‘Readings in Nonviolence’ features extracts from our favourite books, pamphlets, articles or other material on nonviolence, or reviews of important works in the field (suggestions welcome).
A case where nonviolence has worked in 2007
A 2008 Ekta Parishad (Gandhian organisation) calendar came to our home mid December. What a powerful cover and with such bright and lively colours it is!
A warm feeling came at first glance and when going through it seemed so relevant and connected to what we had been doing as INNATE during the year. Promoting International Nonviolence day and debating on the ways it can be sometimes make to work. As it links so directly with the debate we had with Suman Aggarwal and Tony Kempster in November, decided to share it with our readers. Here goes the cover page that explain this study case and says where we people there are at now.
Janadesh: The People's verdict http://www.janadesh.net
In a country that more than one billion people call home, 25,000 may not seem like a very large number, but for years this seemingly small group worked together for something that could change the lives of millions of India's poor; the lives of those for whom "development" has meant suffering and "progress" has meant injustice. When we hear of India, we hear only of its leaps and bounds towards progress: its growing industries, its open markets and its steadily growing middle class. What we don't hear about are the people who pay for these changes with their land. They pay with their homes and their livelihoods and sometimes with their lives.
On October 2nd, 2007, twenty-five thousand people representing communities from all over India gathered in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh to begin what proved to be the largest non-violent movement for land reform in the country's history. Its commencement marked the United Nations' International Day of Non-Violence and the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. Janadesh, or "the People's Verdict", was the result of years of protest falling on deaf ears. The requests of the people were simple and fair: a National Land Authority must be established to clearly identify land for redistribution; a Fast Track Court system has to be available to settle land claims; and a Single Window system is necessary for the landless people of India to be able to settle land issues without having to travel long distances, wasting what little time and money they have.
To witness communities united in a display of non-violent civil disobedience evoked memories of the satagrahis of Gandhi that inspired civil rights movements throughout the world. On October 29th, 2007 the Satagrahis of Janadesh were finally given the answer they had walked so far to get. The government of India was ready to establish a National Land Reforms Committee with 50% of the new committee's members coming from social and civil society organisations involved in the land rights movement. The news was met with cries of "Jai Janadesh!" and the crowd sang and danced in celebration through the night. The success of this historical display of non-violent action gives us all a reason to celebrate, but we must remember that the struggle is not over. The promises made on October 29th must be followed through and we all must be prepared to continue in this struggle for justice for the people.
Each month in the calendar brings a powerful note of people known to be devoted to promote change by means of nonviolence. Let's take just 4.
January: " Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral." Brazilian educationalist Paulo Freire
April: "The pursuit of peace and progress, with its trials and its setbacks, can never be relaxed and never abandoned". Dag Hammarskjold
September: "Nonviolence is not a weapon of the weak. It is a weapon of the strongest and bravest". Mahatma Gandhi.
October: "The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war" Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit
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