Jan Satyagraha and solidarity

Rajagopal P.V

Solidarity is a word that we keep using again and again. Solidarity at the local level, with the groups that are in struggle for protecting their land and livelihood resources, solidarity at a national level to address policy framework that are negatively affecting the life of marginalized communities, and solidarity at the international level to create greater space and dignity for the marginalized communities across the globe. Jansatyagraha is trying to create solidarity at every level. As we are traveling through we have two women walking into every meeting with two pots. One pot, called Kalash in Hindi, carries soil from Gandhi Samadhi (Gandhi Mermorial). The second Kalash is a donation box in which people can contribute whatever they can afford and this money will be used for creating a fund at the state level to support struggle groups who are trying to protect land and livelihood resources. As we travel around the country with soil from Gandhi’s samadi, we are also collecting soil samples from every struggle that we visit and these will be finally exhibited in the conference hall of Gandhi Peace Foundation in Delhi. Up till now, we have a collection of 240 samples representing 240 struggles in 11 states. People’s contribution in the donation box varies from one Rupee coin to 500 rupees according to the capacity of individuals. In many places, the groups that invited us have also made group donation into the struggle fund. As we moved out of Bengal, the money collected up to now is about 150 000 Rs (about 3000 Euros). In every meeting, we also collect signatures as part of our appeal to the government to revisit the agenda of pro-poor land reforms. We are also encouraging school students and farmers to write post-cards to the Prime Minister. These actions are not limited to villagers alone. Students in Bombay are also writing to the Prime Minister, they are also contributing one rupee to the struggle fund. Our Bombay coordinator, Yatish Bhai has stood as number one in collecting public donations to support Jan Satyagraha. His collection will soon head up to 10 laks (about 20 000 Euros). He is also number one in terms of enrolling people into Ekta Shanti Manch. Unfortunately we don’t have people like Yatish Bhai in every city. Such contributions were not limited only to India, when the Belgian students came to meet us in Tamil Nadu, they brought a cheque of 526 Euros as their contribution for struggle fund.

Jan Satyagraha is also trying to broad base the struggle by joining hands with many other struggles. Up till now more than 1000 organizations and movements have given their consent to be part of Jan Satyagraha. By the time we arrive at Gwalior we hope to join hands with more than 2000 organizations. Our slogan is to reach 2012 organizations and social movements for our action in 2012. Well-known national leaders are arriving one by one to express their solidarity. S.N. Subarao ji, Bal bhai, Balakrishna Renge and many others were present in Kanyakumari to express their solidarity. Senior members of Ekta Europe Dr Julius travelled with the yatra in Kerala. Jacques Vellut, another senior member of Ekta Europe, came with a group of student in Tamil Nadu. Many senior retired bureaucrats expressed their solidarity when the yatra went to Hyderabad. Medha Patkar, leader of NAPM, came to Bangalore to address a public meeting. A senior member of anti-corruption movement in India, Vaghela, coordinated our yatra in Goa. Two senior members of Ekta Europe, Margrit Hugentobler and Küde Meyer came to express their solidarity and travelled with us from Goa to Maharashtra. Swami Agnivesh came to Bombay to be with us for a day and also do address the press conference. Aruna Roy, Member of National Advisory Council, a very well known activist arrived at Pune along with Nikhil Dey to express their solidarity. In Nagpur, we had Swami Sachidananda and Arif Muhammad Khan, former minister of India. Radha Bhatt and many other senior members of South Asia Peace Alliance like Nassir Bhai from Bangladesh, Shobha Behen from Nepal and Gerald from England were all part of the team that came to greet the Jan Satyagraha Samwad Yatra team in Puri. Senior journalist like Ved Prakash Vaidik, Prasoon Latant and Madhukar Mishra came to Ranchi, capital of Jharkhand, to express their solidarity with the yatra. Chandan Pal, secretary of Sarva Seva Sangh came to receive the yatra when we enter into Bengal. Among the politicians, we had the Rural Development Minister, the Agriculture Minister and some Members of Parliaments greeting us on our route. As we had completed about 150 days on the road, this is satisfying to look back and see how many people have expressed their solidarity locally, nationally and internationally with Jan Satyagraha. The real question that I am debating within myself is whether expression of so much solidarity by important people cutting across borders will have an impact on the decision makers of India? Indication from the top is that the impact that we were able to create up till now is very limited. A lot more need to be done in terms of building solidarity to create the kind of hit that will melt the system into action. Artists, politicians, intellectuals, and writers will have to move in to express their solidarity in big number if Jan Satyagraha action should culminate into positive results for the suffering masses.

Please take this note as an appeal to all those who are concerned about poverty, migration, slums, violence and marginalization to join hands to strengthen Jan Satyagraha in order to seriously address the issues related to land and livelihood resources of millions of people in India and also all those in other parts of the world. Expression of your solidarity at this stage is very crucial so that a concrete dialogue with the government of India can begin as soon as possible. Expression of your solidarity with Jan Satyagraha will also strengthen democracy and non-violence that are dear to all of us.

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