Monday 8 October 2012

St Bedes's Way, in solidarity with the landless of India!

My feet are still aching - but it was worth it. A hundred or so people walked the 'St Bede's Way - to raise cash for Christian Aid and awareness for marchers in India who are walking for land rights in their country.

The walk is great, starting out at the Angle-Saxon tower of St Peter's Church in Sunderland, ambling down the coast to Whitburn, before heading over the Cleadon hills towards Jarrow. There was good company, and beautiful views of the sea and the local landscape.

At 'Bede's World' in Jarrow we were welcomed by singers performing traditional medieval plainsong. As much fun as it all was, it had a deep and powerful point. The blow is taken from the Christian Aid website:

This week saw 50-60,000 Indians, mainly dalits and tribal people, start the Jan Satyagraha march for land rights.
The march, which will cover 300km from Gwalior to Delhi, is the culmination of four years of planning and preparation by Christian Aid partner Ekta Parishad. Thousands more marchers are expected to join over the coming days and weeks as the march approaches Delhi.

The people's search for truth

Jan Satyagraha means 'the people's search for truth' and the march aims to give a voice to the poorest communities of India.
The main demands of this huge non-violent action are a new land reform policy, which would guarantee access to land and livelihood resources for all, regardless of wealth or caste, and a law establishing the right to shelter.

A government U-turn

It was hoped that the march was going to succeed even before its departure. In final two weeks of September, Ekta Parishad had numerous positive meetings with government officials and the Minister of Rural Development came to address the marchers on 2 October 2012 at the Mela Exhibition Ground in Gwalior.
As the minister left the stage, Ekta Parishad invited leaders and representatives from the different districts, tribes and social movements, to come together to discuss the government’s response. This discussion was broadcast live to the tens of thousands of marchers gathered so they could listen.
The general consensus was that the Minister's response fell short of expectations and was trying to buy the government more time. Therefore it was decided that the march should go ahead to keep the pressure on the government.

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