Press release: Over 50,000 people gather for the start of the Jan Satyagraha
[via Ekta Parishad] October 3, 2012- The process of Jan Satyagraha has started today. Over 50000 Adivasis (tribals), dalits and other marginalized people from all over India gathered in the morning at the central stage of the Mela Ground in Gwalior. P.V. Rajagopal, founder and leader of Ekta Parishad, welcomed the marchers and many dignitaries and guests from around the world. He reminded the audience that Jan Satyagraha is a struggle “for dignity, security and identity”, focused on two main demands: a new national land reform policy to guarantee access to land and natural resources for food supply, and a law establishing the right to shelter.
His speech was followed by contributions of well-known Gandhians, such as S.N. Subba Rao, Bal Bhai, and Radha Batt, who recalled the legacy of Gandhi and the necessity for the government to respond to the genuine non-violent struggles. Subba Rao insisted on the fact that “poor people want life with dignity and social justice, not just a full stomach”.
A presentation on land for adivasis was spelled out by Sri Jyotirajaditya Sindia, MP and Minister of Industries. The Ministers of Social Justice and Tribal Affairs were not able to attend.
Senior leader of Ekta Parishad, Ramesh Sharma detailed the demands of Jan Satyagraha. Among the 19 demands addressed and discussed with the government, the main ones are to formulate a land reform policy and to pass a law ensuring that every homeless family get homestead land. Among other claims are a real and effective implementation of laws in favour of Adivasis like the Forest Rights Act, setting-up of fast track courts to address land issues of poor people, equal rights to land for women and men.
Tensions mounted as the Minister of Rural Development Mr. Jairam Ramesh took the microphone. His response to the demands of Jan Satyagraha, which had been the focus of intense negotiations, was awaited with great interest. Would the government make a commitment to the “road map” that had been discussed during the past days, and if yes, allow the marchers to celebrate the event?
Honorable Minister Jairam Ramesh pointed out that while the Government was committed to undertaking the long overdue agenda of land reform, it could not fully agree with all the demands, particularly because land distribution are mainly issues to be solved at the state level. However, he promised a draft for a national land reform policy within 6 months time, which could then be discussed and finalized. As part of this, 2.5 million people should get legal rights to land. The food security and land acquisition bill currently under consideration would provide further benefits and housing rights legislation was also planned. He also pointed out that the government had been given land titles to 1.1 million households in forest areas over the last five years. The Minister ended, emphasizing that while not all the demands could be implemented, he personally was in full agreement. He mentioned October 11th as the next main negotiation day where all of the Jan Satyagraha organizations could meet with national and state government representatives in order to develop an implementation list. And further two to three weeks would be needed to implement the list.
Following the speech of Jairam Ramesh, Ekta Parishdad leadership and representatives of the organizations supporting Jan Satyagraha met to decide on their response to the government’s offers.
Just one hour later, P.V. Rajagopal returned to the stage, announcing that they were disappointed about the vague statements made by the government, which did not follow the road map discussed in earlier negotiations. It was therefore decided to hold the march and continue to pressure government.
There were clearly problems getting the march underway as there is a limited food to feed people for the next ten days. Additional donations would have to be found thereafter. In spite of these obstacles, people chose to march to Delhi. At this juncture P.V. Rajagopal asked the people to raise their flags, if they felt the march should go ahead as planned. A sea of green and white flags filled the air immediately. The verdict was clear. Jan Satyagraha will get on its way, with the marchers taking to the road towards Delhi tomorrow morning at 7am, October 3rd.
DATES and PLACES :
Jan Satyagraha – March for Justice 2012, from Gwalior to Delhi, October 2012.
October 3rd: start of the march at 7am from the Mela Ground, Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh), INDIA.