December 11

The new day began with a reading from Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj at the first stop after departing from the lovely and extremely best and clean Tikhad village. Expositing on the text Rajagopal P.V. explained that when Gandhi came back to India in 1909, there were various existing thought streams struggling to find an answer to the British rule. The thought systems could be clubbed as a binary of pro and anti freedom perspectives. On the other hand, those wanting independence were still debating the possibility of an independent India based on a modern democratic political system while others were positing a traditional revisionism. Gandhi acted as the mediator between the polarities of freedom and anti-independence schools of thought. This art of mediation, of acting as the negotiator between these opposing narratives was his main achievement, whether it was the Indian schools of thought, the Congress and the British raj or between the landowners and the lower caste laborers and untouchables. Initiating dialogues to give a constructive shape to opposing ideologies and practices is also the main tenet of transformative nonviolence.

This is even more relevant today given the growing differences in people. The present world political and social-cultural system has been going through a regressive turn where identity based on caste, class, race, gender, sexuality and nationality has come to occupy the dominant space. Consequently, nations and groups are taking a more exclusive and insulated approach in safeguarding their positions. Dialogue and mediation is not sought at all and is at best left to world bodies like the UN.

Rajagopal implored the walkers to think on how to address this decline in mediation based discourse between two groups of people with different agendas and ideologies. How do we develop the art of mediation? How can two stakeholders with different mindsets come together?

“Be the change you want to see in this world”, said Gandhi. Rajagopal ji used the same logic in urging the peace walkers to think of how to imbibe and inculcate this art of mediation. Dialogues as mediatory instrument is the most appropriate and non-invasive way to seek solutions. He quoted Vinoba Bhave’s call to solve problems of the village in the village itself rather than the court as an inspirational example.

The JaiJagat group of walkers left Jamani block of Hoshangabad district and later in the day were received by an organic farmer who shared his experience of nonviolent farming whereby no living beings, even microbes, are killed. This was followed by a parley with local farmers where the issue of pesticides and chemical fertilizers was discussed. These are clearly the biggest threats to fertile soil being short term solutions to increase produce but irreversibly harmful to the soil in the long run. As such, our earth is in constant upheavel from the chemicals that we are pumping into it and on the other hand the natural gases and minerals that we are increasingly extracting out. Combined together, the current farming and mining model poses great threat to the earth’s ecosystem and the entire food chain.

This meeting was another instance of mobile training and imbibing Gandhian values. Meeting farmers, listening to their stories, thought processes and local woes in the yatra is always helpful in getting deeper insights to the larger issues of agriculture. These meetings invariably highlight the flaws in the model of development that farming and village economy in particular has been forced to adopt.

The walkers stopped for lunch in Hirankheda. Makhanlal Chaturvedi, a famous poet was born here. This place also houses a lake where cows in large numbers come and hence is called goumukhi. Adivasi group annually come here to celebrate Diwali. We got an opportunity to experience their rich cultural tradition as the group played folk music songs.

The team reached an eco-tourism site in Bhilletdev, home to a famous old Shiv temple, where night stay was arranged in a rest house adjacent to the tourist spot. The resting place for the night was pleasing to the eye with its lavish green gardens and beautiful architecture along with the eco huts of the tourism site, where the team enjoyed dinner in its lovely wooden restaurant before calling it a day.