The global need of non-violent struggle around land rights: a path for change? - open until October 1st

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From 09/10/2012
To 09/27/2012

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"India is going through a very challenging period. One can see clearly that there are two streams of people influencing (or trying to influence) the country. I identify them as a stream of violence and a stream of non-violence. Only the future will tell us who is going to succeed”. Those are the words of Rajagopal PV, Gandhian leader and President of Ekta Parishad, a people’s movement in India. He also says that “between violence and silence, there is active non-violence”, following the path opened by Mahatma Gandhi in the 1930’s with the Salt March and other non-violent, mass actions.

In India, Ekta Parishad tackles the issue on behalf of the bottom 30% of the population who are landless, homeless and are therefore marginalized, by undertaking large-scale non-violent actions to advocate for pro-poor comprehensive land reforms and respect of basic rights for the most vulnerable, especially women. Ekta Parishad has planned two national actions. In October 2011, Rajagopal PV and a team of activists started the “Jan Samwad Yatra”, a travel of one year through 350 districts of India. Meeting villagers and officials every day, the Jan Samwad Yatra has gathered 1000s of grievances related to land rights and poverty, has gained the support of around 2000 voluntary organizations and people’s organizations, and mobilized thousands of people for a large-scale non-violent action, the March “Jan Satyagraha”. Jan Satyagraha – ‘the March for Justice’ - will happen in October 2012 bringing together 100 000 poor villagers, adivasis1, dalits2 and other landless peasants from many states of India in what will be the largest ever non-violent action for land, water and forest rights. The marchers will walk the 350 km distance from Gwalior to Delhi to present their demands to the government (for the comprehensive demands, check http://www.ektaparishad.com/en-us/jansatyagraha2012march/objectives.aspx ).

We strongly believe that non-violence is the only way to struggle for policy changes, because it allows the poor, the vulnerable, the women, the marginalised, the “weak” to be part of a strong struggle; it raises their voices and reasserts their dignity. But it is also true that non-violence is a difficult path and there is no guarantee that people’s voices will be heard or the objectives of the struggles will be achieved . Hence, it is sometimes easier to believe that only armed-struggle can bring the change, only violence can oblige governments to accept changes, especially when the whole governance system is corrupt.

In the end of September 2012, a workshop will take place in Delhi to discuss non-violent dialogue at global level, with partners coming from all over the world. We would be honoured to share a report of key points, stories and questions emerging from this online discussion during this meeting, and in our work to come at global level and in India and bring back to you a report of the workshop.

Some questions to frame the discussion:

Recently India and the world witnessed a non-violent action in which 130 people stayed in neck-deep water for 2 weeks to protest the raising of the height of a dam (Omakreshwar dam) before the government agreed to their demands. What innovative, interesting applications of non-violence in a campaign context related to struggles over land, water, forests, mining, human rights, rights of marginalized communities etc have you experienced or witnessed? What new innovative ways to put pressure on the government have you witnessed or come across?

What challenges do you encounter in your country as you carry out your struggle non-violently, as an activist?

How has non-violence contributed or not contributed to bring about equality within the struggles, especially at gender level?"

What questions would you like to post to the participants at the workshop?

This discussion will last from September 10th to October 1st. The language is mainly english, but feel free to post inputs in french or spanish, and we will make sure to include the content of your posts in the final report.

1Indigenous people

2« Untouchables »

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Comments

Written by Anonymous (not verified) on 09/12/2012

this is the problem with the west when it comes to understanding non-violence in a movement's context. they cannot seem to think beyond tactics and strategy. Here is Arun Gandhi speaking about being totally non-violent i.e., not having any hatred or anger for the opponent and all she and her colleague can ask is about tactics (www.democracynow.org/2006/9/8/satyagraha_100_years_later_gandhi_launches) . it calls for super-human effort to remain deeply non-violent i.e., have no anger or malice towards the one against who the action is being carried out and that is being completely missed out. it is easy to generate hatred or anger in people. anger is important as it enables one to take action but then the question is how does one bring up the underlying anger without allowing it to over-power us and enables us to channelize it in a positive manner.

Written by Andrea Winiger on 09/16/2012

Jal Satyagraha

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Here is more information about the example of the people standing in neck-deep water to protest the raising of a dam mentioned in one of the questions:

The water level in Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar dams in the Narmada Valley has been illegally raised by the government causing submergence of large areas of land. Although the Supreme Court has clearly ordered that these oustees have to be rehabilitated 6 months before submergence, thousands of families who are yet to be rehabilitated are now being submerged in complete violation of Supreme Court and High Court orders.  For over two weeks, those people effected  of the Omkareshwar project (Khandwa) and of the Indira Sagar project (Harda) had been offering jal satyagraha by standing in neck deep water, demanding proper rehabilitation, compensation and a reduction in the level of dam waters.  

The protesters in Khandwa said they are determined to continue with their protest till their demands are met. "Till the time water level comes down to 189 metres and as per court orders we get our five acre land, and labourers get Rs. 2.5 lakh, we will die but we will sit here," said one of them. Finally, the state government had agreed to give land for land to the displaced villagers in Khandwa and reduce the dam height to 189 metres. Both were key demands of protesters.  

After relenting to the compensation demands of the villagers in Khandwa for flooding their lands, the Madhya Pradesh government decided to end a similar protest at the Harda district with police forcibly removing villagers who had been sitting in water. Those villagers had been sitting in the river water for over a fortnight demanding the levels of the Indira Sagar dam be lowered, and are also asking for compensation for the lands they have lost due to flooding.

Police evict  Jal Satyagraha protesters from the water in Harda: http://www.firstpost.com/india/police-forcibly-end-second-mp-jal-satyagraha-protest-452309.html

Video from the protesters in Khandwa:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoPbdXRe1ic  

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Written by Marie Bohner - ... on 09/18/2012

Resistance works in reflection to oppression

Thank you for your comments. It seems pretty impressive how people with their very life threatened, like it is the case in the described Jal Satyagraha, are indeed able to expose their life to an even more direct threat as a way to resist the oppression. Anger is of course the ferment of this attitude,as it is normal that unjustice causes anger and sometimes despair, but here it is combined to unity and hope for change, and channelised into action. The nature of resistance is historically most of the time linked to the nature of oppression : in the case of land rights and access to natural resources, resistance ought to be non-violent to be efficient, as the violence of the oppression is structural, political, economical. "Shining" India, claiming itself a the largest democracy in the world, can't ignore non-violent protest any longer, as it is the roots of its own creation. Democracy, even if doubtful in its implementation, allows non-violent protest. What about the countries which are not democracies? Does non-violent struggle around land rights, or any human rights, have a space there? We welcome your inputs...

