People’s movements in India have played a very important role in highlighting the concerns of the ordinary citizen, particularly the voices of the poor and marginalized. Almost all have originated in injustice, inequality and denial of rights. One critique of our work has been that we represent single- issue campaigns. This classification has arisen from the nature of our struggles, where detailed attention to an issue has in fact strengthened our advocacy, but at the same time apparently distanced us from larger concerns. However, this critique fails to take into account the larger picture. Our campaigns arise from, and are connected with, important democratic principles. We are laterally linked and understand that our campaigns and demands will be strengthened or weakened by the successes and failures of other related issues and movements. This sharing is perhaps not explicitly recognised, and we need to build platforms that underscore our commitment to democratic principles and a broader world-view focussed on the concerns of ordinary people.
Some of us have taken the initiative to bring together a number of campaigns/organizations on a common platform. The objective is to take forward the demands of each campaign and highlight the interlinking principles of democracy and justice that bind us together. This People’s Assembly will be held during the next session of Parliament. This platform will help articulate our broader vision and locate the specific campaign in the larger mosaic of democratic rights. Seen together our multitude of struggles represent the voice of India’s “real mainstream”.
This is to invite you to join and support this People’s Assembly being organized for 5 days from November 26-30, 2012 at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi. During this period we plan to hold a series of public hearings/demonstrations to bring before Parliament many basic issues awaiting legislative action. We believe that Parliament must function and there are too many important issues, including corruption that must be taken up on the floor of the house. We also want to use this opportunity to build a people’s Manifesto for the 2014 elections. We want to make it clear to Parties that we will hold them accountable for not acting in this session and term of Parliament as well as ensure that people’s issues find prominent space in their manifestos in 2014.
We are distressed by the increasing repression by the State, particularly on leaders of Campaigns and movements, as well as the assault on democratic rights of citizens. We, therefore we want to use this opportunity to collectively assert our commitment to democratic principles and protect India’s basic Constitutional framework. The tentative plan is to begin with a re-affirmation of Constitutional commitments in the context of India today.
This will be followed by different activities on successive days so that there is space for each campaign/movement to present its demands. They will also draw attention to the democratic and governance issues implicit in their demands, thereby also offering a critique of Indian democracy and the nature of governance.
The tentative proposal is to divide the five days in the following manner:
Day 1: Asserting our Democratic Rights – Building a People’s Manifesto for 2014
“On the 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognising the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of democracy which this Constituent Assembly has so laboriously built up.” – B.R. Ambedkar
Co-ordination: Jointly by all the campaigns/organizations taking part in this assembly
November 26 is the day that the Constituent Assembly finalized the Constitution of India. The leaders of people’s movements will be invited to critique the existing economic and political framework in the context of basic Constitutional principles. They will underline the infringement of fundamental rights and the nature of the assault on democracy that has accelerated with the pushing of the “development” agenda. Some of the principles and processes required for building a viable alternative will be sketched and debated. Focus areas will include:
· Multiple concerns of the poor
· Responsibility of the State in eradicating poverty and provide basic services
· Panchayati Raj and de-centralized governance
· Neo-liberal economic framework – determining our own economic future
· Inclusive India- addressing the concerns of marginalized communities
· People’s control over natural resources
· Defining Participatory Democracy
· Deepening Democracy
· Fighting State repression
· Fighting the Sedition law
· Diversifying forms of Public Protest
· Protecting the Freedom of expression and other democratic rights
· Independence of Media
Day 2: Governance Issues – transparency, accountability, anti-corruption
Coordination: NCPRI and State RTI forums and groups
· Pending Legislation [Whistle-blower, Lokpal, Grievance Redress, Judicial Accountability]
Day 3: State Responsibility for Social Security and Basic Services
Coordination: Pension Parishad; PAEG
· Un-organized Sector Worker Rights
· Imminent threat of Cash Transfers
Day 4: Land, Agriculture and Natural Resources
Coordination: NAPM; Ekta Parishad; RTF campaign; Green Peace; ASHA [Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture]; Mines, Minerals and People;
· Proposed Land Acquisition Bill
· Land Reforms Task Force
· Seeds Bill and Bio-technology Bill
· Budgetary allocations to agriculture
· Renumerative prices for farmers
· Sustainable farming and farm livelihoods
· Income guarantee for farming households
· Mining Policy and proposed Mining Bill
Day 5: Gender and Discrimination
Although this day is being coordinated by gender groups, equally important issues of discrimination and inequality affecting dalits, tribals, minorities and other marginalized groups such as single women, disabled people and persons affected by HIV.
Coordination: NFIW; One Billion Rising; Jagori;
These are a few issues, which do not comprehensively cover all our concerns. The list is illustrative. The attempt is to provide a framework, which will allow both the specific and general concerns to be tabled and pressure built to meet the demands.
We hope in the five days to begin shaping a discourse to specifically highlight immediate concerns, before Parliament. Many of these voices we hope will also contribute towards the formulation of a draft People’s Manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. We feel that we need to put together our voices and concerns to push legislations long promised and galvanize Parliament to act now. This is a continuing process and we believe that our voices should shape the electoral discourse in 2014 and feed into political manifestos.
We will request campaigns/organizations/movements to be part of the core organizing group that will be present on all 5 days as well as during the preparation for the assembly. Also, the participating campaigns will ensure that they take responsibility for coordination, attendance and expenses of the day they are coordinating. The assembly will take place from 9:00am – 5:00pm. We hope that a minimum of 500 hundred people will be present on each day.
It has also been suggested that every evening there could be a public lecture, offering to create a theoretical framework for the theme of each day. These lectures will be held at a separate venue [hall] to be decided. This series of lectures could also feed into the formal discourse for establishing the role and need for participatory democratic policy, legislation and action.
For further details please contact –
Amrita Johri – 09810273984
Nandini Dey – 09953153445
Or write to – firstname.lastname@example.org
Act Now for Harmony And Democracy (ANHAD),
All India Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (AIMKSS),
Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA),
Association for Democratic Reform (ADR),
Centre For Advocacy Research (CFAR),
Global Human Rights Communication,
Inclusive Media for Change,
Indian Community Activists Network (ICAN),
Joint Organization for Self Help (JOSH),
Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS),
National Alliance of Peoples Movments (NAPM),
National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI),
National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR)
National Federation for Indian Women (NFIW),
Peoples Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG),
Right to Food Campaign,
Rajasthan Adivasi Adhikar Manch,
Rajasthan Mazdoor Kisan Union ,
RTI Manch, Rajasthan ,
Satark Nagarik Sangathan (SNS),
Soochna Evum Rozgar Abhiyan (SR Abhiyan)