On the Mahatma’s trail…

A calm, orderly mass consisting 25,000 people is making its way to Delhi. The group started the march on October 2nd in Gwalior, and has been on the road since then – clearly this group doesn’t believe in paying mere lip service to the Mahatma. 

The Indian Express has carried a nice report today. You can read it here

Before I get into what issue these people want to highlight, let me tell you the efficiency with which the march has been planned by the Ekta Parishad which has been working out the details of the march for the last 3 years! To quote from the article – “Above all it is a logistical wonder: 25000 people walking for 14 days eating and sleeping on the roads (without causing any major traffic disruption)”. A Brazilian activist who is moving with the people comments: “We have organized a march with 12000 people for the landless.”

The marching group consists “tribals, marginal farmers who have been displaced as a result of mining, industries, or wildlife parks. There are some who have been driven out of the land they have tilled for generations, which officially is forest land. There are Dalits who have been systematically kept out of tenancy rights.” They are demanding that the Government setup a National Land Reforms Commissions and a new land reforms policy.

“In terms of logistics it would teach event managers a thing or two. The participants have been divided into 5 groups: Narmada, Mahanadi, Cauvery, Chambal and Ganga of 5000 each. Each is further divided into sub groups of 1000 and then down to 25. Each group and sub-group has a trained leader. In all the Ekta Parishad has trained 1,352 leaders to ensure the march is held according to Gandhian principles: no eating, drinking, or straying from their rows while the march is on.”

Further, “each group has two trucks: one for utensils and the other for a generator set and a medical unit. The toilets are setup, food cooked and loud speakers kept in readiness before the marchers depart in the morning. A small group stays back to clean the mess once the marchers depart in the morning.”

This is a march that will make Gandhiji proud!

Regardless of what these 25000 people achieve, I think this movement is significant It silences the critics of the so-called “anti-development” brigade (the term actually should be ‘inclusive-development brigade’). The critics contend that all these are politically motivated groups that merely look stall development for no reason, or that such protestors are easily influenced dumb villagers.

As our post-independence history has shown us, politicians are incapable of organizing anything beyond flash protests, which invariably involves violence. People – 25000 of them – who have been training for 3 years, who do not believe in inconveniencing people, who are neat, who want to assert their point peacefully are definitely not dumb. You can motivate someone to misbehave, but how can you motivate anyone to behave? These people have shown that the desperation, the suffering of their situation is indeed genuine.

V. Rajagopal, leader of the Ekta Parishad raises a poignant point: “The administration has to understand that there are many here who could be future naxalites. They have to be heard if they are saying something in a peaceful manner.”

What will the PM do – Will he look the other way pretending nothing has gone awry with in these past 60 years? Or will he look at the problem – the shadow of India shining – straight in the face?

He better decide carefully. Gandhiji is watching. 


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