Written by Garry (not verified) on 09/20/2012

Land is a crucial component of our lives more importantly in a country where most of the resources other than land have already shifted in the hands of people who influence the bureaucracy. Land is the only traditional livelihood option with the rural community, hence an action to ensure life is a must.

Written by harshal lonare (not verified) on 09/20/2012

For me being an INDIAN i know there are so many people living under just trees/ railway stations and even at open courtyards. Non-violence surely is a good way to broadcast your point of view among the powerful people. But it seems very lazy for me. Even if you are talking about how Mr. Gandhi did it in his way.... i am quite surprised why he signed for the treaty with ruling EAST INDIA company when they were not ready to release BHAGAT SINGH AZAD. No body has its answer. But any ways it was just history now. What i will suggest to promote this cause using different social media platforms it may help out you guys more. JAI HIND

Written by Marie Bohner - ... on 09/20/2012

Dear Harshal Lonare,

I understand your sceptiscism, having seen the same indian reality of immense poverty, and the emergency of the situation. It is also true that non-violent struggle needs time and determination, it is a long term process, where much people's life are threatened everyday. But non-violence is the only possible way in a democratic frame to keep dialogue going on, and that is what Ekta Parishad seems to achieve a little, with a meeting from Rajagopal with the Indian Governement today to call for land reforms... This dialogue is fragile and we are far from tangible results for now but at least there is a way out possible... And it is because of the pressure and unity of the people, because non-violent action allows them to unite in a common voice, being women, landless, tribals, dalits, or marginalised in any way. Strenght is in their unity and dignity rather than in some of them taking arms, don't you think?

Talking about social media, we are already present in some of them (facebook, twitter, some exchange platforms and networks), but if you can suggest more we are interested. What do you think makes the difference about advocating for rights in social media?

Written by Kalpana Sathish (not verified) on 09/21/2012

the anti-nuclear struggle of people by thriving to control over coastal and its related resources at Koodankulam, Tamil Nadu is the best example in India to discuss on the non-violent mode for land rights. since, i belong to this state and also involved in doing research on the actions of coastal communities, particularly the women of fishing communities for the past 16 years, i can share some of my key observations and analysis.

- the year long non-violent, gandhian way of struggle in Koodankulam has made the state authorities and ruling parties upset and unrest. hence, they tried all their possibilities of filing false cases, making allegations of foreign hand in the struggle, creating distractions by bribing local politicians, threatning people and refusing to give basic services, like water, electiricty, issue of passport, etc, also arresting people who enageged in non-violent struggle,
- however, people are stubborn in their mode of protest by sitting in fasting in front of the church of the village for more than a year now.
-and recently they held a protest on the beach by sitting quitely and also doing jal sathyagraga standing in sea water, placing their body inside the beach sand pit, etc.
- people continued to fence their village with the support of youth to prevent police intrusion (despite of it police entered the village and ransacked the church/houses, vehicles, etc when people were in protest at the beach on 11th september 2012).
- people sent memorandum to ruling parties, eminent persons, media, spiritual/religious leaders, etc.
- children writing letters to the fellow children in countries, where nuclear technology is exported to India.
- children holding press conference on their right over coastal land, raising questions of nuclear safety and reasons for choosing their village as location.
- women writing letters to women activists/women freedom fighters to voice their concerns with the ruling government/political parties, etc.
- every day update on the process of peaceful protest through media/internet, etc.
- writing articles on the exclusive website: www.dianuke.org
- doing boat yahra on the sea.
- conducting debate forums on nuclear technology its effects.
- seeking support of progressive movements/political groups, etc.
-regular meeting by the village leaders of the coastal communities to get further course of action
- organising special poojas/mass in the temple, churches/mosques- doing prayers to protect the coast from nuclear disaster.

What challenges do you encounter in your country as you carry out your struggle non-violently, as an activist?

- False cases with stringent, non-bailable sections of the law has been foisted against the organisers of the peaceful protests. search warrents, delaying the bail applications, etc.
- cornering the key leaders and creating rift between people through pressures.
- prompting the youth to retaliate the police when people engage in peaceful protest.
- media writing in favour of the nuclear plant and police.
- instigation by goondas, who are in favour of nuclear plant/ruling paries to create violence.
- judiciary not sensitive about people's voice in policy making process of the country.

How has non-violence contributed or not contributed to bring about equality within the struggles, especially at gender level?”

yes, it has given the space for women and reduced men's acceptance in women taking leadership.

however, the state treating women who are engaged in struggle as illiterate and not recognizing their voices and their ability to think for the development of their own village/region.

What questions would you like to post to the participants at the workshop?

-why should people tolerate the unlawful activities of the state and its machinery when they engage in non-violent struggle(which is a very time taking process).

-is there any respect shown by the state, judiciary, executive on the non-violent protests and its demands.

-do people have no choice of engaging/critiquing policy, which has made by governments, which run on the basis of representative democracy through one person -one time - one vote system?.
- how do you articulate the retaliation of masses against the brutal attack of police/para-militory/military forces within the definition of violent/non-violent struggles?
-can women be co-opted to non-violent struggle just because the society/state percieve them as soft forces.

Written by Anonyme (not verified) on 09/21/2012

The last comment about the anti-nuclear struggle shows one thing that constitutes the strength of non-violent struggle around land rights, that is its capacity to involve the affected community as a whole. First, because the question of land is affecting everyone, men, women and children. Secondly, because non-violence is a way of action in which everyone can get involved. One of the remarkable "side effect" of non-violent struggles is the empowerment of women. In India, I see many women engaged in non-violent struggles for land, and some of them are taking leadership in these struggles. This looks like an important step towards equality between women and men. It is therefore essential to encourage the participation of women in these struggles, but also to highlight the issue of women's rights to land. Access to land for women is another step towards equality.
In this connection, I would like to ask two questions to the participants of the workshop :
- How to increase the participation of women in non-violent struggles for land rights ?
- How to ensure a good representation of women at the leadership level?

Written by Jorgen Johansen... (not verified) on 09/27/2012

Nonviolence Versus US Imperialism

Jørgen Johansen, Brian Martin and Matt Meyer

This is the typescript of the article published in Economic & Political Weekly, Vol. 47, No. 38, 22 September 2012, pp. 82–89.

For valuable comments on drafts, we thank Sharon Callaghan, Erica Chenoweth, Jack DuVall, Janne Flyghed, Yasmin Rittau and Stellan Vinthagen.

Jørgen Johansen (johansen.jorgen@gmail.com) is a freelance academic and activist and editor of Resistance Studies Magazine; Brian Martin (bmartin@uow.edu.au) is professor of social sciences at the University of Wollongong, Australia; Matt Meyer (mmmsrnb@igc.org) is an activist, author, and editor, working with Africa World Press and PM Press, and a frequent contributor to WagingNonviolence.org and NewClearVision.com.

