The Framework and Plan for Jansatyagraha

Rajagopal, PV

We are going to speak about some action and one action that I want to propose is going to take place in India in 2012. The action is already beginning in fact and it will continue until 2012.

The philosophical framework in which this action is going to be put begins with a strong faith in the power of the poor. It begins with the fact that poor people can really make a change. If we believe in that and then start looking at the so-called weaknesses of the poor as strengths. This is important: to convert the so-called weaknesses into strengths so that we realize that the poor are in fact powerful, power enough to make a real change. The core of this philosophy, then, is that we need to organize the poor of this world to bring about a change. We have to have faith that they can bring a change. When I say poor, of course, I mean men and women.

The second part of the philosophical framework is our strong faith in the young people of the world, that young men in women can also bring about a change.

So faith in young people and in the poor can be the basis for building a strong national and international movement to challenge the present paradigm of corruption and injustice.

We must understand that indifference is not going to bring about any change at all. The majority of people are in fact indifferent and they say to themselves, ‘The world is going the way it is going and what can I do? I can’t change it.’ What I want to say is that between this indifference and the violence that is at the other extreme, there is an option: active nonviolence. Use nonviolence effectively and don’t assume that nonviolence cannot work. Nonviolence can work if it is used effectively.

A society based on Sarvodaya—the well-being of all, is not going to happen just because we wish it. It has to begin somewhere and I tell you that it has to begin with the well-being of the least, Antyodaya (as Gandhi called it).

The last aspect of the philosophical framework is this: change demands a certain amouhnt of sacrifice. And this is where we must struggle with our indifference and our fear: we don’t want to be in prison, or between up or just standing out in the cold. As long as we are not willing to sacrifice a bit our comfort, our resources, our time, no change is going to take place. Change demands an amount of sacrifice from those of us who want to achieve change.

In 2007, twenty-five thousand people walked for a month and achieved something, a small victory. And now we want to use what we learned and to scale it up for Jansatyagraha 2012. So what I am going to tell you is basically the action plan for 2012.

First, we want to train six thousand young people as leaders. That is a big scaling-up. Last time we had 1500 youth to lead 25000 people and this time we want to train 6000 young people in the next two years. That means organizing sixty youth training programs (in each training program there will be a hundred youth). So that is one program in which we need to collaborate.

Let me tell you about the training program. It will be divided into three parts or three days. Day one we will be discussing why it is that after 65 years of independence in India we are still facing so many problems. The idea is that it is like a doctor looking at a patient and trying to diagnose what is wrong. Then the treatment can begin. Identifying problems is day one. So after the small group discussion they will come into the large group so that each group can present their report and debate. There will be a debate about those issues that each group is debating. People develop the skill to argue and counter-argue. For example, you might on the first day identify the need for education—but that is the first day’s answer and on the next day that will go deeper and there will be a discussion about what kind of education it should be. Because if it is not the right kind of education then nothing will change, it will just support the status quo.

That really leads to the next step, and that is the second day. Then the questions are about how we address the issues, issues like landlessness, like poverty, like exploitation.

The third day will focus on how to build a movement to address these issues together, not just as individuals but as a larger group together.

So there are three days and three processes in this training. Group discussions, larger plenary and then in the night, theatre—theatre used to articulate the understanding of poverty. Then these 100 people are going to walk through the villages for three days, to interact with people, understand their problems and motivate more people to join the social movement.

Let me return to the plans for Jansatyagraha. Last time we had 25,000 letters to the Prime Minister of India from people around the globe. This time we would like to scale that up as well, so that we receive 100,000 letters. So that everyday there will be hundreds of letters from people saying, ‘we know that everyday so many people are walking for justice. Why is your government not listening to their voices?’

Last time we were more Eurocentric, in the sense that much of the international solidarity came from Europe. This time we would like to expand so that the solidarity will come from southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa, Europe and North America. It has to be a global action. That is what we should discuss today.

This is a global action that is taking place in India but how do we create pressure in other parts of the world on the same issue. And I mean not only acting in solidarity with action in India but also so that people raise their own local issues. Then we can act together. It will be like moving from a global social forum to global action.

This time we need to have an international commission with representatives from every country. This representative should write letters and speak about 2012 and also organize action within the country, so that 2012 becomes an international action. Last time, we had a very small advisory committee with well-known people. This time we would also like to have a committee of well-known people so that governments will hear them and address the issue of people and their control over livelihood resources. So then we can create a climate where these people because of their moral power will be able to put a certain amount of pressure on governments.

The slogan will be ‘Do or die’. It is an old slogan, we took it from the freedom struggle of India. It is not because there is a desire to die but we want to say, this is not just a protest, a march to hand in a petition. In 2007, we walked to Delhi and gave an order, a ‘desh’. We said to government, ‘now you must start acting in the interests of the poor people of the country and of the world.’ So it was Janadesh.

This time it is Jansatyagraha. Jansatyagraha is not one action, it is an ongoing action. It is a fight for truth. We are also saying, ‘look, you have made our life difficult so we are also going to make your life difficult’. Not by violence but by being there, simply by being there. The milk man will not be able to come to your door, nor will the newspaper because there are so many adivasis sitting there. Your children will not be able to go to school in a big Ambassador car because the road is blocked. You will feel uncomfortable and then you will understand what it means to live in discomfort.

We are also saying, ‘we walk into cities, because you are not giving us space to live in villages’. We have no interest to go to cities really, we don’t like them. But because you don’t allow us to stay in the villages, because you take our land, our forest, our water, and left us no option to live there, we have decided to walk to the cities. Really, we are saying ‘keep your cities but give us our villages back.’

There are ten policies that we are planning to challenge, because these are the ten policies that are affecting village life and the poor very seriously. Let me just mention them. The first is related to land, land given to the multinational companies and not to the poor people. The second policy concerns water, water being privatized and not given to the farmer. Another is forest resources being controlled by the government and not open to the tribal people to make their livelihood. Agriculture is becoming more corporate rather than people-centred. Mining is undertaken by large multinationals with the support of the government that displaces large numbers of aboriginal people. Industrialization is based on grabbing the land and water and mineral resources of the poor people. Tourism is carried out at the expense of poor people, by setting up five star hotels and stealing their resources. Land acquisition which is carried out illegally at the expense of the poor. Special Economic Zones that are being created in many parts of the country. And finally, the policy of liquor which has a devasting affect on village life.

So these are the ten policies and there will be ten committees set up to address these issues and to suggest what concrete changes are to be made in those policies to make the lives of ordinary people better.

This is only an announcement of what we are planning in India but in consultation with people around the globe. Ekta Europe is involved and the SAPA, South Asia Peace Alliance and many other friends. What we need however, is critical mass, to bring about change. And that is what I want to ask you to discuss: how do we make this a world level action? So that the media and the politicians will listen and move with us. How do you draw good people from the political and bureaucratic and economic fields? Let us not think that this is only an Indian action; we hope that it will trigger action across the globe.