100,000 People to March for Land Rights

People of India march from Gwalior to Delhi for land reforms

On 2nd October 2012, on the occasion of the international day of non violence, 100,000 of India’s most marginalized people- dalits, tribals, women, landless migrant labourers -  from across the country will march from the city of Gwalior. As a peaceful mob, they will steadily make their way north occupying the roads and highways with sheer numbers. 350 kilometres later, they enter the capital city of Delhi and there they will voices their demands and grievances to the powers that be.  They ask for the justice that has been denied to them thus far. They ask for their rights and freedoms. 100,000 voices demand the land that is rightfully theirs.

The Jan Satyagraha 2012 is the initiative of the ngo Ekta Parishad, a massive campaign to ensure that the government implements the Land Reform Policies promised in 2009. As the conflict between the citizen and the state over land acquisition and developments increasingly turns violent, the Jan Satyagraha rally is intended as a peaceful and timely alternative which attempts to shift the government’s loyalties from the big corporations to the people. The campaign attempts to reform the
nation’s notoriously feudal land laws inherited from the colonial era and make them pro-people.

It is estimated that over 20 million Indians, most of them from dalit and tribal communities, have been displaced by development projects since Independence. In a recent survey in rural India, it was found that over 70% of people do not agree with the government’s plans and policies on land acquisition. But in the most undemocratic fashion, acquisition of land and displacement of life continue to be on the rise while the process of rehabilitation leaves much to be desired. It
is not just the land under siege but livelihoods as well. 52% of India is yet agrarian and lives off the land. The government current policy and stance is allowing the big corporations to push into and monopolize the farmer’s market, condemning millions of people to unemployment, poverty and hunger.

Jan Satyagraha 2012 is itself born out of a people’s movement called Janadesh which successfully caught the attention of the government and the expedited the process of the formulation of the Land Reform Policy. But the reforms has since remained in limbo prompting the Ekta Parishad and the common people of India to once again voice their demands. Rajgopal P.V., President of Ekta Prishad says in his notes to the people, "Janadesh 2007 was a big challenge for all of us. Many
people had raised serious doubts about whether 25,000 people could walk for a month. Is it possible for so many people survive for such a long time on a foot march with one meal a day? Will the Government ultimately listen to the voice of the poor people? Or will they be chased by the law and order? Having experienced Janadesh and also the power of the poor and marginalized people, many of these doubts have been cleared away. I am sure larger number of people will support Jan Satyagraha 2012 March.”

IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent Varsha, a veteran of people’s movements and campaigns, is excited to a part of this ambitious vision. She says,” Land is power in India. So if you want to give power to the people, if you’re talking of empowering dalits and tribals and the women, give them the right to their lands. This
genesis of the campaign has been a long process but now the time has come to take to the streets.”

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