Abstract
Challenges to US imperialism based on armed struggle have been largely unsuccessful. A much more promising strategy is nonviolent popular action, which has only begun to be taken seriously for its potential long-term effectiveness. Six case studies — the Vietnam war, nuclear weapons, East Timor, Iraq, Puerto Rico and the so-called Arab spring — illustrate the potential of popular unarmed resistance to facets of the US imperial system. This approach warrants further development.

The United States today has the world’s most powerful military and until recently a successful economic system. The US government is able to impose its will on other peoples of the world far more than any other government. Some see this as a good thing, because of US traditions and practices of representative government and free markets. Others, though, see a dark side to US military, political and economic power — they see it as a modern form of imperialism, of unprecedented scope. Both these views can be justified. The “US Empire” has very different qualities from the “US Republic”.
Our aim here is not to argue about the nature of imperialism or whether the US fits one definition or another of imperialism or empire, but rather to look at challenges to forms of domination associated with the exploitative US military, economic and political power. That US culture includes a number of good qualities is without doubt, some of them being inspirations for resistance movements around the world. The US struggles for the abolition of slavery, universal voting rights, and civil rights for African-Americans are all important parts of the global struggle against injustice. Authors such as Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King, Jr. are still essential reading for resisters globally.
Three key features of US imperialism are military force, capitalism and ideology. The US military is by far the most powerful in the world, built on nearly half of the world’s military spending. Nuclear weapons provide dominance in the global balance of nuclear terror. Advanced chemical, biological, and conventional explosives with sophisticated delivery systems are the most lethal ones available. US non-lethal weapons and surveillance technologies are tools of social control.
From the point of view of US political and military leaders, US military power provides necessary protection of democratic freedoms and the “free world.” From the point of view of many people in the rest of the world, though, US military force is used to protect US interests, including via attacks on countries (Blum 1995, 2000; Buchheit 2008), support for client regimes and protection of US foreign investment.
Then there is the system of capitalism, infiltrating every facet of daily life through jobs and the market, with privatisation and corporate globalisation extending the reign of private property and market relations. Key elements in exploitative capitalism include sophisticated and brutal marketing, monopolistic dominance, private control over public goods such as water, trade controls under the guise of “agreements”, slave-like working conditions, obedient consumers, anti-union policies and relentless attacks against cooperative forms of organising social life (Jawara and Kwa 2003; Klein 2001, 2007).
Another key element of US imperialism is ideology: the standard package of beliefs about the way the world should be organised. This includes acceptance of hierarchy in the workplace with the system of owners, managers and workers, the encouragement of consumerism and associated acquisitiveness, the acceptance of social inequality as inevitable, and the belief in the necessity of armed force to protect against threats from internal and external enemies. These beliefs are most powerfully inculcated through experiences in day-to-day life and are reinforced through the style and content of mass media and Hollywood productions. This has been so successful that many consumers of products from exploitative workplaces hardly reflect on their place in the chain of profit making, pollution, and modern slavery.
Military dominance, capitalism and hegemonic beliefs are three of the key elements for understanding the place of the United States in the world. Should this package be labelled “imperialism”? There are debates about the relevance of the concept of imperialism and also about whether it is appropriate to call the United States an empire (Ferguson 2004; Hobsbawm 2008; Todd 2003; Wallerstein 2003). We are not too concerned about the exact label — for our purpose, it would be satisfactory to refer to a US-centred system with imperial elements. Our interest is in ways to challenge the exploitation and repression associated with this system.
We focus here on US imperialism, with the understanding that it is only one of the problems in the world, though one of the more serious and influential. There are other systems of imperialism. Some are subordinate to US imperialism, for example Australian government domination of small countries in the south Pacific. Others are independent of or antagonistic to US imperialism, such as Chinese government support for other regimes.
Then there are systems of domination other than imperialism. Male collective domination of women is a separate system of oppression, with some links to imperialism but not reducible to it: patriarchy and imperialism are each worthy of attention. Likewise, racial domination, subordination of people with disabilities, and environmental exploitation – to name a few – can be considered systems of oppression that are important in their own right and separate from imperialism, though with some overlaps, synergies and tensions.
We focus on US imperialism in part because of its significant impact on people’s lives and in part to emphasise that people’s resistance is potentially one of the greatest challenges to it. Much of the attention to US imperialism has come from left-wing critics who assume that armed struggle is, in the end, the only way to make an effective challenge. There is a growing amount of evidence to question this assumption.
People’s resistance to imperialism occurs at every point, from workers’ struggles to antiwar activism. The question is, what are the most effective ways both to resist the imperial system and to lay the foundation for a just and equal society?
We argue here that the most potent challenges to US imperialism have involved people’s direct action, without using physical violence. This is commonly called nonviolent action, civil resistance, or people power. It involves much more than the usual image of mass rallies or well-choreographed civil disobedience. A host of techniques and strategies can be used, including non-cooperation and setting up alternative political and economic systems.
We first give a general rationale for unarmed popular resistance to US imperialism. We then provide six case studies, each showcasing the successes achieved through the use of nonviolent direct action. The key to each of these cases is mobilising mass popular support, hence undermining the military, economic and ideological pillars of imperialism. Several of these case studies involve challenges to US military power and the economic exploitation enabled by this military power. All of them represent a serious dent in beliefs about the inevitability and benevolence of US imperialism.

