Inspired by the process of World Social Forum in 2001, South Asia Social Forum Bangladesh organized a gathering based on the theme: ‘Democracy for Social Transformation in South Asia: Participation, Equity and Peace’ at Dhaka University from 18 – 23 November. The functions started with a huge rally with banners displaying “Another South Asia is possible.”
Country specific issues, cross-country issues and regional issues were discussed in workshops and plenary. There were many calls for action such as to get united more and more, strengthen people-to-people-diplomacy beyond the government-to-government diplomatic relations, stop enemy-enemy game, make SAARC effective, make South Asia a visa-free zone, develop regional food security framework for South Asia, make the rivers as the rivers of friendship, ensure flow of friendship in these rivers by stopping all the unilateral constructions and unilateral withdrawal of water and make South Asia a Free Economic Zone by removing all the Tariff and non Tariff barriers etc.
In keeping with the aims of first World Social Form, the activists of different Asian countries are organizing forums and joining the events opposing imperialistic globalization. The first South Asia Social Forum was held in Biratnagar, Nepal. As a result of this proactive initiative that South Asia Social Forum Bangladesh took place at Dhaka.
From India, very few people and organizations participated in the Bangladesh Forum. Mr. Kuldip Nayar, a veteran journalist and the famous feminist, Kamala Bhasin from Delhi were present throughout the Forum.
University students were very active in the Forum. Some of them felt that India is the greatest block in developing the neighboring countries. We heard remarks such as “India is South Asia’s US.” Speakers repeatedly said that another South Asia is not just possible but IMPERATIVE.
Both Rose and I gained very much spiritually from this gathering. We now feel much closer to our neighboring countries.