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Indians Resist Coca-Cola's Water Stealing

Coca Cola Virudha Samara Samithy (Anti Coca Cola Struggle Committee) organized a mass rally and public meeting at Plachimada on 4 August 2002, which marks the 105th day of the continuous ongoing struggle against the Coca Cola monster that began in 22 April 2002.
About 300 people have been arrested till date in this peaceful democratic struggle on false cases despite vicious attempts of the Coca Cola Company to thwart the struggle by various means. More than a 1000 people, mostly Adivasis belonging to the Eravalar and Malasar Communities categorized as primitive tribes by the government participated. Adivasis from Wayanad, Kannur and Nelliampathy also participated.

Led by the children and women, the rally commenced at Pallimukku in Vandithavalam about 6 kms away from Plachimada in the evening about 3.30 p.m braving the welcome intermittent drizzle. The spirited march thundered along the route, encouraged by large sections of the public all along the route. The slogans that reverberated in this picturesque region surrounded by hills and rivers reflected the determination of the people to reassert the rights to survival - water in this instance - not only for them but also for future generations. The government and political parties were out rightly condemned for their total sell out to Coca Cola and the MNCs, global capital and imperialism in general. A massive police force was conspicuously and menacingly deployed all along the route and especially the Coca Cola factory where they had provided a formidable protecting ring.

Veloor Swaminathan, an Adivasi Leader and Convenor of the Samara Samithy addressed the public meeting. He did some plain speaking on the experience of the struggle, which has entered the 105th day where it was the Adivasis, the agricultural labourers, and other oppressed who had all along been active in the forefront of the struggle. He exhorted other sections of the population of the area who have been actively supporting the struggle as well as the silent supporters to come out now for it is time to throw out Coca Cola from the place. He appealed to the exploited workers of Coca Cola factory, who are overwhelmingly casual labourers to realize the historical task of the struggle for their long-term benefits and that of the society, to now join the struggle.

The Chairperson Venugopal Vilayodi provided the background to the struggle, the issues and the manner in which the oppressed people here have been pushed to a struggle by Coca Cola Company - a do or die struggle - as the very livelihood is threatened. Recalling that on 22 April 22, the struggle was inaugurated by the Ms. C.K Janu, the "black pearl" of Kerala and the leader who had forced the government of Kerala to agree to the demands of Adivasis of the state for land rights and autonomy long denied to them and which is attempted to be violated by the government, various economic interest groups and political parties against which she and her comrades are fighting. He reminded that the Coca Cola has provided a meager employment to some 300 who are casual labourers denied labour rights with a handful who are regular employees. He reminded the workers that with the closing down of the factory, their employment is not threatened but the struggle has also called for the conversion of the factory premises into a employment generating ecologically safe production centers as handloom which can provide jobs to thousands. This is the responsibility of the government. The struggle has also exposed all the political parties, from the right to the left, that behind the veil of pious rhetoric, they have all turned to be petty brokers for the Coca Company. But then this is not an isolated phenomenon but a widespread phenomenon all over the country with globalisation and opening up for predatory capital that destroys people and livelihood resources.

G.N Saibaba, General Secretary of All India Peoples' Resistance Forum (AIPRF) that is a forum of movements all over the country involved in intense resistance for the rights of the oppressed, in his inaugural address praised the people of Plachimada and surrounding villages for their unflinching thirst for freedom from neo-colonialism and imperialism. He went on to remind that Coca Cola was indeed foolish to think that they can get away with the loot, destroying the life sustaining water from this backward area. The news of this struggle in this remote corner tucked away amidst the greenery, the mountains and rivers which is already threatened to become a catastrophic calamity of transforming into a desert, has traveled wide. He reminded that similar valiant struggles are going on against the MNCs and their arrogant plunder all over the country backed by imperialist and fascist forces. In the long run, he reminded, that truth and justice will prevail and victory shall belong to the oppressed masses. In similar vein, all other speakers reiterated their immense appreciation and saluted the valiant and inspiring struggle promising to unite the struggle against predatory capital, imperialism and fascism, which in effect are the forces behind companies, like Coca Cola. The speakers also reminded that this is not the only struggle against Coca Cola. Coca Cola has paid scant regard to environment or human rights - Sathupalli of Andhra, Thane district of Maharashtra and elsewhere. Coca Cola factories have been attacked and destroyed such as in Andhra and Nepal. They have polluted and destroyed aquifers all over the world against which people have protested. They have adopted criminal means against their own workers and the local inhabitants.

The meeting was addressed by leaders of various movements such as A. Bhoomaiyah (Telengana Jana Sabha of Andhra Pradesh), Kumar (AIPRF, Karnataka), C.R Neelakantan Namboothiri (writer and activist with Pooyankutty Samrakshana Samithy and National Alliance of Peoples Movements, Eranakulam, Kerala), Senkottaiyan (Dalit Liberation Party, Tamilnadu), Thomas Mathew (NAPM, Kerala), M.S Selvaraj (Vyavasayikal Thozhilalar Munnetra Sangam, Nilgiris, Tamilnadu), Advocate Shiny (Janakeeya Prathirodha Vedi, Malappuram, Kerala) Nagapandi and Leelavathi (Palanimalai Adivasikal Viduthalai Iyakkam, Kodaikanal, Tamilnadu), Gopalakrishnan, (People's Union for Civil Liberties, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu) and Jaayachandran (Tamilnadu Green Movement) amongst others besides Shivan Kutty and C. Bhanu from the Samara Samithy. The meeting ended with a glorious tribute to the people in struggle, especially the women and with renewed determination to expand the struggle moving to the phase of the closure of the Coca Cola factory at Plachimada.

Veloor Swaminathan
Coca-Cola Virudha Janakeeya Samara Samithy (Anti Coca Cola Peoples Struggle Committee)
Kannimari P.O
Palakkad District
India 678 534

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