‘To demand what is rightfully ours’
27,000 desperate people have walked all the way from Gwalior to the Capital to ask the government to give them the opportunity they never had, reports Karan Choudhury.delhi Updated: Oct 29, 2007 03:34 IST
Seven-year-old Gurkamal and eight-year-old Gurwinder may not know anything about world politics, but they know their father is facing a crisis and they are out to show their love and support for him. They don’t have to say it: the blisters on their tiny feet tell their tale.
Their family is one of the 27,000 desperate people who have walked all the way from Gwalior to the Capital to ask the government to give them the opportunity they never had. These displaced farmers and agricultural workers are part of Janadesh 2007, a 340-km march to ‘awaken’ the people at the top and make them aware of stories of a lost land and and livelihood, and continual harassment by local authorities.
People from as many as 20 states camped at Ramlila Grounds on Sunday. All are eager to tell their stories. Kulwant Singh from a village in Muktsar, Punjab, is confident somebody will hear his grievances. “The government promised us landless labourers a patch of land, but we never got it. We are here to demand what is rightfully ours and we have the papers to prove it. This march will help us achieve what we have not achieved in years,” he said.
Women, children, even the disabled, are a part of the Janadesh rally. Even after being disabled by polio, Mangat Singh, from village Kallu in Firozpur, joined the rally. “This is nothing compared to the problems we face back home. I earn Rs.30 per day and it is not even for one person to survive and I have five mouths to feed. If this rally helps me feed my little brothers back home, I would be happy,” he said.
Anger and anxiety can be clearly seen in the eyes of the adivasis from Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. “The jungles have taken care of us for generations. Suddenly one day, the forest department officials entered our houses and took away everything we had. They said this land belongs to the government; when we retaliated, they harassed us. We want somebody to listen to our problems and find a solution,” said Mukund Singh from Korba, Chhattisgarh.
Cooking food for 27,000 mouths can be a tedious task but at the Ramlila Grounds camp, volunteers managed it with ease. Rajesh from Kerala, who has been cooking food for 300 people for the past month, said, “We make sure nobody is left hungry. People from all states love my sambhar and rice. The food we make here is simple but really tasty.”