Gautam Mody


A solidarity Caravan composed of delegates from several Asian countries left New Delhi  on 2 December and is expected to reaching Gaza on December 27, 2010. While so far the Caravan has received rousing reception from India to Syria, the clash point near Gaza still has to come.


NTUI has in the past supported actions in solidarity for the people  of Palestine, and in 2009 supported the International Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. In consonance with our existing position on India’s foreign policy and our statement on the events in Mumbai on 26 November 2008, we have been demanding that the Government of India brings to end all economic and military relations with Israel and pursues an independent foreign policy. In February 2010, NTUI also signed the Cairo Declaration.


It is against this background, that NTUI has been a part of the campaign, ‘India Lifeline to Gaza’. This process was initiated by Indian people’s movements, social movements, trade unions, civil society organizations and multi-faith and ecumenical organizations. India Lifeline to Gaza is a constituent of the ‘Asian People’s  Solidarity for Palestine’. This struggle is broad-based, varied and  multi-dimensional. It is humanitarian and for peace, freedom and  human dignity. It is against occupation, imperialism, apartheid, Zionism and all forms of discrimination including religious discrimination.


Asia Lifeline to Gaza decided to organize an Asian land convoy to Gaza, which would travel through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and ultimately through the Rafah Crossing  into Gaza, and carry with it humanitarian aid for the peoples of Palestine. This is the first Asian caravan to Gaza which will carry  humanitarian aid and perhaps the first pan-Asian solidarity for the struggles of the peoples of Palestine. The Asian Caravan will be joined by delegations in each of the countries through which it passes. The Caravan also has delegates from Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Jordan and Lebanon.


On 2 December 2010, a group of 58 Indian civil resisters from across India departed from Raj Ghat, the  memorial for Mahatama Gandhi, towards Gaza. This group of 58 civil resisters includes ten comrades from NTUI.


The Caravan travelled through the Indian state of Haryana and Punjab and was meant to cross the in to Pakistan at the border at Wagah on 4 December. The caravan was held back at the border for a day because despite valid visas to enter Pakistan, the Indian External Affairs Ministry held their ‘permission’ back. The Government  finally acceded following protests on both sides of the border and a spate of media coverage.


In turn the Government of Pakistan issued visas only to 26 out of 54 Indian delegates. The caravan was also only issued visas to travel  to Lahore. They were denied permission to take the original lan  route through Karachi and Quetta and the border crossing into Iran  at Zahedan. As a consequence, the caravan travelled back to Delhi from Lahore and then travelled by air to Zahedan. In Lahore, the Indian delegation was given a very warm reception by a wide spectrum of activists, civil society organizations, students and journalists.


The caravan resumed its land route at Zahedanon 8 December. In Iran,  the Caravan has travelled through the cities of Zayadan, Kerman, Ishfahan, Qom, Tehran and Tabriz. On 17 December, the Caravan crossed into Turkey.

Today we crossed into Syria. It will take a ship from the Syrian  port of Latakia and from there on to the Egyptian port of Al Arish. From Al Arish it will go by land in vehicles to Gaza via the Rafah crossing.


We at the NTUI believe that it was critical that the Caravan takes the land route to Gaza so as to provide the opportunity to build a  sense of solidarity amongst Asian peoples and in particular in our  very own region and in West Asia which is where imperialism is  fighting its most belligerent and sustained wars. Even though we were not able to cross Pakistan entirely through the land route, it was an important achievement to have crossed the border and travel  even a partial route. It is also a first, in recent times that Indian and Pakistani working class organizations have come together  in action.


(Gautam Mody,  New Trade Union Initiative-NTUI, New Delhi ) 

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