25,000 Dalits and Adivasis march to Delhi | india | Hindustan Times
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25,000 Dalits and Adivasis march to Delhi

india Updated: Oct 14, 2007 17:39 IST

More than 25,000 Dalits and Adivasis from various parts of the country are marching towards the national capital carrying flags and shouting slogans, to press their demand for land, water and trees from the government.

The volunteers, including women, of the Ekta Parishad, mostly dalits and adivasis led by Gandhians PV Raj Gopal and Subba Rao, are walking in four files on the national highway that leads to the capital. Many of them are carrying backpacks and children along with them.

An activist from Chhattisgarh told IANS "It doesn't matter if some inconvenience is caused. We are marching for a big cause. For decades the poor and the Dalits (former untouchables in the Hindu caste hierarchy) have been fooled and taken for a ride with all kinds of promises but nothing substantial has been delivered."

"The issues are basic. The poor and the underprivileged must get their share of the land. There should be community control on water resources and the jungles have to be saved from the marauding developers," he added.

They walk 10 km at a stretch and stop for food and rest on the roadside before resuming their journey. They cook in roadside kitchens, sing and dance and sleep on the road. They also discuss rights and importance of jungles.

On Saturday morning, the marchers left Agra as their 4 km long procession meandered its way through the main MG Road. They stopped at Akbar's tomb on the outskirts of the city before reaching the Mathura refinery outside the city.

All along the route there were endless queues of vehicles, forcing the drivers to trail on the narrow road along the highway.

Many tourists wanting to see the Taj Mahal had a harrowing time, as they were stuck in the traffic jam and waited for more than three hours before they could move towards Agra.

Sukhvir Singh, a bus driver said, "What would happen when they reach Faridabad and Delhi. The whole traffic system would be paralysed. The police should have warned the drivers or opened an alternative route."

One of the leaders of the group, wielding a stick and carrying a flag, shouted at the motorists on the other side for trying to intrude in the procession. Another biker with milk cans was similarly roughed up.

The volunteers otherwise are largely a disciplined lot. They march in rows, follow the group leader's instruction in letter and spirit.

"The discipline is amazing," said a Mathura resident Ashok, adding, "A rally of this sort can easily go out of hand and create whole lot of problems, as we have been seeing in the past political rallies. But this one is really different."

In Agra the marchers got a lot of support and help from various NGOs including Gandhian organizations. Christian missionary organizations also came forward for help.

"For two days the whole Agra city has been discussing the issues raised by the Delhi Chalo (head to Delhi) marchers. We are confident this exercise will not go waste.

Something will definitely come out of this," said Manorma Sharma, the chief programme coordinator for Agra.