Learning through ‘Pad-yatra’
What is a Padyatra?
A Pad-yatra is a group of people continually marching for long distances as a form of political protest. Padyatra was an ancient method in the Indian sub-continent to awaken people through religious and spiritual teachings and was carried out by monks and scholars. This method was revived by Gandhi in the 1930 in the famous salt satyagraha– and again it was taken up by Vinoba Bhave in the 1950s who walked on padyatra for fourteen years to collect extra land from the landlords to give to the peasantry. Again in 2012 Ekta Parishad (Unity Forum), a people’s organization is using the padyatra as a non-violent form of political protest for gaining land rights for the landless poor from the Indian state.
Padyatras have also been carried out by groups closer to home: i.e. Martin Luther King in the march to Salem during the civil rights movement in the USA in the 1950s; and by the Quebec Federation of Women in protesting for women’s rights in Canada in 2000.
Padyatra as a Learning Experience
The Padyatra provides a fun learning environment. It is eventful; it is truly magical because there are many people that sing songs, shout slogans; it is a chance to meet many people from all over India and from other parts of the world.
The padyatra is affirming of the individual: it gives the learner a chance to be creative –no matter what their educational level — because people are supportive in adverse circumstances, and the day to day work of walking in itself is arduous.
The padyatra offers safety because there are large numbers of people facing the state so the likelihood of the state retaliating is less.
It builds inner strength so that people will stand up for what they believe in more easily and are more resilient.
Within each padyatra how can we determine what has been learnt: is there progress or achievement of knowledge, skills and attitudes…?
Before looking at the components of learning, it is important to note that Ekta Parishad has carried out a dozen or so large state level padyatras and numerous smaller actions in its land rights campaign. This means that no one padyatra will offer such a learning environment; it is a continual and bottom up process of engaging people in larger and larger padyatras as their knowledge, skills and attitudes mature.
Knowledge: Since the padyatras are being conducted to rally poor people to press for their land rights, much of the transferred knowledge is related to land rights and land issues. People come with the knowledge of their own problems, but when they start comparing it to others on and throughout the padyatra then they get a larger understanding. They are also persuading others (i.e. bystanders, media, political leaders, etc.) of the veracity of their claims.
Moreover they begin to view the systemic structural violence that is dispossessing them of land entitlement, and understand that they are a part of this system. By acting differently and non violently they gain an “outsider” stance on structural violence. This may have been what Paulo Friere meant as a dialogic practice.
Some of the skills are picked up before the padyatra; and some during the padyatra.
– Organizing the padyatras in terms of logistics
– Learning cultural arts
– Working with the media
– Taking on group organizing
– Providing information to local communities
– Meeting political leaders
The main attitudinal development in a padyatra is to learn/imbibe having the inner strength to resist fear and to stand up for an individual and common good.
Evaluating Learning – How would one evaluate a padyatra’s learning?
Assuming that we are evaluating a praxis of action-reflection (dialogue) and then again action (modified); one could record the relation between dialogue and (modified) action to see if a change was achieved…?