An appeal to the country from social activists in Varanasi

April 18, 2014

[In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the city of Varanasi has gained a national symbolic importance. Social activists and people’s movements in Varanasi are engaged in a vigorous debate over what message the city should send to the rest of the country and the world. The following document puts forth the view of several such organizations in Varanasi on the real issues facing the people. -Ed]

Varanasi ke Samajik Karyakrtaon Ka Desh se Nivedan --page-001
Varanasi ke Samajik Karyakrtaon Ka Desh se Nivedan --page-002
Varanasi ke Samajik Karyakrtaon Ka Desh se Nivedan --page-003

On the Occasion of 2014 General Election

Varanasi is registering a special presence in India’s General Elections 2014. BJP’s Prime Minister candidate, Narendra Modi has announced that he will contest for the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat. Aam Admi Party(AAP) National Convener Arvind Kejariwal has joined the fray to challenge Modi. This election is taking the form of a Message to the Nation from Varanasi. Activists of different organizations, institutions, campaigns and movements, that is all those in Varanasi who are connected with people’s movements are in a state of intense dialogue among themselves, given this special situation. They want to give a message to the Nation from the standpoint of people’s movements, a message that is true to the people. Given below is this message prepared on the basis of these discussions and agreed upon by organizations whose names are carried at the end.

Varanasi is a great city, not known for being a center of politics or power but, known for the great variety of traditions of knowledge, the highs of philosophy and for weaving various ways of life constructively into a bhaichara fold, popularly known here as ganga-jamuni tahzeeb. So, on this special occasion and in tune with the importance of this place, the activists of Varanasi want to say that philosophies of human and social emancipation need always guide our personal, social and political lives. We need to oppose all trends and practices that establish the hegemony of politics over social and cultural spheres and contribute our might to rebuild a world based on Truth and Justice.

The people of Varanasi and its tradition have always stood against communal division of society. On this occasion we again appeal that the policies producing division and polarization in society should be opposed in all circumstances. Hierarchy, discrimination, division and exploitation based on religion, caste, gender, education, class, poverty and riches, village and city etc. should be resisted without compromise. We must realize the importance of philosophies of life and work to establish human values and the philosophy of sarva dharm samabhav whose absence makes space for aggressive and sectarian totalitarianism.

Fraud with the people of this country in the name of Development must come to an end. Ask anybody about who lives well in this country and the answer invariably is – the family in which arrives at least one salary every month. Peasants, artisans, adivasis, pavement retailers all have the right to receive steady and regular remuneration in the range of the salaries of government employees, but what is happening is exactly opposite of this. In this age of globalization new systems have come into existence for the exploitation of the knowledge of these people. In addition to gross under payment for their labor and production, unrestricted dispossession and displacement from land and other resources of life has become the order of the day. All these sections of society earn their living and regulate society based on their own knowledge, called lokavidya, on whose preservation and promotion the government does not spend a paisa and to top it, refuses to recognize it as knowledge at all. There can hardly be any doubt that the rulers of this country have forgotten Gandhi completely. The rightful and just return for work based on lokavidya has to be regular and steady remuneration equal to the salary of a government employee. With the Seventh Pay Commission the difference in the earnings of the lokavidya samaj and those with university degrees will assume unprecedented criminal proportions. It is high time that the voice for equal remuneration for the unorganized sector and the government employment be raised. People’s movements need to lift this to a high priority in their programs.

Corporations, capitalists, officers of the State, contractors and political leaders have combined to appropriate for themselves all the resources of this nation. Entire politics is engaged in legitimizing, firming up and expanding incessantly this appropriation. The simple and straight voice of the people is that every citizen of this country has an equal right on the national resources and that it is a basic responsibility of the government that these resources be available equally to everybody. Electricity, water, finance, education and health are major national resources, every citizen must have an equal share in these.

The debate started on activating the gram-sabha and the muhalla-sabha should be taken to its logical conclusion. The ‘local control of jal-jangal-zameen ‘ demand of the people’s movements also should find its logical expansion. Local people will not only tell what belongs to them and what is it that they need, but they will collectively tell about what this nation should be and what it should look like. This begins with local control of all local systems. Panchayat, administration, market, natural and national resources and conflict resolution, all are included in these local systems. This will lead to liberation from the hegemony of Science and Technology on all systems and structures and it will become possible to keep the doors and windows open for fresh air. This will strengthen indigenous ideas for the well being of the people and forward movement of the nation.

It has been proved now that development and expansion of big industry is not the way to bring all people into an industrial system. Similarly modern education does not provide the way to educate the whole society. This nation is rich with a multiplicity of living knowledge traditions. Thought needs to be given and policies developed for a new content, form and organization of education based on this multiplicity of knowledge among the people, in society. For peasants, artisans, adivasis and women to command respect in society as knowledgeable persons, and for them to receive just returns for their work, a revolutionary change is needed in our understanding and the reality of education.

There should be a media school in every village and basti. Just as after independence the education system provided for literacy in every village, similarly now in the changing world media schools are needed for developing new capacities in the youth from villages and poor classes. These schools shall provide opportunity and training for a new orientation for their art, language and the creative capacities. In these places the youth from the villages and the bastis will learn how to speak about, represent, express and articulate the problems of their communities, locations etc. They will learn to communicate and connect for whatever they want to say about anything they wish to speak.

People’s movements are a necessary part of the causes of change. Policies for the people and decisions that are just and truthful do not happen in absence of the people’s movements. Villages have been the source and base of these people’s movements in which peasants, adivasis, artisans, women and youth have been the main participants. Now the pavement retailers have joined them. All these people have been struggling to save their resources and livelihoods. They have been struggling to obtain just returns for their work and production. It is these people’s struggles and their organizations that have gone into building of people’s movements. This is lokavidya samaj and it is only through and with their knowledge, thought and language that a reconstruction of the villages will pave the way for national reconstruction based on Truth and Justice.

Sarvodaya Andolan, Amarnath Bhai ( 9389995502 ), Avinash Chandra
Lokavidya Jan Andolan, Sunil Sahasrabudhey ( 9839275124 ), Dilip Kumar ‘Dili’
Sajha Sanskriti Manch, Vallabhacharya Pandey ( 9415256848 )
Vidya Ashram, Dr. Chitra Sahasrabudhey
Lokachetna Samiti, Dr. Neeti Bhai ( 9450181545 )
Karigar Nazaria, Premlata Singh, Ehsaan Ali, Md. Aleem
Vishwa Jyoti Jan Sanchar Samiti, Father Anand
People’s Vigilance Committee for Human Rights, Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi
Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Aflatoon, Dr. Neeta Chaube
Loka Samiti, Varanasi, Nandlal Master
Gandhian Institute of Studies, Dr. Muniza Khan, Dr. Deepak Malik
Feri-Patri-Thela Vyavasayi Samiti, Rajendra Singh, Pramod Nigam, Aftaab,Noor Mohammad
Bharatiya Kisan Union, Laxman Prasad
RTI Campaign, Dhananjay Tripathi, Harshit Shukla, Firoz Bhai
ASHA Trust, Pradeep Singh, Deendayal
VISION, Jagriti Rahi
All India People’s Solidarity Organization, Dr. Anand Prakash Tiwari
GRAMYA, Bindu Singh, Surendra
Mahila Swarozgar Samiti, Rekha Chauhan
Asian Bridge, Md. Moosa Azmi
Asmita, Rampratap, Surjeet
NSS, Maneesh
Social Workers, Dr. Parmita, Dr. Raman, Vinod, Vikram

Varanasi, 15 April, 2014