Monday, April 27, 2015

Badanwal satyagraha

Badanawal Satyagraha and the National Convention for 

Sustainable Living
March -April 2015
Over the last year and a half, a Handloom Satyagraha has been underway in and around Karnataka, spearheaded by the All India Federation of Handloom Organizations. In December 2013, thousands of handloom weavers from across Karnataka marched several hundred kilometers in a campaign termed Banashankari Yatre to highlight their plight and demands. In January 2014, an indefinite fast was observed demanding the strict implementation of the Handloom Reservation Act. In December 2014, a protest against the manufacture of imitation handloom products through power looms culminated in a fast unto death campaign.
Subsequently, the scope of the Satyagraha expanded to include all organizations working towards sustainability, focusing on agriculture, environment, labor, gender, language, folklore, culture and education, along with Khadi and handlooms. Over months, it has taken the shape of a joint campaign of all consumers and producers of sustainable goods and services, from cities and villages across Karnataka. Over time, the Satyagraha came to be called the Badanawal Satyagraha – after a village that continues to provide a powerful symbolism of the possibilities of societal regeneration for people in these parts of the country.
Badanawal (Badanawaalu) is a small village situated south of Mysore, adjoining the Chamarajanagar district in Karnataka, a perpetually drought prone area. In 1925, a well-known Gandhian, Tagadur Ramachandra Rao, started a Khadi and Village Industries production centre here on a 7.5-acre campus. Subsequently, Gandhiji visited the centre a couple of times, stayed there and was pleasantly surprised by the success of the khadi centre. Four dalit women formed the initial staff of the Khadi and Gramodyoga Kendra at Badanawal and their number increased gradually as the centre introduced other trades. More than 300 women were working here during its heydays producing close to 50,000 lbs of handspun cotton yarn by 1938.
The current Badanawal Satyagraha was organized by the well-known theatre personality Prasanna, who with a group of volunteers, camped in the village, rebuilding the dilapidated sheds in the Khadi and Gramodyoga Kendra besides holding meetings, workshops, street performances, and visual art campaigns beginning March 21,2015.
Six padayatras began on April 12 from various parts of the State and culminated at Badanawal for the National Convention for Sustainable Living on April 19. Several hundred activists, practitioners and enthusiasts of sustainable living came here to articulate their thoughts, hear from others and express solidarity with the growing numbers of people concerned about the unsustainable path of development that India has taken. The gathering also included handloom weavers and their federations, craftspeople, farmers, farmers unions, activists working on biodiversity, climate and energy, food and health safety enthusiasts, dalits, artists, writers, students and others.
Several panchayats were held on different aspects of sustainability throughout the day at the convention alongside exhibitions, sales, demonstrations and prayer meetings. A common thread seen in the discussions was the serious nature of inequities created by development through harmful chemical agricultural practices, devastation of forests, water, the environment and livelihoods; through the elimination of biodiversity in crops, vegetation and fauna, the disenfranchisement of local knowledge, the breakdown of community and respect for anything local; and so on.
One of the panchayats was on the struggles of Artisan communities. Prasanna, in his keynote address, outlined the issues facing men, women and children of these communities. He stressed the fact that, left to themselves and without the negative impact of the capitalist market, these communities had the wherewithal to sustain a dignified life even today. He also emphasized the need to impart an education to children that augments the knowledge and skills they acquire in day-to-day work with their elders.
J.K. Suresh from LJA, Bengaluru, briefly spoke about developments that threaten the very existence of the Lokavidya Samaj - comprising farmers, artisans, dalits, tribals, small shopkeepers & businessmen etc - and whose knowledge, obtained from their families and communities, forms the basis of their occupational skills and work. And how, since India’s independence, the livelihoods of the people of this society have been destroyed systematically, forcing them to abandon the calling of their communities in search of better opportunities and means of life. This in turn has led to the widening of the influence and control of centralized capitalist production and the capitalist market in their lives, making the condition of a large number of people even worse. It is therefore imperative to assist the revival and relegitimisation of Lokavidya, so that the Samaj can find its moorings and chart a new role for itself to meet the challenges of a changing global reality.
M Mohan Rao, President of the Rashtriya Cheneta Samakhiya, Chirala, Andhra Pradesh and LJA, stressed the need for various sections of the village society to come together and prevent the destruction of livelihoods while enabling sustainable lifestyles for all. (B. Krishnarajulu from LJA, Hyderabad, translated the Telugu talk)
A final declaration adopted by the Satyagraha is as below:
  • Handloom is the fabric of the future
  • Traditional farming is the agriculture of the future
  • Mother tongue is the language of the future
  • Decentralization is the politics of the future
  • The Satyagraha calls for utilizing today’s resources for the industries and agriculture of tomorrow.
  • The Satyagraha calls for utilizing knowledge, science, education and political power towards building a sustainable life.
  • The Satyagraha calls for renouncing industrialization cleverly, carefully and judiciously, without hurting anyone.
The plan for the future is to expand the movement across the country by reimagining and reshaping Badanawal, without harming the original design of the existing structure, and making the village a place of pilgrimage for people who believe in sustainable living.
(In compiling this article, several sources have been consulted, links to which are as below:

  1. J K Suresh
    LJA Karnataka

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