The Rationale for Popular Unarmed Resistance
The US military has an overwhelming superiority in the use of force, including weapons, intelligence and training in how to kill (Grossman 1995). There is little disagreement that armed resistance to US forces is, at best, an exercise in asymmetric warfare: the raw strength of the US military machinery makes direct engagement a losing proposition. The most effective guerrilla struggles have been ones that rely upon political mobilisation to gain popular support for liberation, so that military assaults create greater support for the resistance — often as a result of civilian casualties (Joseph 1981; Meyer 2012). Even strong adherents of people’s war or foco-ism agree that mass mobilization is at the focal point of any winning strategy (Ely 2009).
Armed struggle has almost always been carried out in more limited arenas of struggle, with smaller numbers of adherents taking part in the struggle (Howes 2010). Firstly, direct participation in armed engagement is usually predominantly led by fit young men, with women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities less well represented. Secondly, armed resistance provides a rationale for overbearing US military reaction; armed struggle often solidifies popular support for US policy, especially in the United States. Members of the public interpret challenges more according to their most extreme methods than by their formal goals (Abrahms 2006). Rulers highlight violence by opponents to justify their own massive use of force against all opposition, including peaceful activists. Thirdly, armed struggle involves engaging with empire at its strongest point.
The practice of unarmed political resistance (Sharp 1973) avoids direct engagement with the US armed forces. Instead, it acts in ways that make US imperial violence counterproductive, by spotlighting the injustices of empire. Focusing on the overwhelming armed superiority that the imperial power holds, and on the inequities inherent in imperial rule, this practice seeks to turn the empire’s violence against itself. There are several reasons why strategic nonviolent action is ideal for making such a challenge. Firstly, it allows and requires widespread participation: everyone can join a boycott. Secondly, it does not threaten the lives of civilians or soldiers and hence has greater potential for winning them over. Thirdly, when violence is used against peaceful protesters, this often causes public outrage and ends up being counterproductive for the attackers (Martin 2007).
Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan (2011) carried out an analysis of 323 struggles against repressive regimes or occupations or in favour of secession, systematically comparing armed and unarmed campaigns. Their conclusion is that civil resistance is far more likely to be successful in achieving the aims of the struggle, and that success using civil resistance occurs just as frequently against the most repressive regimes as against softer opponents. The clear message is that nonviolent action can be effective against even the harshest opponents. Among the anti-dictator, self-determination and anti-occupation struggles they studied, Chenoweth and Stephan did not separate out those that were anti-imperialist, but it is reasonable to expect that their conclusions apply to this subset of their cases.
Chenoweth and Stephan also found that successful people power movements are more likely to result in stable democratic governments, whereas successful armed struggle is more likely to lead to repressive successor states (see also Johnstad 2010). In summary, civil resistance is more likely to succeed and, when it does succeed, creates better prospects for a stable free society. The keys are widespread mobilisation and campaigners’ strategic acumen. (See also Karatnycky and Ackerman 2005; Stephan and Chenoweth 2008).
Some critics argue that violence should remain in the activist toolkit and that to remain nonviolent is play into the hands of the state (Gelderloos 2007). Others, like Meyers (2000: 1), argue that nonviolence “encourages violence by the state and corporations.” However, these arguments have been limited to a critique of rigid and absolute pacifism, and have been shown to be narrow at best in their understanding of the diverse meanings and uses of unarmed action (Meyer 2008). They give insufficient consideration to the greater capacity for popular mobilisation using nonviolent methods (Martin 2008) and cannot account for the findings that civil resistance has been more successful than armed struggle against repressive opponents.
Here we describe six examples of popular nonviolent resistance to elements of the US imperial system. In each of these, military, economic and/or ideological aspects of the system have been restrained and transformed. These and other such struggles have made US imperialism ever more susceptible to popular challenge.

The Vietnam War
Complaints about US war policy in Vietnam started in the early 1960s. As the 1960s went on, university campuses became crucibles of anti-war protest, as students came to protest an unjust war, campus bureaucracy, and a graduation that would make male students eligible for the draft. Because conscription loomed over male students’ futures and provided an avenue for direct resistance to war on an individual level, much student activism was concerned with the draft. Beginning in 1964, students began burning their draft cards as acts of defiance (DeBenedetti and Chatfield 1990; Hall 2012; Howlett and Lieberman 2008). Manuals were written about how to avoid the draft (Shapiro and Striker 1970).
In late July 1965, President Lyndon Johnson ordered the number of young men to be drafted per month to go from 17,000 to 35,000, and on 31 August signed a law making it a crime to burn a draft card.
The movement included well known people. Senator Edward M. Kennedy objected to the Selective Service Act of 1967 and argued against the bill in support of conscientious objectors.
In 1967, the world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali refused to be conscripted into the US military, based on his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War. He was arrested, found guilty on draft evasion charges, and stripped of his boxing title. He was not imprisoned, but did not fight again for nearly four years while his appeal worked its way up to the Supreme Court, where it was successful.
In 1969, presidents of student bodies at 253 universities wrote to the White House to say that they personally planned to refuse induction into the military, joining the half million others who would do so during the course of the war (Baskir and Strauss 1978: 68).
It became clear that the war had less and less support. The younger generation convinced their parents that this war could not be justified. Many were willing to go to jail or into exile in order not to be part of the “war machinery”. No candidate for President and few candidates for Congress could be elected if they did not oppose the war in Vietnam. The mass mobilizations, nonviolent civil disobediences, and moratoria to end the war grew in size and breadth over the course of a few short years.
The Pentagon could have continued its military campaigns against Vietnam and Southeast Asia for many years beyond 1973, ever-escalating its use of weaponry. Though Vietnamese military action undoubtedly played a significant role, one key strategy signalled their own approach to winning the fight against the giant US military apparatus: popular engagement with both US soldiers and the essentially nonviolent US anti-war movement (Dellinger 1975, Hunt 1999). As the war intensified, so did resistance tactics — including property destruction through breaking into draft offices and burning or pouring blood on files relating to the war. A few US anti-war activists, most famously the Weather Underground, initiated a series of late-night bombings of symbols of the war, to challenge its continuation and “bring the war home.” While some credit these actions with causing greater government repression and discrediting or limiting the movement, even the staunchest of former Weather members and supporters understand that the need now, as before, is to “take the greatest care to respect life and minimize violence as we struggle to end violence.” (Gilbert 2012). The caricatures of crazy, gun-toting revolutionaries, like those of anti-war activists spitting on returning veterans, have largely been the fabrication of reactionary, pro-war media.
The truth about the Vietnam War is that it became politically untenable to continue sending troops, getting more and more body-bags in return. Domestic opposition to US policy in Vietnam made it impossible for the US government to continue its imperial war.

Nuclear Aspirations
During World War II, the US military poured enormous resources into developing nuclear weapons and then in August 1945 used them on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki even though the military rationale for this was questionable (Alperovitz 1966). Nuclear weapons have held a central place in US military preparedness ever since; nuclear power has developed along similar lines, with similar aspirations for the proliferation of weaponry (Bunn 2007).
During the cold war, the Soviet government developed and tested nuclear weapons. The nuclear arms race led to the production and deployment of tens of thousands of weapons on both sides, plus hundreds by several other countries.
On numerous occasions, US political and military leaders contemplated using nuclear weapons, for example during the Vietnam war and the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, but always held back (Burr and Kimball 2006; Kauzlarich and Kramer, 1998). The usual explanation is nuclear deterrence: US decision-makers were afraid of the Soviet nuclear arsenal and vice versa. But there is another, complementary, explanation: popular deterrence.
Lawrence Wittner (1993–2003), in his comprehensive history of protest movements against nuclear weapons, draws on internal government documents to show that the key factor restraining nuclear developments has been mobilised popular opinion. When there was little protest, nuclear arms races accelerated; when there was much vocal protest, arms races abated.
More generally, government leaders know that there would be a huge public backlash should they use nuclear weapons. The annual protest actions on Hiroshima Day reveal how long-lasting popular concern can be. There are numerous actions against nuclear weapons production, transport and deployment, for example Ploughshares direct actions in which protesters are willing to risk months or years in prison to make a moral statement (Herngren 1993), the women’s action at the US nuclear base at Greenham Common in Britain (Hopkins 1984) and the campaign against the neutron bomb (Auger 1966; Wittner 2009). The many actions and protests against US nuclear missiles in West Germany during the 1970s and 1980s were crucial for creating a strong opposition against these deployments. These sorts of actions have, over the decades, comprehensively stigmatised nuclear weapons in the public eye. Furthermore, the direct action campaigns of the late 1970s largely curtailed the US nuclear power industry, through use of affinity group-based activities and intensive trainings in nonviolence (Epstein 1993; Sheehan and Bachman 2009).
US military strategists have tried to overcome these public attitudes by developing miniature nuclear devices that are scarcely more powerful than the largest conventional weapons such as fuel-air explosives. But protesters and the public continue to see a qualitative difference between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons and power, and continue to call for resistance (Schell 2007). This has been a crucial factor in restraining the use of the nuclear arsenal in support of US imperialism.

