Resistance and Struggle Tools

The second set of tools relate to resistance and struggle tools. In the context of gandhian struggle, they are a referenced to the concept of “Satyagraha” which means “holding on to truth”. The rationale here is that people that are being oppressed are free from immoral acts and they can do so without any justification, a kind of “self-evident” act similar to say, a “self-evident” truth. The immoral act rather falls on the oppressor. This is similar to Kant’s notion of universal moral law. (Rai: 75)

The reason for resistance however is also to try to press the government to implement pro-poor policies. Although these policies are on the books, the government because of a variety of vested interests finds it hard to implement them. Without an interest group reminding them of their responsibility and their duty to the public interest, the government can be easily moved by other interests.

The kind of struggle tools that Ekta Parishad uses are:

  • Developing a mini-campaign (morcha);
  • Using cultural activism to get a group(s) to rally behind a campaign;
  • Occupying the Land
  • Blockades, sit-ins, surrounding people as a way to show people’s force, etc.
  • Jan Sanwayee (People’s Hearing)

Developing a Mini-campaign (Morcha): A mini-campaign is (1) a tool of mobilization; it gets people at the grassroots level to come together and develop their own campaigns in a spontaneous manner. A mini-campaign is (2) an opportunity to standardize information related to the actions on the ground, which are normally invisible. Therefore a mini-campaign has the dual purpose of being an organizing tool in terms of action but also in terms of knowledge generation.

In terms of mobilization, it usually involves building a campaign systematically in one locality on one issue. Each region or larger area may have as many as two dozen mini-campaigns. Some may be fighting against alcohol liquor shops, some against dam construction, some for the rights of unorganized labour, etc..

Within these mini-campaigns, there are many tools developed.

Using cultural activism to get a people to support a land campaign: Within Ekta Parishad there is a group of highly enthusiastic and energetic artists who are folk singers and veterans of street theatre that work in a group called Ekta Kala Lok Manch (meaning “one artists group front”). As they approach villages, they raise slogans like “Zameen Apne Aap Ki, Nahin Kisi Sarkar Ki”  (“The land belongs to us, not to any government.”) and “Kala Kanoon Toregen, Jungal, Zameen Jotegen” (We shall break the black laws, shall plough the land and forest).  At all rallies, public meetings, it was they who provide high voltage transmission of messages through their plays that mirror the forced land alienation and exploitation of adivasi community by influential and moneyed class of villagers; while their songs are enchanting and inspiring to villagers to take up collective action. These are very important tools that are used.

Occupying Land: One of the tools of resistance is to forcibly (re)occupy land. In many places throughout the Ekta Parishad area, this is being done. Reoccupation means that adivasi people are staying on their own land (but without title); or people are claiming rights on surplus land. In some cases Ekta Parishad is doing a bhumi puja (traditional land claim ceremony) as a way to legitimize ownership. An example is provided of a case in point.

Acts of civil disobedience: blockades, sit-ins, surrounding people

In running mini-campaigns, many acts of civil disobedience are used such as the case study above in which the women sitting in front of the police station until the police released their husbands. Ekta Parishad has used various tools, for example blockades (such as roads or rail-lines); surrounding politicians (known as “gheroing”) and they agree to do something; sit-ins (“dharnas”) in front of senior government people’s offices, residences, or else the legislative building, etc.. In fact there is a whole history of these tactics in India’s Freedom struggle which is why there is a set of well-known terms like a lexicon of civil disobedience.

These tools are to be used carefully and not excessively. It is always important to not let the tool determine the strategy rather the strategy must determine the tool. In the case of Ekta Parishad it is common that when an action is launched then the government is given a warning to act. Using the threat of civil disobedience, then it provides a time-bound framework in which the government should correct the situation otherwise the people will “act”.

Jan Sanwai (People’s hearings): These are very important because this is like a people’s court which listens to people’s grievances and collects documentation to provide to the state administration, to the media, to courts, etc. It is a fact that many people have sent their grievances to the government sometimes as many as a dozen times with no action. Moreover the courts do not dispose of these grievances because powerful interests subvert the law by continuous stay orders.

Public hearings have also been organized by the District Task Force in a 31 districts (out of 45) in Madhya Pradesh. This gives the villagers the opportunity to air the grievances before the administration.  On the other hand it is also a means towards ensuring that the authorities becomes accountable to the people and adjudicates their grievances.

 Therefore this tool of having People’s Hearings is very important because these collected written grievances (like an affidavit), that are recorded (steno, audio and visual) are the locus standi by which to file a complaint and use as the basis of the land campaign.