In fact, nobody says working together is a bad idea. Everyone is speaking about the need for people to come together, organizations to come together in order to solve larger problems. In theory, people understand that in a globalizing world, none of us are going to win if we go alone. Still experience will tell us that coming together in the larger interest is a very difficult challenge for people., I also speak about the idea of coming together in my own way and to some extent I also try to promote the idea of coming together through action, but like everyone else I do suffer from my own limitations. There are various reasons why one tends to open the door and shut it again. Creating mutual trust and faith is not an easy thing. It takes time, and we don’t have the time to work with others in a way that will lead to mutual trust and faith. Conferences and seminars can provide us some space to get to know each other, but it doesn’t provide enough space to develop total trust about the other person. I know many examples were people began to relate on some issues but soon departed company. We also have examples of networks that cannot go beyond seminars and conferences. Getting into any action in order to challenge the present system will need people who trust each other and are willing to take risks together. In the Jansamvaad yatra I had the opportunity to meet and interact with a lot of individuals and organizations. In some cases, we were able to spend many days together, discuss issues, sort out misunderstandings and strengthen our relationship for a joint action. It was important to invest so much time and energy in order to build trust and faith that will ultimately lead to joint action in October 2012. While engaging in all these exercises of relation building in the process of travelling thousands of km, I was reflecting on why it is so difficult to work together.
In some cases, it is a territorial war. People working in the same state will complain about each other while they are willing to network and act with people outside the state. Of course this is a dangerous trend. Survival of each one of us will very much depend on how closely we can work with people in our own state. Can the social workers and activists in Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand or Chhattisgarh really survive without working together? As far as I know, there is very little chance that they can change any policy in Orissa or in Andhra Pradesh can be brought about unless social actors in each of these states join hands as a team to work together. Theoretically all of them know this but practically this is the most difficult aspect of social change work. Another reason why there is so much competition is: resources. There are some people who can raise resources and others who don’t have that skill. There are people with national and international contacts, and there are others who are very much localized in their reach. There are always competitions around resources. Organizations with resources need to play their role with a great understanding so that they can use those resources to build bridges across struggle groups and organizations. Those who are driven by the ideas of “me, my institution my flag, my ideology and my money” can never help this process of coming together. The challenge is to use the opportunity, the contacts and the resources at your disposal in order to build larger possibilities to challenge the state and the system. Anyone who is self-centered will be totally insulated at the time of difficulties. Huge campus, buildings and resources are not the tools to change the system in the interest of the marginalized, and that is the reason why we continue to remain at the receiving end and the state is bulldozing everything at their will. This is an area even for resource organizations to reflect. When they put their resources it is important to do it in a way that the resources are not used for building individuals and huge campuses, but it is for building greater possibility for change.
When I look back today, travelling through the mountains of Nagaland and Manipur, I do understand that I have made many mistakes. Even though the reality is that alliances cannot be built on one side, and there should be equal interest and openness from all sides in order to succeed in this direction, I feel my own short sightedness must have contributed in a big way to strong alliances not being built at the national level to challenge the state. The present situation in the country is at least helping everybody to theoretically appreciate the need to come together, cutting across ideologies and institutional barriers to work together for change in policies. Many years of our work is being challenged. The model villages that we have created are no more there because of SEZs and land acquisition. The dream of building Gram Sabhas for a bottom-up developmental process is no more there as villages after villages are disappearing from the map of India. There is a serious threat to the values and causes for which we have dedicated our voices and in addition to the threat to these values and causes, the very space for civil society and the role for social workers is being threatened. We are the last bastion of hope for the protection of values of justice, peace and equity and there is nothing more important that the need for coming together to act together and face the consequences together.
We have a tendency to accuse people rather than encouraging people. We also do a lot of back biting. In spite of all the trainings, to look at the good side of people or speak only well about people there is a strong tendency to speak and propagate negative news about others. Let us admit that it is everywhere. It is in the religious circle, it is in the political circle, and it has also come in the social circle, whether you are a Gandhian or Marxist, we behave the same way when it comes to spreading gossip. Even those who stand up publically and speak about moral values and morality are in private spreading gossip. I am told than one gossip that was going around about me is that I have a lot of money at my disposal and that it the reason why I am into Jan Satyagraha Samwad Yatra. People who spread this gossip maybe doing it in an innocent way, but it is good enough to prevent alliance building. Those who have no opportunity to come and travel with me in the Jan Samwad Yatra may believe it. Only when they come they will understand that we are able to do the Jan Samwad yatra because of the kind of contacts we were able to build across the country in the last many years. People are feeding us and they are also providing us a place to sleep. Meetings and interactions are organized by the local people through their own efforts. The only expenditure that we are supposed to make is the diesel for our two vehicles, and for that, people are contributing small donations. People who spread the gossip should also take the time to come and see what we are doing. They should also understand that just because of availability of huge money in hand, one cannot do such a yatra because a yatra demands people’s involvement. There are similar gossips about every organization and every individual. Those who are not into the agenda of building are generally in the agenda of breaking. This is what I call the child mentality. Like a child will enjoy killing an ant without knowing the damage it is doing to a life, these people keep damaging all possibilities just for the fun of it. Some of these people also carry double face. In front of you they will praise you to the sky, and behind you, they will tell nasty things about you. Unfortunately voluntary organizations and people’s organizations also suffer from such personalities who continue to enjoy creating confusion and misunderstanding among people and institutions.
A big area of competition among social movements and voluntary organizations is also related to media, award, recognition, position in the government, etc. Running behind media has become a new trend. A new thinking that has emerged in the recent times is “media created social movement”. Media can also promote individuals and more media publicity may lead to more awards and better position. Each one of us is interested to see our name and our flag in the media. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it, but it is important for us not to overdo it. People should not see media as our weakness. Media or no media, award or no award, position or no position, we should single mindedly work towards delivery of justice and livelihood resources to marginalized communities who have waiting for too long for the political parties to deliver justice to millions of Indians. Social movements have arrived to organize people to force the state to deliver what they have promised. The more we realize our responsibility, the more we will keep away from childish games and play our role sincerely and seriously. It is time for us to bring the great idea of working together in practice for the larger good.
– ‘Garibbandhu’ Rajagopal
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