Friday, June 8, 2012

Madhya Pradesh LJA Conference, Singrauli 29-30 Sept. 2012 : Preparations

We have just been through a trip to the eastern parts of Madhya Pradesh. On 27th May there was a preparatory meeting in Singrauli to discuss the content, organization and  preparation of the Madhya Pradesh LJA Conference. About 25 persons attended. From out side Singrauli Sanjeev, Dilip, Ravi, Ekta, Chitra and myself were present. This gives a substantial start to the preparations. We expect to hold preparatory meetings during coming months in several districts of MP. A large contingent is expected to participate in the event through a 'yatra' from the Indore region. The dates of the event have been changed to 29-30 September 2012. And a largish preparatory meeting is proposed in Baidhan, Singrauli on 9-10 August 2012.
                      Awdhesh speaking at Singrauli prep. meet on 27th May 2012

From Singrauli many of us moved on for meetings in Katni, Jabalpur, Shahdol and Anooppur. 30th May saw some thousands of farmers descend on Anooppur in the leadership of Bharatiya Kisan Union to protest against the high handed and repressive administrative action against the farmers on 5th May when they had gathered outside the Moser Baer Thermal Power Plant for increased compensation for their lands which have been forcibly taken away. They are being paid a pittance, Rs. 65,000 per acre. Hundreds were arrested and later released. However a large number continued to be detained on a variety of charges, this includes Rakesh Tikait, the National Leader of BKU.

                                 LJA Meeting in Jabalpur, 29 May 2012

We spent time in the villages of Anooppur, namely Mahuda and Kyontar and also near Jaithari, the plant site. Mahuda is a center of Kisan Union activity and was selected as an alternate site for the kisan panchayat on 30th May, which was of course prevented by the administration. There is enormous resentment against the terror tactics of the government. On 30th the entire district of Anooppur was turned into a police chhavni. Extensive arrests took place on and before 30th May. Anyone suspected to be with the Kisan Union was detained. Local farmers were mostly arrested between 5th May and the day of Panchayat. Farmers were also arrested at various stations from trains going towards Anooppur. The administration has let loose the propaganda that BKU leaders are from outside, they are outsiders creating nuisance in Anooppur. They are saying this in support of Moser Baer, a German company. So in the eyes of the administration the German company serves the interests of the people of the region and and farmer leaders from Uttar Pradesh are seen as outsiders !

                              Group meeting in forest in Bandhav Garh 28 May 2012
                                           Chitra missing because photo taking

Our dialogues in meetings and in the villages do find a response. Lokavidya Jan Andolan is seen as creating new terms of debate, a possible pathway in an otherwise closed kind of situation. It does convey an idea which can work towards producing  a larger unity to be able to stand up against the bulldozing policies underway. Specifically we found responsive activists in all the districts we visited and farmers in the villages in a mood to take new initiatives. We expect to continue this process through the coming months to add to the gathering in Singrauli on 29-30 September. Remember Singrauli produces 13,000 MW thermal power today and so many projects are underway that there is a ' promise' of another 20,000 MW in a few years. The communities, the forests, air, water, livelihoods, everything is devastated. We hope that the LJA conference here will break some fresh ground for a new social and political imagination.

        On 31st May, 2012, LJA team with Kolaidas on his land on the bank of river Son in village Kyontar in Anooppur district, where a Lokavidya Ashram is being planned.  This is the site where Moser Baer is building a dam on river Son for steady supply of water to their thermal plant.

Vidya Ashram

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