Just Me and My Closest 40,000 Friends

Just Me and My Closest 40,0000 Friends

Written by: Allison on October 23, 2012.

It’s hot.  There are tens of thousands of people from all over India and the world gathered together under large tents.  One question is on everyone’s mind: Will we march?

In true democratic fashion, this can only be decided by a vote, so after countless speeches have been made and ministers have made their promises, it is time to decide.  Turns out the crowd isn’t buying the Minister of Rural Development’s empty words that contain a glaring lack of clear deadlines for progress.  The people have spoken.  We march.

Excitement is pulsing through the place.  What we all came for is now becoming a reality.  We will march from Gwalior to Delhi, walking in solidarity for justice.

The next morning it is around 9:30 AM.  I am in a single-file line, not to get my school lunch or to be part of a military exercise.  I am part of Jan Satyagraha 2012, a massive, nonviolent direct action movement to bring justice to the marginalized and landless*.  I am surrounded by some 40,000 fellow protestors who have travelled far and wide to demand reform on land rights and their livelihoods.

Never before have I been able to see so clearly how I can be a small part of something much bigger than myself.  This visual is overwhelming and I become emotional.

We walk for 27km the first day.  I begin to regret packing so much when the shoulder pains kick in.  However, it’s hard to hold onto any negative thoughts when in one glance I see tribal men and women, much older than myself, with their own sacks to carry, and no look of pain or fatigue.  In fact, when I look around me all I see is determination and hope.  They are part of something larger than their self as well.

Jan Satyagraha 2012 has been a movement in the making for the last several years.  Countless hours of training and organizing have gone into making this march possible.  From water tanks and meal preparation teams to medical staff and temporary toilets, there is some serious pre-planning and team formations that took place in order for there to be adequate support for the marchers.

What makes my participation in this movement even more special is that I am sharing this experience with twenty youth from all over India who we (Pravah, my host NGO) have brought for a Group Exposure.  Shifting through my roles as facilitator, marcher, teacher, and learner provides me with memories that I will forever cherish.

I am still in disbelief of how lucky I am to have been placed with Pravah.  They have fully adopted me into their family and given me opportunities, such as this one, to further explore myself and the larger community around me, all while facilitating youth’s journeys as well.

And to cap the thankfulness and excitement that I have experienced during the first month of my AIF fellowship, the Jan Satyagraha march was a huge success!  The Minister of Rural Development met the march at Agra and agreed to all of their demands.

Take that feeling of hopelessness!  And you too feeling of disconnect!  The potential for positive transformation is alive and well and I am looking forward to see what is next on my journey here in India.

*For more detailed information about the demands and the objectives of the march, check out Ekta Parishad’s website: http://ektaparishad.com/

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