In an exclusive interview to Mitaan Express, PV Rajagopal, National President and Founder of Ekta Parishad said basic changes in the economic, political, social and educational system of the country is the need of the hour. Superficial changes and patch work will not have any impact. Impact will come only if we can make basic, structural changes at these levels.
What is the basic agenda you stand for?
We stand for the agenda proposed by Jayprakash Narayan, which is about – ‘Total Revolution,’ that is basic change in the economic, political, social and educational system of the country. We believe that superficial changes and patch work will not have any impact. Impact will come only if we can make basic change, structural change at these levels. That is our basic philosophy and in order to achieve it, we carry the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, who said, “Reach out to the poorest, organize them.” Because in every democratic system you should have organized community to control the state, as a state can grow very indifferent to people’s issue, if they are not controlled and managed by the people. So, organizing people, basically the poor, to have a control mechanism on the state government is our basic agenda. The poorest section of the society include 20 % Dalits, 8% Tribes, 11% Nomads and 2% fishermen, all that put together, basically speaking about 41 per cent of the Indians who are deprived and now the farmers also, because they are going to lose their land. So it’s about more than 50 per cent people that we are speaking about who need organizing and mobilizing their strengths to make the state accountable.
Raja Ji, you did two Padyatras, one from Gwalior to Delhi and another in Agra. What circumstances forced you to undertake another Padyatra in March next?
The two previous Padyatras were organized when Congress Party was in power. The first one was in 2007, though we ended up with an agreement, the then Prime Minister never called a meeting of the Council, so we had a National Land Reform Council, but the Council never met. The second Padyatra in Agra we had an agreement, the ten-point
agreement, some part of it is done, but the major and very important part is not implemented. So, I would say that because the previous two governments did not fulfil their commitment or nearly cheated the people in front of whom they made the promises.
Now we are forced to go for a third Padyatra. Whoever may be in power or whichever party is in power, but we need to do another Padyatra. The reason for going to have another Padyatra now is because of the government has come out with an ordinance to change all the progressive clauses of the Land Acquisition Act. So the farmers are going
to lose their lands when the government is favouring industrialists and the corporate sector. So this was forcing us to organize this Yatra much earlier than before we thought. The Yatra will begin on March 8 on International Women’s Day and will end on March 18 in Delhi.
What difference do you see between the previous and the present government, which has got full mandate in the last Lok Sabha Elections? The new government is supposed to be working with new energy and zeal but suddenly within a year such issues are coming up and its decisions are being questioned. How do you explain this?
I think it’s all related to the very agenda that the present government is following. Prime Minister Narendra Modi Ji is going around the world and asking people to come in India and invest and investment will not happen unless you take land. Now land is the beginning of investment process. So what I understand is, if you keep asking people to come and invest, the farmer and villagers are going to lose their land and resources. I was hoping that the BJP was promoting the agenda of Swadeshi. I was hoping that this government will speak more about Swadeshi. They will have respect for villagers. They will create economic system based on the concept of Swadeshi. I was hoping for the best when the BJP came into power. But the trends are quite different and when you want to have investment there are two things happening, one, the World Bank is asking every government to make policies that are liberal for investment. There is a grading system within World Bank wherein India is now in 147th grade and they would like to make a jump to come to 50 or 40 in the grading system. You cannot make this jump unless you change all the laws like labour, land and environment. The present government is making efforts to make changes in the existing laws, because it wants to be on the 40th or 50th position on the grading list of WB.
Secondly, the corporate houses are trying to send a message that they were behind the victory of the present prime minister, so he will have to act in their interest. So, if there is any national interest of the corporate sector, it’s a World Bank dictate in terms of how the government should promote growth and growth system. I think we are in a big trap, which will produce more poverty, more migration, more slums and more violence. So basically we are creating a broad way for poverty, migration, slum and violence. I’m sorry to say that the very government which was speaking about Swadeshi and nationalism did not understand this and are playing in the hands of international forces and this is very tragic.
You maintain good relations with many senior BJP leaders like Rajnath Singh, Venkaiah Naidu and many others. They know you personally and they know your agenda Jal, Jangal and Jamin. Don’t you think that they are not in a position to stop the government over the land reform bill?
