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Bringing ban treaty momentum to India

April 24, 2018

by Kelvin Kibert, International Student Representative 

Kelvin and Franca co-chair a session at the IDPD seminar in Delhi

Our journey to India began way back in Oslo during the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize events. To be precise, 11 December at Brigg restaurant during the informal ICAN campaigners’ get together. The atmosphere was filled with the frenzy of happy moments and fulfillment for many gathered there. However, Dr Arun Mitra and Dr Jeetendra Singh of the Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD- IPPNW India) were really keen on using the Nobel momentum to urge their government to sign the Nuclear Ban Treaty. They were planning an international seminar in Delhi on 24-25 March, and asked Franca Brüggen (co-ISR) and me if we could conduct a pre-conference students’ workshop and visit Vasantrao University in Nashik, to which we gladly agreed. They also requested that we include Pakistan in our trip to improve the students’ movement there as well.

We prepared over the next couple of months; like any trip, this one did not lack in challenges regarding time schedules and visas. In the end, only Franca was able to secure a visa to both Pakistan and India; unfortunately, I managed only India. With generous support from our Central Office and the IDPD, we began the Indian experience on 23 March, with a brief tour of New and Old Delhi to orient ourselves with the new, yet incredibly warm, Indian culture.

IDPD students debate nuclear weapons and the ban treaty

In collaboration with Dr. Aneesh Maini and Ruchita Raikar (Student Representative), we conducted workshops on various anti-nuclear topics on 24 March. We introduced first-time students to IPPNW and ICAN, and concluded the workshop with a pre-arranged debate between two student groups representing ICAN and the Indian government. These sessions set the stage for the main conference later in the day.

We were honored to co-chair a session on the global nuclear situation, to give our ideas on new vistas ahead. In my address to the conference, I called upon the campaigners to include youth in all levels of decision making in line with UN Resolution 2250 on Youth Participation. Franca urged everyone to work on other barriers to peace, not only the nuclear threat. Students beautifully closed this first day with talented musicals.

Although the Indian government snubbed the IDPD seminar, there were concrete conclusions following the last session 0n 25 March. Having been prepared during the pre-conference workshop, students gave their input on the way forward: simultaneous denuclearization of India and Pakistan being the best way forward. Students concluded the session with emotional poems on various issues in India.

We took an overnight train to Mumbai with students from Vasantrao Medical College and proceeded to a smaller city called Nashik. We had an intense but very successful one day schedule. We started with a workshop at a high school where we spread ICAN’s message to grade 10 students. We were very moved by how eager they were to learn about our “complex” topic. We then spoke to 200 engineering university students at the largest Samaj in Maharashtra State, urging them to engineer for peace not war.

We finished our day at the medical college, where we addressed medical students on their role in medical peace work, and offered all the reasons to join IDPD, ICAN, and IPPNW. We were then treated to a stunning anti-nuclear-themed fashion show, highlighting how far back we’d take civilization and fashion in the event of a nuclear war. This was a remarkably relatable way to convey our message to many, and was a perfect ending to my experience in India, as I saw Franca off to Pakistan. I want to sincerely thank everyone who made this a success. We are closer to both a nuclear war and total denuclearization; we shall continue supporting the latter.

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