This party system of rule must end. Political parties have an important role to play. They have to be instruments of empowerment of people, not gatekeepers keeping people away from decision making. Political parties must play the role of organizing and enabling people to become the rulers themselves. They must work for a thoroughgoing transformation of the present political system and process to ensure the same.

Pointing out that this system works very well for the ruling class to carry on their rule under the deception of parliamentary democracy and universal suffrage, Com. Prakash Rao said that the times are calling to step up the struggle for people’s empowerment. Such a struggle will also include challenging the Constitution that safeguards the existing system. The Constitution of India says that "We the people of India" have given to us this Constitution. However the 1950 Constitution was never ratified by the people. If "we the people" have given to us this Constitution, we must have the right to rewrite and amend it as per the people’s will.

He concluded with the call for a mass campaign for reforms of the political system and process, including electoral reforms.

This main address was greeted with loud and long applause, after which the floor was opened for discussion.

 Participants got up and spoke with vigour and enthusiasm on the question of sovereignty. The level of discussion and interventions reflected a high level of maturity and consciousness and showed that the time has indeed come for the people to reclaim their sovereignty.

Several significant resolutions were tabled and passed unanimously. These were on the struggle to vest sovereignty in the people, the right to initiate legislation, electoral reforms, the Land Acquisition Bill, against terrorism and imperialist wars of aggression. The meeting concluded with a resolution initiating a campaign in defence of the sovereignty of countries and the right of people of each country to decide their own economic and political system, free from threats of imperialist aggression. It was proposed that this campaign would begin on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the US led aggression on Afghanistan in October 2001.

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