Just Me and My Closest 40,0000 Friends

It’s hot.  There are tens of thousands of people from all over India and the world gathered together under large tents.  One question is on everyone’s mind: Will we march?

In true democratic fashion, this can only be decided by a vote, so after countless speeches have been made and ministers have made their promises, it is time to decide.  Turns out the crowd isn’t buying the Minister of Rural Development’s empty words that contain a glaring lack of clear deadlines for progress.  The people have spoken.  We march.

Excitement is pulsing through the place.  What we all came for is now becoming a reality.  We will march from Gwalior to Delhi, walking in solidarity for justice.

The next morning it is around 9:30 AM.  I am in a single-file line, not to get my school lunch or to be part of a military exercise.  I am part of Jan Satyagraha 2012, a massive, nonviolent direct action movement to bring justice to the marginalized and landless*.  I am surrounded by some 40,000 fellow protestors who have travelled far and wide to demand reform on land rights and their livelihoods.

Never before have I been able to see so clearly how I can be a small part of something much bigger than myself.  This visual is overwhelming and I become emotional.

We walk for 27km the first day.  I begin to regret packing so much when the shoulder pains kick in.  However, it’s hard to hold onto any negative thoughts when in one glance I see tribal men and women, much older than myself, with their own sacks to carry, and no look of pain or fatigue.  In fact, when I look around me all I see is determination and hope.  They are part of something larger than their self as well.

Jan Satyagraha 2012 has been a movement in the making for the last several years.  Countless hours of training and organizing have gone into making this march possible.  From water tanks and meal preparation teams to medical staff and temporary toilets, there is some serious pre-planning and team formations that took place in order for there to be adequate support for the marchers.

What makes my participation in this movement even more special is that I am sharing this experience with twenty youth from all over India who we (Pravah, my host NGO) have brought for a Group Exposure.  Shifting through my roles as facilitator, marcher, teacher, and learner provides me with memories that I will forever cherish.

I am still in disbelief of how lucky I am to have been placed with Pravah.  They have fully adopted me into their family and given me opportunities, such as this one, to further explore myself and the larger community around me, all while facilitating youth’s journeys as well.

And to cap the thankfulness and excitement that I have experienced during the first month of my AIF fellowship, the Jan Satyagraha march was a huge success!  The Minister of Rural Development met the march at Agra and agreed to all of their demands.

Take that feeling of hopelessness!  And you too feeling of disconnect!  The potential for positive transformation is alive and well and I am looking forward to see what is next on my journey here in India.

 

*For more detailed information about the demands and the objectives of the march, check out Ekta Parishad’s website: http://ektaparishad.com/

Allison's interest in social justice beyond borders began while working in Uganda with the Youth Focus Africa Foundation, a local NGO focused on serving educational, health and social justice initiatives to the women and children in local villages. This experience motivated her to continue her exploration of other cultures through a study-abroad program at the University of Hyderabad in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. Her time in India had a big impact on her views pertaining to culture-specific methods of conflict transformation, which inspired her honors thesis, "Applying Conflict Resolution to the Telangana Struggle." Allison continued exploring her passion for working with under-served youth by holding a leadership role through the Upward Bound program in Boone, NC, where she helped prepare aspiring first-generation college students for higher education. Prior to joining AIF, Allison facilitated character development classes aimed at giving juveniles an alternative to the court system through a local organization in her hometown, Memphis, TN.

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13 thoughts on “Just Me and My Closest 40,0000 Friends

  1. Love it. Really inspiring that the march forced the minister to accede to their demands. Gives me hope that social action can work. I’d love to see more pictures!

  2. It was beautifully captured. I don’t want to make it ‘romantic’ because it was hard, but I glad to be able to say that you took the challenge and came back with the ‘rush’ and that rush is contagious… looking forward to hear more of the journey. I am sure that many will be jumping to add on to this experience of your. Cheers!!

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience. I can feel what you feel as you write of your journey. I wish I could be there with you and your 40,000 friends. I’m also enjoying your pics posted on FB. While you are off in another land, you feel so near. I look forward to hearing of what comes next. HUGS!!!

  4. Allison,

    Super Like! Proud of you and your work. Tell us more about the Group Exposure (December?). Some of us could join/participate.

    1. Thanks Shagufta! I will definitely keep everyone updated about winter’s Group Exposure as soon as more details materialize 🙂

  5. Allison.. you write up is well allinged to each of ur feelings, each word talks volumes of the stuggle and the exploration of the self. I am really glad to see the way you create this besutiful story. Keep writing and keep exploring. Jai Hind.

  6. This is so cool!

    I am glad that you have found such a strong purpose and opportunity in your life- you’re an inspiration.

    🙂

    I look forward to reading more about your experiences.

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