This post was written by Selina Shelley on Oxfam GROW Week 2012 blog.
Ideologically the Jan Satyagraha 2012 March is based on the Gandhian Salt Satyagraha of 1930, known as the Dandi March. It is an uplifting event with a carnival atmosphere; it is the combined effort of people to stand up for basic rights and speak on the way to build more equity in the governing structure. The biggest strength of this land march is that people have found a social space in which to come together, and demand their rights. In normal society, it is not easy or possible for a marginalized person, like a single impoverished woman, or a bonded labourer, to stand up for their rights (even though they have them).
Ekta Parishad is a non-violent social movement in India working on land and forest rights for adivashis, dalits and all marginalised communities in last 20 years. Based on the experience of land march in 2007, the current land rights campaign known as the Jan Satyagraha began on 2nd October 2011 from Kanyakumari (southernmost tip of India) and has covered 350 districts in 24 states of India engaging critical number of organizations and individuals for a collective action on 2nd October 2012, which saw approx, 100,000 people marching from Gwalior (near Taj Mahal) to Delhi (350 kilometers).
The focus of the entire action is to bring people’s voices for a ‘National Land Reforms Act & Policy’ as a broad framework and means of land re-distribution to the landless & homeless poor. This action is supported by more than 2000 social organizations engaged in raising the voices for the deprived people. This action is also supported by various international mass movements and organizations persuading the agenda of land & agrarian reforms in the country. Land reform—giving the poor access to land—is mentioned by Ekta Parishad as a ‘game changer’ that could bring 40% of the population out of absolute poverty and reduce substantially the violence that is gripping Indian society around various form of land grab. Ekta Parishad, a federation of community based organization, the organizer and platform behind this historic land march. Oxfam is proud to be a partner of Ekta Parishad and supporting this movement.
Since last year, Ekta Parishad has more than 24 rounds of dialogues with Government of India at various levels to pursue the National Land reforms Policy and Legislation for securing Homestead and Agricultural Land to the landless- homeless poor. Ekta Parishad also emphasizes on institutional management, equal participation of voluntary organizations, resources and timeline to carry all agreed agenda in action. And finally, after a long journey, Ekta Parishad and government of India have concluded an agreement in above line and spirit – a dignified culmination point for Jan Satyagraha.
The Representative of the Government of India and responsible minister for Land Reforms Issues, Mr Jairam Ramesh, came down to Agra on 11th October to make the Declaration & Commitment of the government in public meeting of 50,000 people of Jan Satyagraha.