I think even in BJP there is opposition to it. I spoke to some ministers and I understood that they were not part of making this ordinance. I also understand that within the RSS there is very strong opposition to this Land Acquisition Act. I know within BMS there is very strong group who opposed to all amendments that the government is making in terms of labour laws. So, this government is being challenged by their own people now. This is a path of destruction. So in case if the external and internal forces come against the government then the government is creating a difficult situation for itself, while promoting the industrial houses. So I think it is a great mistake, blunder, that the prime minister doing while creating opposition within the party and creating an opportunity to all oppositions to come together including social movement. I think a wise person will not do or act in that manner. I was thinking that a person like our Prime Minister will understand about the importance of Food Security today, which is an urgent issue for a country like India. I spoke to Union Minister for Mines, Steel and Labour & Employment Narendra Singh Tomar and asked for his support over the issue. I even told this to VK Singh that how can this issue be initiated and spoke to Sushma Swaraj that there are issues which I want to talk with you. So basically, I’m slowly opening up a channel of dialogue with the government as Gandhi said “We are willing to talk where we can talk, but resist where we should resist”. So we are going to allow government to walk over to body of farmers and poor people of this country, the way they are deciding it, at the same time, we don’t want to be an opposition group, we want to talk to them, and we want to convince them that this is a path of destruction.
You have seen many agitations against government by people like Baba Ramdev, Anna Hazare and Kejriwal. At this time you are going to organize another Yatra to oppose the government’s land ordinance. How will you manage the Yatra or what will be the obstacles? Previous government had also tried to control and to limit the social organizations’ activities by making rules and laws. How do you see that?
It was the Congress Government. Because of Anna Hazare’s agitation, they decided to curtail the space and possibilities of voluntary and people’s organizations. So the new government would also continue that process, they will use what Congress Government created. What is now happening is that the positive steps that the Congress government has taken, this government is going to undo, and the negative steps that the Congress Government created, this government is going to use. It is basically undo good things and continue with bad things. This is very sad that this government is doing this. The agitations, as it is today, are going to be very difficult, because on one hand they have curtailed all possibilities of international supports and solidarity. Not only the financial support, even letter coming from international community. International media people are coming and writing about it, and those support are going to be more and more difficult. But on the other, I think, it will also give a possibility for opposition party to come out. And if the social, opposition, farmers and other movements will come together it would become a huge irresistible social movement, which the government cannot easily get rid of. I am surprised that a situation that the then prime minister Indira Gandhi created, way back in 1974, Modi Ji is able to create it within one year. It is like everybody speaking about fastest tendencies, everyone is speaking that it is of concentration of power in one hand, everybody speaking about anti people and anti poor policies etc, so a discussion which I used to hear in 1974, is suddenly re-emerging within one year. He must hear about it.
The Prime Minister, while addressing a public rally at Ramleela Maidan in New Delhi, had taken on AamAadmi Party convener Arvind Kejriwal by asking him to join the Naxal movement if chooses to be an anarchist. However the reference was indirect, but is there any mindset of Modi for Kejriwal? And similarly about you, of your organization, many governments have been levelling allegations that you are having links with leftists while you are doing your agitation through Ahimsa, how do you react over these mindsets of governments for your and also about what Modi said to Kejriwal?
I have been invited to various parts of the world to train young people in non-violence. I was also considered to be one of those important trainers in non-violence. If the government has any intelligence department worth to it, it is unbiased or unnecessarily motivated. They will understand about the commitments of Ekta Parishad to promote Gandhian values. It is committed to promote non-violence and even it is invited to inaugurate Gandhi Foundations and organize non-violent training programme. Even in worst situations like Middle East, people come to me saying that why don’t you involve etc. This is a total bias, because if you want to crush a large social movement like Ekta Parishad, what else one can do?
You said they are biased. Who Politicians or bureaucrats?
