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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 January, 2004, 22:52 GMT
Activists gather for Bombay forum

By Sanjeev Srivastava
BBC correspondent in Bombay

A college student leans against a wall painted with anti-capitalism graffiti, Mumbai
Delegates hope to widen their discussions
About 75,000 anti-globalisation activists are gathering in India's biggest city, Bombay, for the World Social Forum which begins on Friday.

The activists represent some 2,500 non-governmental groups.

The anti-globalisation meeting - the fourth of its kind - is being held in Asia for the first time.

Discussions planned for the six-day event include issues like imperialist globalisation, international security and civil rights.

Largely a group of trade unionists, non-governmental organisations and leftist parties, the World Social Forum (WSF) was conceived as an international forum against economic globalisation.

Beginning in 2001 the first three annual meetings of the WSF were held in Brazil.

The Latin American country was a natural choice. It not only illustrated the adverse impact of economic liberalisation, but different sectors of the Brazilian society were also actively resisting the forces of globalisation.

Iraq and GM food

One reason for the WSF being held in India's finance capital is the need to make the movement, so far dominated by Europeans and Latin Americans, more representative and inclusive of some of the world's poorest people and countries.

There is also an attempt to revitalise and broaden the forum's agenda, so debates will not only be held on what the forum sees as economic imperialism of the rich countries.

Also high on the agenda is opposition to the US occupation of Iraq and issues as diverse as genetically modified foods and racism.

The anti-war activists are said to welcome the recent India-Pakistan peace initiative, but that may be the only bit of good news for the Indian Government.

The Bombay (Mumbai) meeting is likely to see the anti-globalisation activists focusing on Hinduism's centuries-old social hierarchy, or the caste system, which relegates nearly one-sixth of India's one billion population to the status of low castes known as Dalits, or the oppressed.

It is not just caste discrimination. The raising of issues like child labour and the widening gap between rich and poor may further embarrass the Indian Government.

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