Yatra Summary: Week One

Ekta Parishad began a year long tour called Jansatyagraha-Jan Samwaad Yatra to visit struggles for land and livelihood resources throughout the country. After travelling from the Rajghat iclip_image002n New Delhi to Kanyakumari, the yatra was joined by many supporters in Vivekananda Kendra. Many sernior Gandhians leaders expressing their good wishes to Ekta Parishad and PV Rajagopal for the success of the Yatra. Afterward, the entire group of 500 people marched 3 kilometers through Kanyakumari to Gandhi Mandapam. There an interreligious prayer service was held and then the jeep yatra left for its first stop in Koodankulam in the Thriruneveli district of Tamil Nadu.

On the first day the yatra visited the Koodankulam Nuclear Plant Struggle. The Koodankulam struggle is a struggle against displacement from land and so it is related to the Yatra’s theme of land and livelihood resources of the poor. During the visit, the local group expressed their commitment to a long-term non-violent struggle to stop the nuclear project in order to save their livelihoods and environment.

On the next day, a discussion meeting was organized with leading intellectuals and activists in the area of Allappyon the issue of Dalit-Adivasi land rights. Dr. Issac Thomas, the former finance minister in the government of Kerala, expressed supported Jansatyagraha. Many other intellectuals contributed to the debate. Dalit activists Sunny and Rekha observed that non-dalits and non-Adivasis have been leading Dalit and adivasi movements in Kerala and made an urgent call to question such representation and leadership. They countered a recommendation of preventing transfer of adivasi land to a non-adivasi, made by the National Land-Reform Committee as it makes the adivasi a second-class citizen.

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On the following day, the yatra visited Chengara, the site of a very important Dalit land-rights struggle. 7000 families have occupied 6000 acres of a rubber plantation with an intent of carrying our subsistence agriculture. 7000 scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and Dalit Christians from 14 districts of Kerala formed an organization called SVSV, Sadhujana Vimukti Samyukta Vidhi  (Poor people’s joint federation for liberation) in October 2001. Through many struggles the community is steadily reclaiming the lost bio-diversity of the area by their farming activities. Today they are growing plantain, coconut, tapioca, papaya, chilies, brinjal besides cultivating paddy. There was an important dialogue with the activists because there is an immense mistrust towards Gandhi because of historical interactions between Gandhi and Ambedkar and because of the betrayal by people who in the name of Gandhi have come to power but have failed to implement Gandhian principles like Gandhi’s talisman and Gandhi’s economic constitution.

More information about the struggle is available at http://chengara struggle.blogspot.com/.

A one day intense dialogue was undertaken with the participation of local NGOs, intellectuals and ex-politicians at Gandhi Seva Gram SL Puram, Allapuzha , Kerala, on the 6th of Octclip_image005ober. This region neighbors the Tsunami struck areas such as Karunagalpally. The entire concept of land reforms needs to be understood in the context of poverty alleviation. Substantial work has been done in states like Kerala, however, the impact has been low. The government claims to have redistributed 52,000 hectares of land, but actual figures are of 38, 336 hectares. Only 12,392 hectares of land were distributed to tribal’s after 1957 (Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1957).

On day six of the Yatra, Rajagopal wrote a letter to friends. In it, he said:

“During the last six days, we must have travelled more than five hundred kilometers. We have visited two Gandhian organizations doing very important work. Both of them are involved in resettlement of Dalit and tsunami affected people as well as providing employment for them. It is always good to see Gandhi’s ideas being used effectively to reach out to the poor sections of the society. India has gone completely in the wrong direction by ignoring his advice and finally ending up in a situation where the deprived people are accusing him for all the mistakes.”

“We were also visiting local struggles.”

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