On the 111th day of the peace march, Jai Jagat left Nagpur, where the marchers had stayed for five days, to proceed to Wardha. Wardha, home to Gandhi’s ashram from 1936 onward, will be the last stop to complete the four months of the Indian leg of the yearlong walk. It will also host the highly anticipated Peace Conference between the 28th-30th of Jan.
Jai Jagat reached Nagpur, a couple of days after entering Maharshtra, on the 15th of January. The team stayed at a hostel in the “Family Court” of the District and Sessions court of Nagpur, an unlikely and pleasantly surprising experience. The court was located in the posh civils block of Nagpur, marked by old charming British architecture and wide roads.
The City of Nagpur was officially founded in 1703, by a Gond tribe king. In the 18th and 19th century, the Nagpur Kingdom flourished over a large area of Central India. Archeology has traced the city back to the 8th century B.C. that suggests a megalithic culture, traces of which can still be found in present tribal cultures in Vidharba.
Also known as the orange City, Nagpur has a population of over 20 million people. The city is also expected to be the fifth fastest growing city in the world during the next 15 years according to an Oxford study and is also amongst the top smart cities of the country.
All these economic factors and certain political factors, for the city is also home to India’s largest right wing ideological organization, makes it very special within the context of development and urbanization and, therefore, nonviolence and the message of Jai Jagat. Although the city retains an old world charm to it, and has been rated as one of the most livable cities in countrywide surveys, one can already see the onslaught of a fast paced economy in the shape of upcoming metros and a bugeoning population.
The five day visit was oriented towards interactions with college students and civil society groups as well as internal training and meetings of the padyatrees where a new plan for the international leg of the Jai Jagat padyatrees was finalized.
The group met students and NSS cadre from six colleges of the city over a course of three days and also met and interacted with PWD employees and a Muslim Women Group.
A presentation on nonviolent economy was also made.
The New International Plan
The first day of the stay in Nagpur, the group met for intercultural training where the differences between European and Indian culture were discussed. Later, changes in the plans on management and division of the padyatree group were discussed over the next few days. A final plan was unveiled on the 20th. As per the new plans, the 50 core marchers will split into nine smaller groups for a period of a month and will get together on the 5th of March, Just short of the scheduled conference on nonviolence in Armenia.
As per the new plan, four teams of four people each will visit four states of India while another team of six people will be visiting Nepal to help the team of six people from Nepal who will be traveling to Pakistan for ten days in February to represent Jai Jagat.
For the international Circuit, a group of four padyatrees, along with former Indian ambassador to Iran and a Muslim leader, will be visiting Iran. This is a new development owing to the widening relation between Iran and the US. Another team of for people will visit Dubai and then the Balkans to function as the advance team before they return to Armenia to join their Jai Jagat family in Armenia. 18 padyatrees will be leaving for Armenia around the 12th of February.
The idea behind this plan is to diffuse the message of non-violence and the vision of Jai Jagat in as many geographic regions as possible. While the Iran visit will serve as an opportunity to informally mediate the conflict and work out ways to build peace, the UAE visit is purported to interact with the Indian diaspora and to help raise funds. The teams staying back in India for a month will work as peace trainers visiting schools and colleges in the designated regions which are mostly tribal areas. The team in Rajasthan will be working with the peace ministry there.
School and College Visits
The Jai Jagat padyatrees got into small teams to have focused discussions with small groups of girls and boys colleges. Over the course of three days of college visits, the team interacted with nearly 200 students and NSS cadre from six colleges. Three of these colleges were Girl’s colleges from where some important questions related to discrimination and specifically, unequal pay for men and women, lack of boys and girls interaction in colleges and intergenerational gap were discussed.
Additionally, the padyatrees also met the Public Works Department team and a Muslim Women Group in the drive to diffuse the Gandhian message of nonviolence. In the meeting with the Muslim group, the women spoke about how they were addressing the issue of divorce by providing counselling to the disputing couples and facilitating stay for women after divorce.
Nonviolent Economy – Presentation
A presentation on nonviolent economy was also made during the stay in Nagpur. Riya, who represented Jai Jagat in the Alternative Economy Vikalp Sangam in Auroville, Pondicherry along with Debasis Bera, presented her report on the event which was followed by a lecture from Dr Amitabh Shukla, an economic academician, who shared his model of a nonviolent economy based on Gandhian principles.
Vidharba, WTO and farmer suicides
On the 20th, the team left main Nagpur to reach Megh Sai ITI College, Donger. The campus with its many temples symbolises the beauty of harmony within the diverse Indian traditions.
Rajagopal P.V. and Jill Carr-Harris shared insights on the link between global trade policies and the highest farmer suicide rates in the world in this region of Vidarbha. About 3,000 farmers commit suicide mostly owing to rising debts every year in this part of the country. The ministry of agriculture blames the adoption of Bt cotton that is a water dependent crop in this cotton and soyabean dominant cultivation area in this area that has been experiencing rain shortfall over the last couple of decades.
The farmer suicides began to rise from 1996, a year after the government signed the terms of trade that opened Indian agriculture to the world market with WTO. Imports of agricultural goods, GM seeds and withdrawal of subsidy are some of the reasons since WTO leading to this agricultural crisis of Vidharba.
Jai Jagat will be interacting with the farmers over the course of the next four days to get an exposure to ground level realities. The next article will deal with this issue in detail.