Monday, February 21, 2011

What Do People Want

Some (personal) open questions

The position papers of Amit Basole, Budheyji himself, Krishnarajulu, Chitraji and others are clear about certain issues: that the onslaught of the global digitized society, aided by convergence of communication, media etc।, threatens traditional knowledge and means of livelihood of large part of humanity. The people who are most under threat from this attack are the most "backward", most "left out" of current civilization so to say. Ergo, from classical Marxist point of view, they hold the key to salvation of the entire humanity. Whichever way one looks at the LJA agenda, this is the core issue. How we go about this – how we organize the "people" – is the question that comes next.

The blog / contribution on "Khadi and the semantic web" talked about the 'music of the charkha'. Unfortunately, to many, the music may sound jarring. What was once liberating, revolutionary, may not remain so a hundred years (or nearly so) later. The ground reality has changed. There may be debate about this: how far it has changed, whether it has changed at all. But in my opinion, if we want a large number of the 'middle forces' with us, we cannot look like Luddites. We who use mobile phones, and have personal modes of vehicular transport, may look hypocritical if we chant that the modes of living of the adivasis must remain unaltered.

The name of Gandhi still is inspirational, not the institutions he had founded (has not the same thing happened with Marx ?). Look at KVIC, Gandhi Ashrams and foundations spread all over India : ruins or empty shells. Yet Gandhi, like Marx, remains source of inspiration. It must be the method they used, and not the material.

I keep asking myself what he would have done faced with this problem, which the Govt। (both in Delhi, as well as in Chattisgarh and MP) conveniently terms "maoist menace", and which we know as deliberate loot of natural resources and uprooting of the adivasis, mulvasis.

What Gandhi did before he came into politics (Congress) was, on the advice of Gokhale, he toured the country by train (3rd class). Can we claim we have that 'experience', that we know what people from this or that part of our nation really want ?

The knowledge question comes 'easily' to us, at least to those of us who are in academia, trained in arguments on abstruse concepts. To a villager or an adivasi being displaced, whether from construction of a dam, or from setting up of a mine or a factory, the primary question is (i) finding food and shelter for the whole family, and (ii) to ensure continuation of the same, at least for some time.

If these needs of an individual become collective needs of a large number of people, they become more difficult to ignore and bypass. That is being done by NBA, NAPM etc. Individuals are also writing about these issues, sensitizing a lot of readers about problems faced by fellow countrymen.

It is also being debated (at least in some corners), why large scale social experiments can be carried out in the Central and South Americas but not in our subcontinent। Is it because our polity is so divided that we are not accustomed to think of the needs of the nation as a whole ? "If Bengalis think of Bengal only, if Punjabis think of Punjab....then who will think of India ?" Is this to be the lasting British legacy that we must bear : Gandhi vs Ambedkar, Gandhi vs Periyar ?

We must find some answers to these problems. Otherwise, the movement ahead will be bumpier.

On the positive side, we have a lot of the intelligentsia and young people, students etc। who are coming out to protest against injustice. Spontaneous demonstrations are organized whenever there is apparent miscarriage of justice, atrocity on weaker sections etc. I particularly liked an article by D. Raja of the CPI against the Kalinganagar firing last year. These people ought to be contacted and their opinions taken.

There are also some positive signs from other places: movement towards more local economy (abolishing money as medium of exchange), Transition movement, etc। are some of the hopeful signs (perhaps). These are not confined to North America or Europe, but are also taking place in Kenya, in Phillipines, in many other places. Should we be in touch with these people also, as with the World Social Forum ? We must have pamphlets explaining our position in various languages, and use the media (the net especially) for such purpose. Paradoxical?

I needed to express what I have been thinking, feeling for quite some time. This is certainly not to put any dampener before the talks. That is why I am sending this to Budheyji first.

In solidarity with whatever decision is taken together in the meeting,

Asoke P. Chattopadhyay

Kalyani, West Bengal

P.S. The last blog (LJA and / or Gyan Mukti ?) is critical and one may find some overlap of the present one with it.

( It is posted here by me. Needless to say that no changes were made, except that the title What Do People Want is given by me; Asoke had not given any. Budhey )

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