The Jai Jagat global peace march began on the 2nd of October on the occasion of the 150th year of mahatma Gandhi’s birth. The yearlong march included four months of walking on the central plains of this wonderful and diverse country where the march covered nearly 2100 km averaging 25 km a day. The marchers stayed in different locations every night and met hundreds of people in the course of every day while ensuring capacity building on nonviolence during the course of these four months. This allowed us to get a “worm’s eye view” of people’s lives. Step by step, village by village, city by city connecting with the actions of so many people, it has been an amazing view into the daily lives of such a diverse population. This is very different from the “bird’s eye view” which tends to see things from aerial heights without touching the ground realities. The Jai Jagat in every step ‘touched the ground’.
During its first phase, the Jai Jagat March went through Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, spreading Gandhi’s message of “on the move for justice and peace” directly impacting over 100,000 people during the course of the walk, trained nearly 5,000 young people and sensitized 25,000 school children on nonviolence. Most of the journey was in Madhya Pradesh and as we traversed 13 districts, we found ourselves in dozens of forest areas, and in this process, we became acquainted with different tribal cultures “adivasi”, learning their ways of ecological balancing being the traditional keepers and custodians of the forests and their cosmologies that invariably sees the earth as a complete entity in itself.
During these four months, we were overwhelmed by the love and support of people and the administration, right from district collectors to the village panchayats who graciously welcomed the marchers everywhere we went. It was particularly heartwarming to see the support extended to the Peace march by the police who took care of the marchers throughout as well as the involvement and warm receptions of the politicians from both ends of the country’s political spectrum, in each block, each village, town and cities we passed through. They gave us food, they gave us hospitality and they gave us love, showering the marchers with flowers everywhere we met. We felt completely cared for.
It invariably led to the question as to why would the government apparatus help us? Most of the time, the issues that we had fought for had been at odds with the state. Our understanding that emerged was that they saw the movement as taking Gandhi to Geneva. For example, In a district in Madhya Pradesh, history was made when the state’s chief minister organized an event where 25000 school children gathered to honor the marchers and their message of Gandhi. The unanticipated support by the government only inspired us and demonstrated how, when one walks for truth, for peace and justice with 50 people dedicating one year of their lives, everything automatically falls in place.
One of the most important aspect of the march was our interactions with school children, both from the middle class English medium schools to government schools, and college students and sensitized them on nonviolence and the vision, aim and objectives of the Jai Jagat march and also introduced the idea of Peace Clubs to encourage the practice of resolving conflict situations through dialogues. Through these direct interactions for capacity building of the young people, the generation for whom the jai Jagat purports to build a better future, we were able to reach nearly 70,000 school going and college students of which about five thousand were trained directly through special sessions of capacity building as we perceive the youth to be the most effective agents of change.
In line with Jai Jagat’s pillar of ‘inclusion’ and the issue of ‘poverty’ that is invariably related with the issue of rights over land, water and the forests, we met thousands of the displaced, dispossessed tribal groups and landless village folks, who showed great enthusiasm and hope as they shared their grievances and concerns. We have been documenting these concerns which are often a result of insensitive policies from the government that fails to address developmental issues from a bottom-up approach and which the Jai Jagat intends to present in the Geneva forum. At the same time, we also discussed environmental issues and sensitized people about the use of plastic, of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides and advocated as well as noted examples of environment friendly local production.
The four months of the Indian leg of the yearlong march ended with a three-day Peace Conference in Wardha where experts discussed the most important issue of how to introduce and develop education for peace. Other expert panels discussed and debated the nonviolent economy and nonviolent governance. Jai jagat sees these three as essential areas of intervention that must incorporate a nonviolent paradigm in all spheres of life to see transformation of the society that is towards a more just and peaceful society.
The Indian phase of the march ended at Sewagram, Gandhi’s Ashram, quite aptly as the march prepares for the next 8 months of international march to spread the Mahatma’s message of peace and Justice.