"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.
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