Thursday, July 21, 2011

With Lokavidya Lies the Solution

Sunil Sahasrabudhey

A great fact about lokavidya is that it is located in society. Take it away from there and it ceases to be lokavidya. Entered into knowledge registers, stored in computers, patented, privatized and reoriented for export or for up market, it turns into a body of information and/or artifacts to be pressed into the advantage of those who are not part of lokavidya world, who do not share the logic, ethics and aesthetics of the world of lokavidya, on the contrary, very often look down upon it as something base, primitive, uncivilized. The fish in water when taken out is either eaten away or is kept in an aquarium. The agaria, the preservers of the world famous ferrous technology of India, are taken away from the hills of Surguja or the forests of Mandla, either to be turned into the cheapest labor on earth or to be housed with their living art as a show piece in the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya in Bhopal. Nothing does greater damage to lokavidya than documentation.

Foundations of imperialism and colonialism were laid by the mapping of resources across the world, science providing the knowledge basis to make it possible. It destroyed the economics, politics and society of the people the world over. Now the maps of knowledge. Mapping the knowledge with the people is to provide the foundations of the New Empire, this time based on the knowledge basis provided by the science of information, computers and communication. This is to rob people of the last bastion of strength they still command, namely lokavidya. First time as tragedy and second time as farce! Little do they know that this time they have embarked on an enterprise that is doomed to failure.

Lokavidya can not be alienated from the people. There were workers in the city because there were peasants in the country side, there is the adivasi cheap labor on construction sites, because there are adivasi communities in the remote areas. The state and the university, the corporations, politicians and the managers of knowledge are up against a mountain which they do not know how to scale, because they do not understand what is lokavidya. They see it as traditional knowledge, indigenous knowledge, ethnic knowledge or as community practice. Little do they know that the depth and the variety of the genius of lokavidya has kept the world going from day one and shall live as long as the humanity does. The new assault is just about two decades old. And we already have the resistances tuned to derive strength from lokavidya. The farmers movement that had started as a movement to secure price for the farm produce has now moved on to struggles against displacement, to save lands of the farmers and creating new ideas like ‘food sovereignty’. The environment movement has moved on to the question of people’s control over natural resources and is generating new ideas like Rights of Mother Earth and Rights of Nature. The celebration of the demise of the trade union movement was barely over when a student movement started taking shape against the ‘dead knowledge’ of the university and in favor of the ‘living knowledge’ with the people, their autonomous organizations and the practice of self education. Lokavidya is where all knowledge starts and to which all knowledge must return. Universities may come and go, corporations may come and go, the state may rise and fall.

Lokavidya Jan Andolan is the recognition of the fraternity of such struggles across the world. It is to reshape the relations of property, the relations of power and the public discourse, so that people are heard, their initiatives are respected, their knowledge finds a new legitimization to reshape the world. Gandhi is reborn to assure that the struggles for and by lokavidya are indeed the struggles that can deliver the mankind from the traps it is in.

Sunil Sahasrabudhey

Vidya Ashram, Sarnath, Varanasi

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