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Bove bonds with India’s ‘untouchables’

BOMBAY, Jan 16 (AFP) – Jose Bove, the militant French farmer who gained worldwide publicity for helping destroy a McDonald’s outlet in 1999, vowed Friday to forge a bond with India’s lowest caste as he arrived in Bombay for the anti-globalisation movement’s annual forum.

Smoking his trademark pipe at a “solidarity tent” on the lawn of the World Social Forum, the radical unionist acknowledged he could do little to change Hinduism’s centuries-old caste system.

“We are powerless,” Bove told AFP. “But we are here to express our solidarity and to show our concern.

“According to the law, the problem does not exist, but this forum will allow us to expose the situation,” said Bove, who was mobbed by well-wishers as he appeared at the forum.

More than 138 million Indians belong to the lowest caste, the Dalits, formerly known as “untouchables,” who according to US-based Human Rights Watch are the victims of some 100,000 crimes a year.

However, caste discrimination was abolished under the 1949 constitution and a number of Dalits have risen to prominent positions including K.R. Narayanan, India’s ceremonial president from 1997 to 2002 and a speaker at the World Social Forum.

Bove said Bombay, a metropolis of 18 million people of whom half live in poverty, was “symbolic of the problems we’re facing.”

“It’s a city of contrasts, a city of technology, but also there is a real social problem with so many people out on the streets.”

Bove has been an emblem of the anti-globalisation movement since 1999 when he helped demolish a partially built McDonald’s in France to protest US trade sanctions.

He is due to participate in a debate Saturday on sovereignty over the world’s land, water and food.

Tens of thousands of activists are in Bombay for the meeting that closes Wednesday, when the rival World Economic Forum of business and political leaders opens in Davos, Switzerland.


                                Subject: France news