Indonesia and East Timor
Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman (1979) in The Political Economy of Human Rights, their classic analysis of US imperialism, described a vast system of authoritarian client states that they characterised as sub-fascism. The US government propped up numerous Third World regimes that kept their populations subjugated.
One of the key client states was Indonesia. In 1965, left-wing president Sukarno was overthrown in a military operation involving genocidal violence throughout Indonesia (Cribb 1990), in what Chomsky and Herman called “constructive terror” because it served the interests of US capital and foreign policy. The new president, Suharto, maintained a repressive rule that was receptive to international capital and US military operations.
In 1974, after the collapse of Portugal’s fascist government, popular movements in former Portuguese colonies asserted their independence. One of them was in East Timor, located on half an island in the Indonesian archipelago. In 1975, Indonesian military forces invaded and occupied East Timor (Budiardjo and Liong 1984). Chomsky and Herman gave this case special attention.
Fretilin, the leading movement in East Timor, used arms to resist the occupation but, in the face of superior Indonesian forces, soon was forced to retreat to mountain areas. The armed struggle had a disastrous effect on the population through killings and starvation, with a significant proportion of the civilian population dying over the next decade.
In the late 1980s, Fretilin reconsidered its strategies, pulled back from armed attack and shifted to civilian resistance in urban areas (Fukuda 2000). The turning point was on 12 November 1991, when Indonesian troops opened fire on peaceful protesters in a funeral march in the capital Dili, just as they were entering Santa Cruz cemetery. The massacre was witnessed and recorded by Western journalists. They managed to smuggle photos and videos out of the country. The story of the massacre galvanised the international support movement for East Timorese independence, laying the groundwork for independence a decade later (Nevins 2005).
The Indonesian military’s killing of hundreds of peaceful protesters in Dili did more for the independence movement than a decade of armed struggle. That is because the armed phase of the resistance was seen internationally as a struggle between two competing armed groups, despite the huge disproportion in their capabilities and in lives lost. The Dili massacre, on the other hand, aroused international condemnation precisely because, as a case of violence versus nonviolence, it was seen as unjust.
The struggle in East Timor was a prelude to political change in Indonesia in 1998. Following the economic downturn of the Asian financial crisis, popular protest surged. When soldiers used force to crack down on student protesters, this only increased the level of protest. There was some rioting, but there was no armed challenge to the government. The popular pressure was enough to cause Suharto to resign, and free elections followed (Aspinall et al. 1999). Civil resistance was the key to transforming Indonesia from a “subfascist” client state to a society with a more vibrant and independent public sphere.

The Invasion of Iraq
In 2002, President George W. Bush and other US political leaders began publicly preparing the ground for an invasion of Iraq. The reasons were complex and included Saddam Hussein’s defiance of US government demands, Iraqi oil and the strategic role of Iraq in the Middle East. Bush, US Vice President Dick Cheney and others manipulated public opinion by falsely claiming that the Iraqi government possessed or was developing nuclear weapons and that Saddam Hussein was linked to Al Qaeda and was responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks (Rampton and Stauber 2003).
In response to these war preparations, people around the world protested, including in massive demonstrations on 15 February 2003, with perhaps 10 million participants worldwide, the largest antiwar protest in history. Despite the massive opposition, the invasion proceeded the next month.
Many peace activists think that because the invasion went ahead, therefore they failed and protest was not enough. This perspective has an element of truth, but it misses something important: the protests put a serious constraint on US imperial designs and indeed were a major setback for US neoliberal-military visions for the future. It also misses that fact that, like with the Vietnam war and the anti-nuclear movements, it is official US government policy to deny that demonstrations make any difference — though Presidential memoirs and declassified documents prove that numbers are always counted and large demonstrations have always prevented greater warfare (Wittner 1993–2003).
The protests both triggered and reflected massive disillusionment with US plans for military conquest. Following the invasion, public support for US policy declined around the world (Pew Global Attitudes Project 2003).
It is important to remember that in 2003, the US government was still basking in international sympathy and support in the aftermath of 9/11: the US was seen as the victim of an outrageous attack. As a consequence, the October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan had widespread popular support, despite the fact that most of the 9/11 attackers were from Saudi Arabia and that the bombing of Afghanistan caused significant civilian casualties (Herold 2012).
If the invasion of Iraq had proceeded with little popular opposition, it is quite possible that Bush, Cheney and crew might have proceeded to further invasions, such as of Syria and Iran. Indeed, for years there has been a concerted effort to demonise the Iranian government and lay the groundwork for undermining it. The huge protests against the invasion of Iraq gave a taste of the likely response to further imperial adventures in the Middle East.