Considering many sayings of many chief ministers like Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Dr Raman Singh, I would say politicians are by and large open hearted and they have no bias. These are the bureaucracy which is being challenged by social movements like ours, for not functioning, not being accountable to people, being corrupt etc. They try to educate politicians against the social movements, so that social movements can be crushed and their own space can be created for corruption and behaviour of non-accountability. So I think the politicians have shown greater amount of understanding because they understand political actions are quite possible in a democratic system, but the bureaucracy is always threatened, because they want a situation where they are not challenged at all. Politicians like Shivraj Singh and Digvijay Singh came out in my support. I know through my internal circles, this is just a group of people who are trying to create this impression to create a better space for themselves. But I tell you I was very shocked when Narendra Modi said something to Kejriwal at Ramleela Maidan that he should go and join Naxal Movement. This was a very irresponsible statement from Narendra Modi, because the Prime Minister of India is asking people to go and join Naxalism. On one side you are creating a large military to control Naxalism and on the other you are advising people to join Naxalism. What is more sarcastic and unreasoning than it? When Modi gave a call to Naxalites from Nepal to come and join the mainstream, I was the first one to write him, congratulate him saying that look this is fantastic that you did so. I even suggested the methods. In Chambal Valley, the government was able to get the dacoits surrender. We have a habit and experience of dealing with violence. Please tell us how we can help you in creating a situation, so that people believing in violence could also take the path of non-violence. I was very shocked to hear such a statement from Narendra Modi, and I hope he will not repeat it.
Can you explain about the ten-point agenda?
The 10-point agreement will include national land reforms, policy, mechanism for reader cell of grievances related to land etc and so many others which are very important agreement which is really ground-breaking, in terms of a government coming in front of a social movement and say to commit in writing to do things. The final letter that I wrote to Congress Party Member Jairam Ramesh before the general election saying that you will be accountable for your act that after committing in front of thousands of people, not doing it, cheating the people, fooling them. I think you will have to explain this to the nation by which I made it very clear that he was doing a good act when he had come to Agra, and ultimately his irresponsible style finally got us nothing major.
Opposition has always been making allegations that present government is influenced by RSS, who would you say about it?
There are good people and bad people as well and I will not generalize one particular party or group as bad or good even voluntary organization there are so many good and bad people. Because I believe in Gandhian ideology and I believe in strong dialogue. We should not begin with a closed door, we should be open. I’m trying to create a kind of grouping around various kinds of ideologies. We are creating a possibility for various ideologies to come together as ultimately all the ideologies are in order to help the poorest section of the society. Debating ideologies in a classroom will not help the poor person. What is important is come together and act. So if someone’s agenda is to help the poor people and promote the spirit of Swadeshi, I will stand with them. But if there is a fight between communities, cast or religions I will not stand with them. My agenda is justice and peace and I want complete justice which will create a peaceful society. I don’t think of a peace without justice. So how to promote a development model that will ultimately guarantee peace and justice is my concept and I look for partnership in that agenda in every circle, whichever ideology or whichever religion it belongs to.
What would say on this occasion of the Silver Jubilee of your organization?
This is a great occasion for Ekta Parishad of course. I think, in a fast globalizing world where international forces are trying to dominate every country and their economy, when this economic model is creating problems not only for poor people but also for nature, global warming and climate changes have become reality of the world, there should be organizations like Ekta Parishad, which are really rooted, working for the poorest section of the society, and would also educate the middle class and upper class to change their behavioural pattern. I am very happy while celebrating the 25th year of Ekta Parishad. We are able to invite so many organizations and create a larger platform to act together. We are able to create an agenda for the future, and Ekta Parishad is clever enough, good enough to create and promote a new set of leadership. I feel somewhat free today that there is a new set of leadership is taking over Ekta Parishad. I can carry this agenda created from here to largest circle of people and help a national dynamics. The only appeal I want to make here, especially to the middle class Indians that “Please don’t take poverty and problems are only for the Adivasis, Dalits, Nomads and others. Social, Not only the Economic Poverty, cultural and spiritual poverty are also poverty. Many people are suffering from economic poverty and you are suffering from cultural, spiritual or social poverty.” So we all are poor in one sense. So let’s struggle together for bringing about change, not get carried only by economic richness and destroy the world in this run for breed. So I will be very happy if the middle class Indian would join the struggle where economic poverty can be tackled, and we can all move towards a spiritually, culturally, morally rich society.
What would you say about Mitaan Express?
It is a great idea. It has really come out well. As the name itself is ‘Mitaan’ which means ‘Friendship’, that is going to build friendship and partnership in the society. It’s Mitaan that we need to have great friendship and partnership with suffering masses of Chhattisgarh and other places. Mitaan will bring about an agenda of peace and justice in the society. The very name is great and the act of Mitaan Express will also be great I am sure.