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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 January, 2004, 01:10 GMT
Activists gather for global forum
Pakistani women shout slogans for peace in South Asia at WSF in Bombay
Protesters say they hope the forum will raise awareness
Anti-globalisation activists from across the globe have begun a six-day forum in the Indian city of Bombay.

On Saturday thousands crammed the city streets as folk singers, dancers and protesters marched on issues such as unequal trade and the conflict in Iraq.

Attendees at the World Social Forum (WSF) include French militant farmer Jose Bove, South Korean labour leaders and Afghan women rights activists.

The WSF was set up as a counterpart to the World Trade Organisation.

'Epic struggle'

Mr Bove was one of the first speakers at the six-day event, which opened on Friday in an industrial complex in a Bombay (Mumbai) suburb.


He told a packed auditorium that global firms producing packaged food and beverages should be boycotted and called for the WTO - which meets next week in Switzerland - not to form policy on agriculture.

"Its policies are threatening our future," Mr Bove was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

"Seeds are being patented and are controlled by big industries. This means farmers cannot use their own seeds and they will be out of work. Patenting of seeds has to stop."

Indian campaigner Vandana Shiva said the campaign against globalisation, free trade and big business had only just begun.

"The struggle between people and capital is now an epic struggle between life and death," she told Reuters.

Other prominent attendees at the forum include Booker Prize-winning Indian author Arundhati Roy, Iranian human rights lawyer and Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi and British Labour MP and anti-war activist Jeremy Corbyn.

Both protesters and participants said they hoped the forum would help to raise awareness of the issues they were trying to promote.

"The solidarity shown in the last World Social Forum helped bring about the collapse of [last year's WTO talks]," Mr Corbyn said.

"I hope this forum brings about the same kind of pressure on the next round."

Anti-war message

Alongside the major issues of anti-globalisation and anti-capitalism, the most dominate theme of this year's event is criticism of US President George W Bush and the invasion of Iraq.

Rubbish bins at the venue where the forum is being held were covered in pictures of the US president and gift shops sold pens and lapel pins with indecent depictions of him.

Several protesters said they hoped the forum would provide a crucial message for world leaders on global opposition to the war.

"We know that the Americans will not leave Iraq easily," one woman protester said.

"But when there is opposition in a big way from around the world I am confident it would give a positive result."

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