Resistance to Colonialism in Puerto Rico
One of the earliest US acts of empire-building took place in 1898, at the end of the Spanish-American war, when US Marines landed on the shores of San Juan, Puerto Rico to take over this island territory which had just signed a treaty of autonomy with Spain less than six months earlier. Though acts of the US Congress ratified Puerto Rico as a part of the “mainland,” there was always resistance to US colonialism, often linked to anti-military mobilisation (Lopez 1999).
The Nationalist Party’s first major campaigns involved support for a successful strike by sugarcane workers in 1934 and a nonviolent parade in 1937, fired upon by Puerto Rican police and members of the National Guard in what came to be known as the Ponce Massacre. Student strikes at the University of Puerto Rico and non-cooperation campaigns amongst the general population have met every major attempt of US corporate privatization of Puerto Rican services or suggestion of increased imperial control, from the late 1960s to the current period (Nieves Falcón 2002). Since the United Nations Decolonization Committee first recognized Puerto Rico as a non-self-governing territory in 1972, nonviolent demonstrations involving the Puerto Rican population (including Puerto Ricans living in the US) have been a common feature of periodic calls for referendum, votes, and United Nations reviews — including several widespread anti-electoral stay-at-home efforts (FAE, 1989; Torres and Velázquez, 1998).
The struggle for an end to US Navy occupation and use of the Puerto Rican islands of Culebra (1939–1975) and Vieques (1941–2003) became symbolic of the larger struggle against colonialism and imperialism. From the human blockades staged by scores of displaced fishermen to permanent encampments built on land controlled by the Navy, to massive occupation of the Navy firing range, the decades of protest included some of the most creative uses of civilian resistance techniques. As a growing number of Puerto Ricans demonstrated willingness to put their bodies in the way of the bomb testing and navy operations, more intentional and intensified nonviolence trainings were conducted. By 2003, the campaign had spanned across the entire spectrum of Puerto Rican social, religious, and political society (from left to right and beyond), and the US Navy was forced into a complete withdrawal, amidst on-going calls for US government clean-up and reparations.
The Vieques demilitarization campaign won its demands shortly following and in the context of another anti-imperialist victory within the larger Puerto Rican movement. Widespread educational efforts and door-to-door organizing characterized more than ten years of work on behalf of fourteen jailed Puerto Ricans widely recognized internationally as political prisoners. Despite the fact that the political prisoners were part of armed clandestine organizations growing out of the militancy of the 1970s — many of whom, upon capture in the early 1980s, declared themselves combatant prisoners of war — the movement for their freedom grew closer in form and ideology to nonviolent campaigns as the campaign developed. Well-planned civil disobedience actions in front of the White House and Pentagon throughout the 1990s drew on solidarity and collaboration with the War Resisters League and Catholic Worker movements, and educational efforts and study tours (held in conjunction with the Vieques campaign) were formulated with the assistance of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR 1992). By 1999, a dozen Nobel recipients had signed on to the Call for Amnesty, including Coretta Scott King and Archbishop Desmond Tutu — both mentioned by President Clinton when he announced a clemency offer to many of the Puerto Rican prisoners later that same year.
The struggle for an end of US colonial rule over Puerto Rico is not yet complete. But the US government desires for unchecked economic exploitation matched with unlimited political containment and repression has not been possible; US military plans, using Puerto Rico as a base of aggression against the rest of Latin American, have been largely rolled back. With coordinated mass mobilizations across many decades and diverse issues, the Puerto Rican anti-imperial momentum has been carried forward utilizing many tactics, the vast majority of which were unarmed. In addition, as the decolonization movements have gained increasing strength reaching greater numbers of the Puerto Rican population, the explicit use of nonviolent actions and strategies has grown. Moving from one victory to the next, many Puerto Rican leaders originally convinced of the necessity of armed struggle have now shifted emphasis, recognizing the efficacy of nonviolence against empire (Meyer 1999; WRI 2002).

The Not-Just Arab Spring
The government in Washington boasts it actively promotes democracy and freedom across the globe. But democracy export is only for “unfriendly” regimes. Little or no government support is offered for most opposition movements in “friendly” dictatorships like Chile (in the 1980s), Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Most Western governments are ready to support democracy only when friendly or acceptable groups are voted into power; others are labelled “terrorists” even when they win free and fair elections, such as in Algeria in 1990 and Palestine in 2006 (Johansen 2011). Like the unarmed civilian resistance movement in Chile which forced out dictator Augusto Pinochet (installed after the Central Intelligence Agency-supported 1973 coup against democratically elected socialist President Salvador Allende), resistance to empire does not always deal blows directly against the US structures themselves, but against the puppets, clients, and allies of the US government who do its bidding in strategic regions.
This is part of the background to the so-called Arab Spring (Cook 2012; Gardner 2011; Sowers and Toensing 2012). In late 2010 and early 2011, when ordinary people in Western Sahara, Sudan Somalia, Cameroon, Nigeria, Cote D’Ivoire, the Gambia, and most famously Tunisia and Egypt escalated demonstrations, strikes and vigils against their own governments, they were well aware that this was also against the elite in Washington, which for years had supported these regimes with money, military equipment, intelligence, and beneficial trade deals (Aswany 2011; Filiu 2011; Gardner 2011).
Western powers, and the US government especially, had long spoken about the “need for stability,” a code for supporting dictatorships. In 2009, the Obama administration pumped in $1.7 billion as annual support to the Mubarak regime. As the anti-Mubarak protests gained increasing sympathy inside Egypt and worldwide, elements within the US administration gradually moderated their support for the regime (Zunes 2012).
The origins of these uprisings were genuinely domestic and based on experiences from Arab history. It is no secret that academics and activists from Western states, the US included, had contributed with nonviolence trainings, making manuals available in Arabic, and giving seminars on nonviolent strategies. But the claims from left and right of the political spectrum that these revolutions took place because of or based upon these trainings and seminars is an Eurocentric/Orientalist notion which implies no agency, consciousness, initiative or leadership on the parts of the Tunisians, Egyptians, and others involved.
Recruitment, mobilisation and organising were vital to the success of these movements. With modern means of communication they were able to get sufficient protesters together to make it hard for the state to ignore them. They had the patience, strength and courage to stay in the streets for weeks. The value of avoiding armed resistance, even when protesters were attacked with brutal force, was understood and followed so every act of violence from the police or military generated greater support for the opposition. After some time, quite dramatically, even parts of police and the military changed their loyalties for a time, and joined the opposition. The protesters were able to bring their countries to near standstills, forcing Washington policy makers to do an about-face and scramble for newly-approved figureheads to help manage their neoliberal agendas.

Conclusion
US military technology and training are so advanced that armed resistance is increasingly futile. Despite significant training, years of study and experience, and untold human, fiscal, and natural resources devoted to armed struggle, armed movements have been repeatedly unable to provide a sustained challenge to US military and economic power. For 70 years, Communist states and insurgent armed movements did prove to be a powerful short-term challenge to world capitalism. By 1989 however, as Eastern European communist governments collapsed in a process where people power played a major role (Randle 1991), how to best take on the centres of imperial power became a central strategic question.
To tackle an opponent on its strongest point is illogical at best; foco-ist attempts to inspire mass participation have met with less than enthusiastic response. Urban guerrillas stand as little chance of ongoing success against missiles, global surveillance, drones and soldiers prepared for battle with the latest training techniques as did cavalry making a charge against machine guns in World War I. Furthermore, armed opposition provides an easy pretext for counter-attack, and often leads to increased militarism throughout society.
An alternative way to challenge US imperial might is through civil resistance: masses of people using a variety of techniques of protest, non-cooperation and intervention. The six case studies illustrate how popular unarmed resistance can help restrain arms races, challenge authoritarian client states, undermine the political capacity for military interventions and change political agendas. These case studies do not prove that US imperial power can be contained by unarmed resistance, but do give an indication that people power offers a potent challenge whose full capacity has yet to be fully developed.
Ideally, an alternative to imperialism should reflect, through its methods and processes, the goal to be achieved, namely a more democratic, egalitarian, and just society, without domination and exploitation. Far more than armed struggle, popular unarmed resistance, with techniques such as rallies, occupations, boycotts and setting up parallel social institutions, enables widespread participation and internal democracy. Interestingly, civil resistance can be considered to be an unarmed version of guerrilla warfare (Boserup and Mack 1974). Rather than using arms, the challengers use a variety of other techniques that undermine the will and power of the opponent (Burrowes 1996).
The idea of revolution is often associated with armed uprising against a dominant power, but this is only one model. Civil resistance offers a different model of revolution, involving popular unarmed mobilisation and a more gradual process of undermining the legitimacy and operations of the prevailing system (Lakey 1985; Martin 1993). Armed struggle has been tried and repeatedly failed; it is time for an equivalent effort to be directed towards nonviolent approaches. It is time now for people power to be used against the US imperial project.

