Ekta Parishad was formed in Tilda/Chhatisgarh 25 years ago; at the same site around 2000 people gathered for its twenty-five-years Silver Jubilee celebration. Members from different states all over India came together for one vision: land, forest and water for all people. The man behind this vision, PV Rajagopal, opened the ceremony with an inspiring speech: „Those people who critize us, make us stronger“, he said. And he continued with the words: „With the power of poor, change can happen.“ This was a great beginning to what would follow. To mark the new era, 25 clay pots with a candle inside were were symbolical lit in an Indian tradition and introduced the next 25 years of Ekta Parishad.
Different workshops in the afternoon
Beside the speeches in the big tent several regional groups and associated organisations put their products and craftsmanship on display: Honey from a regional project, Ayurveda medicines, handmade garments; an exhibition with publications about Ekta Parishad and „Rajaji“. In the afternoon various workshops took place within the premises. Members of Ekta Parishad talked about their experiences in daily life in front of a handful of members in several tents.
One of this workshops was organised by the Ekta Parishad Mahila Manch Wing, a section of Ekta Parishad that focuses on womens leadership issues. They discussed and shared their daily life problems and issues in order to find common ground and look for solutions. „Just if you change yourself you can change the community,“ a woman said. The majority of the women demanded for more respect for their work in the house and in the field.
After the workshops everyone was hungry. In the meantime, a handful of people were preparing the dinner for 2000 people in the kitchen tent. A logistical challenge – also to serve the food for so many. Sitting together people enjoyed the repast, talked and got connected. After dinner, everyone returned to the stage to take in the cultural program of the Jubilee. A mix of dancing, live music and live performances gave a beautiful image of Indian´s tribal culture. After these perfomances a long and enjoyable day comes to an end. Experiencing this first day, one could only wonder what the following day would bring. Or to say it in the words of Rajapogal: „In the next three days we will find inspiration.“
„Giving someone money is not to giving someone justice“
The second day of the Jubilee was followed by people honoring of Ekta Parishad by those friends and acquaintances who had engaged in the organisation One of the speakers was congressman Rashmi Kant, the son of former vice president of India, who gave kudos to Ekta Parishad.
Later in the afternoon it became clear what a diverse and open platform the Silver Jubilee of Ekta Parishad was. With an international, national, regional and communal focus and with a mix of interest groups like Dalit, Gandhians or Marxists. For two hours, Dalits, Adivasis and Tribes spoke about regional activities, international efforts and local support in Rajastan, Chhattisgarh or Madhya Pradesh.
Different stakeholders claimed about the forest department, infrastructure or the struggles of fisher folks. „Get ready for a bigger struggle with the new governement“, said Dr. Sunilam. And added: „The question of land is in the hand of Ekta Parishad. No one else assumes to this topic in our country“. Another speech from Janklal Thakur underlines the importance of education: „Politicians, companies - all are working together. We have to do that as well.“ And ended his speech with the words: „Stop these companies!“
Another tribal said on the stage: „Giving someone money is not to giving someone justice“. The speakers reaffirmed the importance of the struggle against the government decisions regarding land grabbing and acquisition. It also became apparent that this task would become harder under the government of Narendra Modi. The last short speeches came from international announcer: As a guest of honor, Weena Namcharoensombut from Thailand came on stage and talked about the inspirational work of Ekta Parishad that set fire to other organizations in the same field on the globe. Another honorable speaker, Julius Reubke (Mama ji), from Germany announced greetings to the people in Tilda from the international acquittances of Ekta Parishad.
New leaders bring Ekta Parishad into 21century
The last day of the 25-year anniversary was marked by a new generation of leaders in Ekta Parishad. PV Rajagopal spoke before to the 2000 participants and thanked them for coming together and offering solutions and ideas on the issue of non-violence. He also presented an action plan that involves all regions and about 100 organizations that participate with Ekta Parishad. At the end of his speech, PV Rajagopal said: „We have to practice our visions every day in our villages“.
The Tilda Resolution
On the occasion of Ekta Parishad’s Silver Jubilee celebration a group of people presented the Tilda resolution. A call was made by different movements leaders that were present at the event to join hands to face the challenges and threats emerging in the present time. The Tilda resolution emerged from the deliberations that took place and reflects a collective vision and direction that people´s movement in the country should take at the present junction.
Three points could be highlighted from the resolution:
1) Promoting self reliance: That means that every household in every village should collect one Rs. per day for future actions in the region and village.
2) Reclaiming land: Ineffective and slow offset the FRA and to give priority in through mass campaign.
3) Promoting local leadership: young people should be trained in each of the 665 districts in the country for future actions of Ekta Parishad.
Next march from Palwal to Delhi at 20th February 2015
Then the National President of Ekta Parishad nominated the new team with ten women and nine men around the new actional advocacy coordinators Aneesh Thillenkery, Ramesh Sharma and Shradha Kashyap.The Jubilee closed with a loud Jai Jagat with a view to the upcoming march 2020 involving one million participants around the globe. Those participants that find overhelming cohesion and collective strength on the anniversary went away feeling that the Jai Jagat campaign could become one of the biggest in Indian history.
To underline this solidarity between different states and people, Ekta Parishad will organise a next footmarch with 5000 people from Palwal to Delhi on the 20th February 2015. As PV Rajagopal said in his last speech: „Struggle is not the only option. Every movement is also using dialogue.“ That means to meet each other and feel committed to a common vision. Exactly that will happen on the next march in February: The more people that participate, the more impact this solidarity act will have in Delhi.