Landless Plan a Long March

Landless Plan a Long

by Isolda Agazzi

GENEVA, Sep 13 (IPS) – The
Gandhian movement Ekta Parishad plans to organise a march for land rights in
October 2012 in India, aiming to gather around 100,000 indigenous people, dalits
and poor peasants. Support is shaping up around the world, at events such as an
international mobilisation conference in Geneva Sep. 12-13.

India, a large number of adivasi (indigenous people) are pushed out of their
land because of mining, huge dams, wildlife protection, industrialisation and
tourism. Every time you have a new industry, they bear the cost of development.
That is why there is a lot of agitation and uprising of adivasi, both armed and
non-violent”, Ekta Parishad president P.V.Rajagopal told IPS in an interview.

Ekta Parishad is a federation of more than 900 associations all over
India. Founded 20 years ago and inspired by the Gandhian non-violent movement,
it struggles for the land rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples, nomadic
tribes and the dalits.

In October 2012 it will organise ‘Jan Satyagraha
– the March of Justice’ that is meant to become the biggest march for land
rights in history. The plan is for people to walk the 350 kilometres from
Gwalior to Delhi over 35 days.

“In preparation for this big march, we
decided to get support from institutions, NGOs, policy makers and activists from
countries where land rights are an important issue too, like South America and
Africa,” Margrit Hugentobler, coordinator of Ekta Europe told IPS. “Hence this
international mobilisation conference on the right to land and livelihood.”

Next year’s march will follow one organised in 2007 by Ekta Parishad,
where about 25,000 people – mostly adivasi and dalits – walked to Delhi to
reclaim access to land. It resulted in the establishment of a land rights
committee that produced several recommendations. But implementation has been
poor after the decline of media coverage.

The government also passed the
Forest Rights Act, under which those driven out of the forest must be given
land. “Thousands of people did get land,” said Hugentobler, “but the
distribution does not happen by order of the national government, but at the
state level. State ministers play an important role and some have given land to
people, but others have not. India is still missing an overall national policy
that can be enforced. This is why we are organising a second and bigger march.”

Other marches will take place around the world to support the Indian
event and to back food sovereignty and the right of access of indigenous peoples
to natural resources.

“In India, displacement also results from land
acquisition by government for malls and supermarkets,” Rajagopal said. “Farmers
are losing land and they are agitating. The beautification of cities is also
done at the expens of poor people like street vendors and shoe repairers, that
have to go. For the 2010 Commonwealth games in Dehli, 200,000 people were
removed from the city centre.”

Rajagopal sees this as a gradual process
of displacing people from forest and land to give these resources away to large
companies and multinational corporations.

“My job is to find a
non-violent solution to this problem before it becomes too violent, and to
organise people,” he said. “It is a very challenging period in India and across
the globe – in Africa or Latin America you have the same situation. In Brazil 80
percent of the people are already driven to cities. In India 70 percent of the
people still live in rural areas, but if this process continues, we will end
like Brazil. People will have to move to slums and the resources in the villages
will be controlled by companies.”

Maria Salete Carollo from the Landless
Movement in Brazil agreed. “This march must strengthen the social fight for food
sovereignty and land reform in Brazil. We have to support all the people who
fight for their land rights wherever they are, with farmers and poor people at
the forefront,” she told IPS.

Ekta Parishad is seeking political, moral
and financial support. “We need one euro per person per day for food, water and
medicine,” Rajagopal said. “That makes 100,000 euros every day, of which 30
percent will be raised in India and 70 percent internationally, so we appeal to
the world community.” (FIN/2011)


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