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Written by Marie Bohner - ... on 09/27/2012

Dear all,

As you can see the discussion was extended until October 1st, to be a kind of "forum" for the "Ahimsa" dialogue taking place in Delhi at the moment, as a virtual tool to be linked with a concrete exchange between activists here, gathered around non-violence and land rights. Please do take advantage of this event to express yourself and exchange around these experiences: the more we can learn from each other, the more we will progress on the path of change. A report will be done at the end of the discussion to make a summary of it and create further dialogue. Thank you in advance for your contributions!

Please also have a look at an inspiring document published by Matt Meyer around land rights and struggle in Africa: Liberation and the Looting of African Land

Written by Marie Bohner - ... on 09/29/2012

Comment on behalf of Stéphanie Feugère, currently in Philippines and unable to post this comment herself:

Hi everyone,

to answer Harshal saying "Non-violence surely is a good way to broadcast your point of view among the powerful people. But it seems very lazy for me.", I don't think non-violence is a lazy thing... Having traveled many times to the most remote Indian villages where Ekta Parishad is working, I can confirm that these people are anything but lazy. They are ready to stand up and to work hard to struggle for their rights... And is it lazyness to leave their village for a month to walk on a road in order to make their rights respected? I don't think so! As Rajagopal says "between silence and violence, there is ACTIVE non violence" ! I believe in this...
Non violence is a more and more urgent matter to put in mind of everyone on this Earth, as well as solidarity. This is the way we could together continue to live in harmony!
I fully agree with Marie when she says non violence takes time but we have to keep faith in non violence! It is how it works! Many people are here to discourage those who promote non violence, but these people did not yet understand that non violence is a strength in itself that give you a lot of patience and that non violent people don't get discouraged so easily!
I'm very glad to hear that the lattest development regarding the demands of Jansatyagraha have already shown the start of a success of this non violent struggle, even before the biggest non violent action of the history starts!
Jai Jagat!


StéphanieStéphanie FEUGERE
   5953D FerminaStreet Barangay Poblacion Makati City PHILIPPINES

Written by Marie Bohner - ... on 09/29/2012

Dear all, things are moving well in Delhi as we speak, and it seems that non-violent action can sometimes be greeted with negotiations with the governement.... That is happening right now with Ekta Parishad. Have a look at the latest video interview of Rajagopal PV: Interview PV Rajagopal before Jan Satyagraha - March for Justice

Written by chris cavanagh on 09/29/2012

i appreciate this dialogue and consider the practice (even praxis) and
promotion of nonviolence as one of the most important aspects of our
global struggles for social, economic and political justice. And, given
the examples in which i have participated (extremely modest
participation at best) and the numerous examples i have studied in text
and image and/or learned about from others, i do believe that the
strategic/tactical use of active nonviolence to be the most important
praxis to grow and apply in the world. I write "praxis" because it names
a complex relationship of individual and social change, ethical and
pedagogical action - i.e. much more than is meant by the word practice.
For to understand the profound power of active nonviolence i believe we
must understand both how it works to change our shared world and how it
works to change those of us who participate in it.

I want to focus for a moment on one aspect of this. And i will begin with, perhaps, an odd choice of person to quote: Che Guevara said: “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, the true
revolutionary is motivated by great feelings of love.” Which i take as a powerful reminder of our connection with each other and all creation. I am always struck by how many ways the various
cultures of our world have named this connection. Most recently I have learned of the
notion from my wife’s culture of hishook ish tsawalk which translates as
"everything is one and all is interconnected." I have learned this
from the indigenous people of the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada - the Nuu-chah-nulth. Some of you may be familiar with the word ubuntu -  a Zulu/Nguni word from southern Africa that I
have seen variously translated to mean "I exist because you exist",
"I am because you are", or, simply, "fellow feeling."
Desmond Tutu writes:

A
person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does
not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper
self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater
whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others
are tortured or oppressed.
(No Future Without
Forgiveness
,
1999
)

A similar Zulu saying, umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu,  translates into English as "a person is a
person through other persons."

The Jewish philospher Martin Buber offers
us an important bridge with which to connect human rights and environmental
advocacy. He famously wrote about a notion of I/Thou which describes the
irreducibility of being in the world with others, including all the living
beings of the world.

I contemplate a tree.
            I can accept it as a picture:
a rigid pillar in a flood of light, or splashes of green traversed by the
gentleness of the blue silver ground.
            I can feel it as movement: the
flowing veins around the sturdy, striving core, the sucking of the roots, the
breathing of the leaves, the infinite commerce with earth and air--and the
growing itself in its darkness.
            I can assign it to a species
and observe it as an instance, with an eye to its construction and its way of
life.
            I can overcome its uniqueness
and form so rigorously that I recognize it only as an expression of the
law--those laws according to which a constant opposition of forces is
continually adjusted, or those laws according to which the elements mix and
separate.
            I can dissolve it into a
number, into a pure relation between numbers, and eternalize it.
            Throughout all of this the
tree remains my object and has its place and its time span, its kind and
condition.
            But it can also happen, if
will and grace are joined, that as I contemplate the tree I am drawn into a
relation, and the tree ceases to be an It. The power of exclusiveness has
seized me.
            This does not require me to
forego any of the modes of contemplation. There is nothing that I must not see
in order to see, and there is no knowledge that I must forget. Rather is
everything, picture and movement, species and instance, law and number included
and inseparably fused.
            Whatever belongs to the tree
is included: its form and its mechanics, its colors and its chemistry, its
conversation with the elements and its conversation with the stars--all this in
its entirety.
            The tree is no impression, no
play of my imagination, no aspect of a mood; it confronts me bodily and has to
deal with me as I must deal with it--only differently.
            One should not try to dilute
the meaning of the relation: relation is reciprocity.
            Does the tree then have
consciousness, similar to our own? I have no experience of that. But thinking
that you have brought this off in your own case, must you again divide the
indivisible? What I encounter is neither the soul of a tree nor a dryad, but
the tree itself. (Martin Buber,
I and Thou, tr. Walter Kaufmann, 1923)

This description of interconnection with a
tree is one that I believe accords well with many aboriginal world views.

