Youth Camp Training enables young people to understand the elements required for leadership development, and the reason that this is important both in the context of gandhian (or non-violent political) action but also in terms of bottom-up democratic processes.
The camps are organized well in advance for men and women between the age group of 15 and 50. It is in these camps that they are sensitized on the importance of the land rights, the nature of exploitation by the land lords (zamindars), about tribal rights being guaranteed by the state etc., They are then given the tools for taking up mass struggle for the protection of people’s land rights. Youth are equipped with the tools of having a social analysis (i.e. articulate how non-violence is a form of political action which addresses the root cause of rural poverty, and simultaneously creates collective efforts to eliminate poverty and injustice) and an appropriate disposition or attitude for carrying it out (moral/self-regulating/self-disciplined) appropriate leadership qualities, and mobilization skills that can develop local capabilities through direct voluntary action as well ensure there is an attitude of voluntary service. They are taught techniques for carrying this out in the village. In this process they get a feeling of solidarity.
In summation then, the camps focus on two broad agendas: firstly, to engage in leading communities in activities like the construction of new village roads, repair of the existing ones, cleaning up the village tank, building canals, etc.; and secondly, to devote their efforts to assisting the poor in the community to help them to stand on their on their own without fear. There are many tools that are required to carry this out, and these are given in the following sub-sections i.e. cadre-building, strengthening women’s organizing, traditional leadership development, etc.
Small Case Study of Youth Camp in Bihar
The idea of holding youth camps in Bihar was conceived as a means of intervening in the conflict by bringing hope and constructive direction to the youth. The basic reason for the violence was a lack of faith in the state itself. The image of Bihar had been badly damaged by the incessant violence over the years and the way it was highlighted in the media added to insult to injury. The idea was to create respect among the youth on the history and culture of the state. The youth training has been part of the “Rebuilding Bihar” campaign which was/is aimed at bringing different caste groups together to take up a community scheme (i.e. restoration of traditional water systems) on the land issue indirectly. Apart from constructive work on the water tanks the youth were effectively bringing local farmers water free of cost. This enabled dialogue to take place on the land and wage issues between land-holders and the landless poor. (Rajagopal 2003)
The case study from Bihar given above is very significant. It illustrates that not only a youth camp is for mobilizing youth, it can be used as a critical development intervention to bring different caste groups together (which is not generally done in Bihar) and to bring the farmers into dialogue with the landless agricultural labourers. They are in a caste war situation, so this is a conflict and peace building exercise. The government of Bihar was so impressed by this method that they sanctioned many similar programs. (Rajagopal 2003)