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From the Heart of the Himalayas…
Raison, India, June 6, 2001

Young people from Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia, Mauritius, Tajikistan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Australia, France, South Korea and India are together today in Raison, in Himachal Pradesh, North of India, surrounded by the majestic Himalayas and one of the streams of the holy Beas giving a musical rhythm to our thoughts and inspiration, to give body to the virtual work of the past year. A true continental caravan, which actually began its journey in Kanpur, a big industrial township in the state of Uttar Pradesh in Northern India.

Some of the participants from neighbouring countries joined Eco-friends (committed in the cleaning and protection of Ganga) in Kanpur. A symbolic sharing of true causes. "Ganga awareness trip" was the slogan for the Kanpur starting point of the caravan. A boat ride was organised 10 km downstream, with 50 participants carrying banners with the message "save Ganga, save Life," to get a first-hand image of the pathetic situation of Ganga in Kanpur. Even amid slashing rain, the participants could see many a small tannery unit releasing its effluents into the river they worship, and were shocked as their boats floated past many an abandoned body.

During the formal meeting that ensued, local participants, intellectuals, scholars, environmentalists, youth and journalists shared their shock at the state of the river and asked what measures were being taken. What followed was a honest attempt to put the issue in perspective - the holy river and the holy mess it is in - and the importance of taking care of it.

Ganga, as we all know, is one of the most important rivers in India, with a physical, religious, spiritual, geographical and ecological significance. Forty percent of the population is dependent on it for their food and other needs. Ganga for the Indians is not only a river but a goddess, an integral part of their daily life and cultural roots since time immemorial.

After Kanpur, the caravan arrived in Delhi for an inauguration. Though official, the session was very inspiring and gathered distinguished Indian intellectuals, politicians, young activists, and writers who shared their hopes, concerns, expectations and personal experiences, while motivating the Assembly participants to pursue their challenges resolutely, so as to highlight the importance of an active participation of youth with a clear focus in building a society in Asia and the whole world.

Mr. Dig Vijay Singh, Minister for State of Railways, officially inaugurated the forum, lending an earnest and passionate call to the youth assembly, confirming the vital necessity for youth to pick up follow up the flame of democracy and freedom. He had to cancel the originally organised state Banquet, but gave graceful evidence of good Indian hospitality with an impromptu invitation to his home, where his own family members mingled with us and served us food themselves.

Truly from the heart of the Himalayas to the heart of our problems,

Asian Youth Assembly participants

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