I
don't think i need say much in this context of a non-violent struggle
in India about the Bhagavad Gita. I would just like to cite it as yet
another profound expression of the interconnection of all beings. (The
Gita is, of course, abundant with wisdom and advice in addition to my
modest emphasis.)

Finally one of my favourite images of
interconnection: The Jewel Net of Indra, described in an ancient Buddhist text
called the Avatamsaka Sutra:

Far
away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net
that has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches
out infinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of
deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel in each
"eye" of the net, and since the net itself is infinite in all
dimensions, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels,
glittering like stars of the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If
we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely
at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all
the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the
jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so
that there is an infinite reflecting process occurring. (Francis H. Cook,
Hua-yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of
Indra
,
University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977, p. 2.)

Imagine our work seen this way. Our lives, our practices, our choices,
all connected – infinitely reflecting each other.

Thus i think of nonviolence
and how it allows us to act on this connection. I suggest that violence
and oppression emerges precisely when we forget this interconnection.
And in this age of global warming and climate crises none of us can act
without affecting everything around us. I worry that our strategy and
tactics will not be enough to turn us away from what seems a path to an
inevitable increase in loss and suffering of human and animal life and,
of course, irrevocable damage to our entire planet. But i believe that
as we change ourselves we also change our world and as we change our
world we change ourselves. This is the praxis that i referred to
earlier. As someone who practices popular education i see learning
(simultaneously individual and collective) as a fundamental aspect of
change. And i think we have more to learn from nonviolent action than
violent action. Nonviolence connects us, violence sunders us apart. Is
this not what ahimsa means in part? That we are connected?

A last
thought about land. Living in an urban centre like Toronto i am mindful
of the percentage of our 7 billion fellow humans who live in cites (one
stat i've seen is that 95% of the world's population lives on 10% of
the land). This strikes me as profound disconnection. For despite this
rather fearsome statistic we are part of the land. But made to forget
this, as happens so easily in urban populations, we collectively effect
tremendous violence on our planet (for which global warming is perhaps
the most infamous consequence). How can we continue this way and not
believe that we will increase suffering exponentially? I've learned that
China is buying land around the world (including here in rural Ontario)
and that it is likely they are doing so in order to use that land to
feed themselves. When a nation of 1.344 billion people starts to buy
land elsewhere in the world in order to feed itself - well... that can't
end well.

About this, one final note of connection:

Once two neighbours fell to arguing over which owned a particular piece
of land. Their argument threatened to grow into a bitter quarrel as each
was convinced that he owned the land over which they fought. Another
neighbour suggested that they go and ask their rabbi for advice. This
they did and each man presented to the rabbi his case and his proof for
ownership of the land. The rabbi listened to each man and said, “you
both have good cases, good proof and you are both correct. I cannot
decide. Let us go to the land you are arguing over.” Once they arrived
on the disputed land the rabbi got down on his hands and knees and put
his ear to the ground. He stayed in this position for some time and then
he stood up. “Gentlemen, I have listened to the land. And the land says
that it belongs to neither of you. Rather it says that you belong to
the land.”

Written by Francis Atul Sarker (not verified) on 09/30/2012

Dear all,

It is inspiring to see that access to and entitlement for land for the poorer section of society is well taken and a movement is in progress.

I would like to add some reflections and experiences from the struggle of Adivasi communities of Bangladesh towards retaining their ancestral land.

Adivasis [I refer to the Mandis of Bangladesh] believe that 'land is life'. It is sacred and the concept of Customary Land Rights derives from that world view so strongly hold by the adivasis.

Experiences from the non-violent movement for land rights of the adivasis shows that it is achievable. Having said that one may refer to the armed conflict in the Chittagong Hill Tracts for over two decades that has caused many lives and displacement of many adivasis in that particular region.

But Bangladesh has also demonstrated that the struggle and armed conflict did not bear fruit till the hill people and the state representatives sat together to settle the issue. Here lies the strength of non-violent approach to claim entitlement of land.

Further, my own experience in working with community organizations centering land problem shows that much can be achieved through increasing the net of allies, i.e. brining in the members of civil society into the mainstream of discussion and dialogue. In Bangladesh, as the media, members from lawyers associations, academics, community organizations began to join hands the issue of land rights of the adivasis began to gather momentum. Now, the poor and the marginalized are not alone in their struggle. But they have allies in the society who are also clamoring for the rights of land of the downtrodden.

Very recently, such collective effort of the civil society, deprived people has become partially successful. The government of Bangladesh has passed a land mark bill to repeal the act of Vested Property and taken initiative to return those lands to owners whose land had been made acquisition by the state in the past by way of false documents and other unfair means adopted by few officials of the land administration.

The process has just began. And many of the adivasi community people and from other minority communities have began to file their petition to re-gain their land.

It is true that this will take long time before the victims get back their rights of entitlement. But the non-violent way secure the way to achieve the goal without shedding blood or spreading hatred between and among people.

Atul

Written by Marie Bohner - ... on 10/08/2012

Dear all,

Thank you very much for your contributions. The discussion is closed since October 1st, and a report should be online in the coming days.

We hope that this exchanges have been as helpful to you ad they were to us, and hope to meet you online again very soon.

Thank you again, in solidarity!

Written by Gandhi Mahatma (not verified) on 10/24/2012

Hello. Today this situation is all around the India. And now it become very necessary to follow the quotes by Mahatma Gandhi and Bhagat Singh. Otherwise it is impossible to get freedom from this corrupted government. This will be possible only when every man who does not want .0001% corruption should protest every time whenever anyone asks for bribe or something like this. Every man has to adopt the quote Long live revolution. This can be possible with a revolutionary action. But with the support of common people. I remember one of very revolutionary <a href="http://mahatmagandhiquotes.com">Gandhi quotes</a> - I’m a lover of my own liberty, and so I would do nothing to restrict yours. It has sense to protest every thing which is compelling you and making you deprive of any basic need. If you will follow the non-violence then your victory is confirmed. To motivate the enthusiasm to protest we must read quotes by Gandhi or other freedom fighters. Who gave us freedom from British Government then why can not we do this against these corrupted people. You just need to make every moment of them like a hell (Psychologically). Then we need not any ammunition or arms to fight with them. Just say no for every inhuman action.