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Understanding Jansatyagraha Through Rajagopal's Interviews
Immediately after Janadesh, there were two very important developments:
One, as a result of Janadesh and the kind of pressure built on the government, a Forest Rights Act was passed.
The Forest Rights Act is basiccally to address the problems of adivasis, the indigenous people of India. In India, we have 8% of indigenous people, and they were suffering because of various programmes by the government in their own forest like mining, dams, tiger reserves, national parks, etc. Because of these activities, indigenous people were pushed out of the forests. So this Forest Rights Act was basically expressing a concern of this development model, tried to say look there are injustice committed on adivasis, and that injustice needs to be corrected. So this is historical injustice.
So one important development was Forest Rights Act, through which adivasis were supposed to get their land and their rights on the forest. Infortunately, this was not done properly. As a result, until now only 800,000 people got land, where we have 8% of adivasis in the Indian population (9,600,000 people).
The second development was a committee, which is called National Land Reform Committee, and this committee was supposed to go around the country, and make recommendations in terms of efforts for land reform policy.
The committee did its job, and there was another Council called National Land Reform Council. The Council was supposed to get all the recommendations of the Committee, and formulate a policy, which is not done.
So this time we want to have another round of satyagraha (non-violent struggle), it is basically trying say look the government did not fulfill its promises, so we are planning to walk again, and this time it is a bigger action because without a bigger action, on the whole world, everybody is trying to invest their money on land. The land can be shifted to the rich and the corporate houses to the poor unless there is a huge built up of public opinion through out the country. So I would say in the first round, this was a small success, and we hope to make greater success through the second round.
The second question being why satyagraha again. Why moving from Janadesh to Jansatyagraha, People’s Verdict to People’s Fighting for Truth. See in the first round itself the direct achievement in the term of law, but there are other achievements, like training a large number of people for non-violent actions, motivating a large number of poor people to take their life into their hand, so there are many other indirect achievements in a mass movement, it is not just the law, but also how you put up people. So the Jansatyagraha will like to address various issues.
We definitely want a strong, comprehensive, land reform policy. The government is trying to engage as discussing small issues. How this act should be implemented, how that should be implemented, how much land should be taken, how much land should not be taken.
What we are saying is don’t engage us in tits and bits, small pieces, tell us what is your comprehensive agenda for land reforms in India. How much land will go to the Forest Department, how much land will go to the Railway Department, how much land will go to army, how much land will be used for beautification and expansion of cities, and what is the quantum of land will be available to the poor people of this country.
What we are speaking now on the agenda of land governance, how do you govern the land of the country. Can you just distribute the way you want, or the poor people will also have the right over some part of the land? The second question is how do you use your land? Is your land only for infrastructure? Or will also use the land for producing food? And the third question is how do you produce food? Will you abuse all the land by puting fertilizers and polluting all the rivers? Or will you want to think of producing food in a way that is … for the people? So around the land, agriculture, food issues, we have a lot of questions raised, and we are going to raise them systematically into a national land reform policy and comprehensive policy on land and food.
But the indirect achievements are too …
Last time we had to train only 3,500 people to lead the march in non-violent action. This time we are going to train 12,500 young people into this action.
So we train 4 times more young people, and 4 times more young people understanding what is non-violence. How do you create pressure non-violently, etc. Last time, only 25,000 people participated, this time we want 100,000 people to participate. So there is a big scaling now in terms of people’s power, there is also scaling in terms of … issues, there is also scaling in terms of advocacy. I use it as a training ground involved in making democracy vibrant. You know democracy is not about people getting elected and abusing the state. Democracy is people continuously controlling the state and making it accountable and responsible to the ordinary people of the country. So the second action will definitely be a larger one. Last time it was only one month, this it is going to be more than one year, 13 months.
So it is a bigger action, involving more people, addressing more and much larger issues. … in the country, resources management, …
The difference between Jansatyagraha and Janadesh.
So what are the differences? Time is changing. There is greater demand on land
Because of globalization, we are opening … the borders are breaking down, capitalism is travelling in a big way, technology is travelling in a big way. So because capitalism and technology are coming together in a big way, there are too many companies who want to exploite the resources of the country. The resources are basically land, forest and water … . So a large number of mining companies are moving in.
It is atmost as a cry that if we are not doing it now, we are losing opportunities.
(These companies are thinking:)
So take this opportunity. There are huge demands for steel, huge demands for cement, huge demands for various resources, final products, real competitionto take what is available. It is much more difficult to stop this people because they have all kinds of support. The governement is taking side with them. powerful lobbies are with them, the World Bank is with them, the International Monetary Fund is with them.
They have a real understanding of how the development should be directed.
We are sitting in the opposite direction. We are saying, look, this is not the right development model. If we exploite all the resources at this speed, there will be nothing left after 50 years or 100 years. What is the futuristic .. of the governement? Some of us are trying to speak about .. next generations, and their wellbeing.
And a group of people who would say why do you think about future? Let us take what is available now, let us grow at part with China, Brazil, and other countries, and become a superpower, and show the world that India has become a superpower. In this competition…
So the competition is becoming heavier and heavier , everyday, so I think the we were able to organise Janadesh, and when we are going to organise Jansatyagraha, it is a different time period. As a result, we are scaling it up.
That’s the difference, because last time, we just walk for a month, let us take 13 months to organise this movement. Let us walk from the tip of India to the other side of India. Mobilise lot of people, go to all the small struggle, let motivate them to be part of this larger action. So it is a much bigger action, because the time is changing, the .. is changing, the exploiters is taking place at a greater pace, so it is like the river is flowing at a greater speed, so we need a greater action to stop it. We are trying to match with this development process going on. So it is a much more difficult time, and because there is a global crisis, the kind of solidarity and support we received into 2007, it is not going to be available this time. A lot of organisations which supported us in 2007 are saying, look, there is a crisis, it is very difficult to raise funds, it is very difficult to organise financial support, so while we are scaling up, there are planning to scale down. So we don’t have a matching contribution, and a really don’t know when 100,000 people are on the road, whether we will be able to organise one meal a day, whether we will be able to organise 100,000 blankets for these people when it is becoming winter, whether we will be able to organise medicine, etc. So the challenge is up, much much bigger.
But the great think is that there is a greater awareness about land. Some years ago, it was difficult to speak about in Europe, now if you go to France, Belgium, and England, etc., people do understand the way we have gone.
There are people who are wanting to go back to the government, people are speaking about family agriculture, people are speaking about more agriculture that is closed to the producers and consummers. So there is a growing awareness about agriculture, there is a growing awareness about family agriculture, so I think, I will say on one side, there is a difference, but one the other side, I deeply know that it is going to be very difficult because of various other realities. The parties (on the opposite view?) are much stronger, much more organised, and their commitment to push this economic model is very deep.
So there is a difference. So we hope that this time, because of the scaling up, we will be able to match with the government and bring them around the table to talk.