102 foot marches for justice and peace in 10 days
Hello, friend of Ekta!
Here’s hoping you’re in good health.
Welcome to the seventh issue of Voice of Ekta. Recently, Ekta Parishad organized 102 foot marches for justice and peace across the country. This mammoth undertaking had a huge and positive impact among the communities fighting for their land and rights.
In this issue, we’re sharing with you stories of Ekta Parishad activists and members who worked hard to mobilize and organize these marches across the country.
102 foot marches for justice and peace in 10 days: Editorial by Ramesh Sharma
Ekta Parishad strongly believes that without justice, peace always remains a dream for the marginalised communities in the world. In the Indian context, where millions of people are directly or indirectly affected by structural violence, (inequality, discrimination, poverty, marginalisation etc.) any efforts to ensure justice in their lives must protect their dignity and identity, too. We can see the massive on-ground impact of the 102 foot marches (for Justice & Peace) that Ekta Parishad has organized between International Day of Peace (21st September) to International Day of Nonviolence (2nd October). The energy and enthusiasm of the people who walked in the 100 districts across 14 states of India reflected a deep faith in the peace-building process. Each of these 100 foot marches have hundreds of stories of people’s fight for justice and peace, which carry the values of nonviolence as a core of their struggle.
In a concluding event held on 2nd October in Tilda, Chhattisgarh, the Hon’ble Governor Madam Ms. Anusuiya Uike expressed her deep gratitude towards the highly disciplined non-violent actions organised by Ekta Parishad over the last few decades. Being a tribal leader herself, she has shown her full support towards the march for justice & peace and wishes that the state take serious action towards establishing a dedicated ‘Ministry for Justice & Peace’ and be able to transform the lives of millions of people and rebuilding our society and nation free from hunger, poverty and violence.
Stories from the marches: State representatives and coordinators report from ground zero
Mangirani from Bishnupur, Manipur
"Karang Island is an island in the middle of the Loktak lake in the Bishnupur district of Manipur. The Karang Island covers a geographical area of 2.5 square kilometres and has a population of 3,400 people.
For most of the population living on the island, fishing is the main source of livelihood. Over the last few years, people in Karang have been facing multiple problems regarding the settlement of their land rights on this native island. Ekta Parishad has been working towards ensuring that the fisherfolk get their due land rights.
Our successful foot march and boat march in the adjoining floating villages has helped people come together to speak up for their rights."
Durga Panwar from Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh
"The Kalibeli area of Jhabua district in Madhya Pradesh is known as the home to the Bhil & Bhilala tribal communities. Jhabua district is also known for the historical revolt during the 18th century led by various tribal leaders, where they demanded their ‘self-ruled territory’.
Coincidently, it’s Dilip Singh Bhuriya, former Minister of Tribal Affairs, Government of India and represents the Jhabua constituency, who is appointed as Chair for drafting the legislation for recognizing tribal autonomy over their land & resources and re-establish their local governance systems.
However, even after more than two decades of this legislation being passed by the parliament, the tribal community is still waiting for their age-old demand for autonomy to be fulfilled.
During our foot march, too, the tribal communities reiterated this demand for the execution of tribal self-rule."
Umesh Kumar, State Coordinator of Bihar
"Bihar has a legacy of one of the most historical and successful foot marches organized by Vinoba Bhave during the 1950s-60s called ‘Bhudan Andolan’. Even today, Bihar remains a lighthouse of peoples’ non-violent struggle for their rights.
Despite all these struggles, the situation of the Mushar community has remained unchanged and they are still one of the most vulnerable communities in south & north Bihar.
Walking through the villages of Bihar has always been an eye-opening experience. This foot march for justice and peace once again ignited our collective effort and enthusiasm to fight for the land & livelihood rights of the Mushar community."
Runjhun from Tinsukiya, Assam
"Walking in the flood plains of the Tinsukia district has always been challenging. However, despite logistical challenges, our team members and community leaders saw this foot march as an opportunity to highlight the problems they’re facing.
For me, each step of the march gave me the energy and confidence to lead even more grassroots actions in the future. Nearly 70-80 women walked with me every day and enthusiastically participated in village level meetings.
One thought which prominently emerges in our foot march is “Why should we wait for the welfare state?” when people can achieve things with their own efforts without depending on the delayed responses from the state. As a result, soon after the foot march, we organised a Shramdan Camp and built a bamboo bridge with the active support of hundreds of people who wanted easy transportation access between their villages in the flood plains."
Chunnulal Soren, Member of National Committee of Ekta Parishad, Jharkhand
"Being a young tribal leader I have always been motivated to do something meaningful for my community in Jharkhand. The first time when I walked with 25,000 foot marchers in Janadesh in 2007, it completely transformed me and my thinking forever. I was amazed at how thousands of people were ready to stand against injustices and use all means of nonviolence to get their rights.
The success of Janadesh (2007), Jan Satyagraha (2012) and Janandolan (2018) taught me about basic discipline and dedication for nonviolent actions. Today, after leading such a march in my own Hazaribagh district, I feel motivated and confident to lead future campaigns. I wish to organise a statewide action for protecting the rights of the tribal community, especially in the mining-affected districts where they have been constantly facing displacement."
Manglu Ram from Dhamtari, Chhattisgarh
"Nearly a 100 years ago in 1920, Mahatma Gandhi visited Chhattisgarh for the first time to support the people's struggle called ‘Jungal Satyagraha’ against colonial Forest Legislation and restrictions in the Sihava area of Dhamtari district. After the successful nonviolent action in Sihava, the native tribal community succeeded in getting their due land & livelihood rights.
It’s a tragedy how today in the same region, tribals are fighting against a similar mindset of local officials, who denied ensuring the rights they secured after the Forest Rights Act (2006). We participated in this foot march for justice and peace, because it is an opportunity to re-cultivate the ground for bigger action.
The gross denial of people’s claim over their native land is fueling the struggle for their rights over land & forest resources. After our week-long encouraging foot march, we feel that now the ground is fully prepared for a much larger decisive action soon."
From Ramesh Sharma, General Secretary of Ekta Parishad