Coca-Cola Greeted with Protest in New Year

"We Will Come With Our Mouths Shut and Hands Tied and Still Show our Strength"

For Immediate Release
January 4, 2005

Nandlal Master, Lok Samiti (Hindi only) +91 94153 00520 (Translations can be arranged by contacting Amit Srivastava)
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center Email: amit(AT)IndiaResource.org
January 4 +91 98103 46161 (India), January 5 -10 +44 7731 865591 (UK), January 10-18 +1 415 336 7584 (US)

Varanasi, India (January 4, 2005): Communities affected by Coca-Cola's indiscriminate practices in India will greet the multinational company in the new year with a large protest on January 6, 2005 in Mehdiganj, near the holy city of Varanasi.

Marchers are calling for the revocation of Coca-Cola's license to operate because of severe hardships created for communities as a result of water shortages and pollution created by the Coca-Cola company. The march comes after a series of defeats for the Coca-Cola company across India, through orders by the courts and various government agencies.

Over 1,500 people participated in a march and rally against Coca-Cola on November 24, 2004 in Mehdiganj, near the holy city of Varanasi. 350 people were detained after a violent attack by police on the peaceful protesters.

Protesters will wear black ribbons across their mouths and tie their hands to specifically bring attention to the non-violent nature of the community-led campaign, and to protest the outrageous charges that have been brought against some of the marchers in the November protest. In an attempt to slow down the formidable campaign, some key leaders have been charged with serious charges including attempted arson.

"The trumped up charges, brought by the police, is an attempt to silence and discredit the strong community movement to hold Coca-Cola accountable," said Nandlal Master of Lok Samiti and the National Alliance of People's Movements, a key organizer of the rally and also one of the leaders charged with serious criminal offenses. "Coca-Cola commits crimes and no action is taken, and we speak out for our lives and livelihoods, and we are declared illegal. We will now come with our mouths shut and hands tied and still show our strength and commitment, and also show that non-violence is an integral part of the movement," continued Nandlal Master. Past protests against Coca-Cola in Mehdiganj have included several prominent Gandhians, and many will also participate in the January 6 action.

Coca-Cola has become the target of numerous communities across India who are demanding that Coca-Cola shut down its bottling facility because of water shortages and pollution. The single largest Coca-Cola bottling facility in India, in Plachimada, Kerala, remains shut down because the local village council (panchayat) is refusing to issue it a license to operate. In Rajasthan, the high court has ruled that Coca-Cola must print the level of pesticides on the label of all its products in the state.

The Mehdiganj protest is setting the tone for a disastrous year ahead for Coca-Cola in India. Another community march and rally is planned against Coca-Cola in Kerala, India on January 14, 2005.

"The collusion between Coca-Cola and the government is too close for comfort," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, a group that works with local groups in India to coordinate the campaign internationally. "We will take this issue to national and international audiences, not only to expose, but to break the destructive relationship." The international campaign to hold Coca-Cola accountable has also joined forces with the Colombian trade union, Sinaltrainal. Coca-Cola is charged with complicity in the murder, torture and intimidation of trade union organizers at its bottling facilities in Colombia.

Supporters of the campaign are advised to send a fax to Coca-Cola by visiting http://www.IndiaResource.org/action/faxcoke.php

For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org


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