More than a thousand protesters marched through the eight kilometer route from Raj Ghat to Jantar Mantar in the roasting Delhi heat on 28 th April 2006. Lok Raj Sangathan joined dozens of other organizations and militantly shouted slogans throughout the march demanding a people-centric approach to development. The slogans and placards asserted that the forests, rivers and land belonged to the people and it must be utilized in their interest; the demonstrators condemned official actions that rendered working people homeless by destroying their jhuggi-jhoparis or by raising the height of dams; they rejected development that required the destruction of the livelihood of shopkeepers and traders.
The protest march transformed into a protest rally at Jantar Mantar, where people gave speeches, recited poetry and performed a street play. Speaking on behalf of the Lok Raj Sangathan, Dr. Bharat raised some serious issues of concern facing the movement. Referring to the Narmada struggle, which has been going on for more than two decades, Dr. Bharat pointed out that whether it has been Congress led govt or BJP led government at the Centre, it has continued building the dam, not accounting for the beneficiaries and ignoring the rehabilitation of the displaced. The long hunger strike by NBA leader Medha Patkar and others in Delhi had brought the matter in sharp focus in the mainstream media. However, the Supreme Court has come to the rescue of the government by permitting it to go ahead with construction of the dam even in the face of clear evidence that rehabilitation was far from satisfactory.
What does the experience of this struggle show? It clearly showed that all major political parties are following the same direction of development; that all organs of the State, including the Supreme Court, were assisting in the agenda being followed by the ruling class. Dr. Bharat highlighted the illusion created by those in the movement who have advocated supporting the lesser evil of Congress Party allegedly to keep communal forces from coming into power. He pointed out that such illusions have led to the movement becoming stuck. Now people are protesting for their livelihood and rights and the “lesser evil” Congress government is suppressing the movement with fire and sword and carrying on implementing its agenda. And what is this agenda that is being pursued? The agenda is to do everything to increase the space for exploiting the land and labour of our land by the biggest Indian and foreign companies. He cited the example of large-scale demolitions and sealing of the shops of small traders and shopkeepers in the different metro cities. Clearly the purpose is to enable the big retail monopolies to establish themselves and take over the retail trade.
Dr. Bharat also urged the people to reflect on slogans, which asks the government to wake up or as it is said in Hindi, “hosh mein aao”. He opined that it would be wrong to think that the government is following this ant-people course because it is not in its sense! On the contrary the government is following this path of development very deliberately and consciously.
In conclusion, the Lok Raj Sangathan speaker said that the challenge before the movement was to bring the people’s agenda to the center-stage. This can be accomplished only by strengthening the movement for the political empowerment of the people. Only by asserting our right to set the agenda can the rights of displaced and poor could be safeguarded. Only if the people are empowered can they set a different course of development for the country.
he protesters were prevented from marching to the Presidential estate to give their petition. A group amongst the protestors was delegated to hand over the petition.