If you were to have got off the Mumbai suburban local at Vithalwadi station on October 8, you would have been greeted by a flurry of white and red flags with the Lok Raj Sangathan symbol proudly emblazoned on them. A few steps towards Shantinagar, and you would have seen a big hoarding saluting the martyrs who laid down their lives that our country may be free. Bahaddur Shah Zafar, who was crowned the Emperor of India by the insurgent forces in 1857 solemnly looks down on you and declares that the people of India have a right to decide how their country should be ruled. The relevance of his message, almost a hundred and fifty years after he first gave it, is reiterated in the hoarding: "1857ke Shahidon ka yeh Paigaam – Karen Lok Raj ke liye Sangram!"
Power to the People! That is the essence of what lakhs of our ancestors had laid down their lives for, in the dark days of the British rule. Power to the People! That is the raison d’etre of Lok Raj Sangathan. When the All India Council of LRS decided to commemorate 150 years of the Ghadar of 1857 in order to pay homage to our martyrs as well as to focus on the necessity to finish their uncompleted task, the youthful members of the LRS Ulhasnagar Committee were fired with enthusiasm. After several brainstorming sessions and vigorous discussions, it was decided to hold a Lok Yatra to start the campaign.
On October 6, in a well-attended Press Conference, the Conveners of the Ulhasnagar and Mumbai Committees of LRS introduced the organization and talked about it. Pramod Tale, a nagarsevak in the Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation commended LRS and lent his full support to the campaign.
The Ghadar of 1857 receives a very cursory treatment in the school and college history books. Why? This omission has to be deliberate! This in fact whetted the appetite of the members of LRS who dug up historic details from a number of sources and analysed them. A poster exhibition on 1857 was prepared and put up on the public road on the morning of October 8. A membership campaign was launched and the activists of LRS were heartened to see that many total strangers felt in sync with the aims and objectives of LRS and enrolled on the spot!
Members of LRS went around the locality distributing leaflets that had been printed for the purpose. The start of the yatra was heralded by the exuberant drumbeats of a "Nashik band". The cavalcade consisted of several vehicles – a jeep, cars, trucks and 35 motorbikes. The vehicles were decorated with banners expressing homage to the martyrs as well as our duty to fight for People’s Power. The last truck proudly carried a jhaaki with school children dressed up as Bahaddur Shah Zafar, Nana Sahib Peshwa, Tatya Tope, Rani Lakshmi Bai and Mangal Pande.
The processionists, an overwhelming majority of whom were youth, were extremely dedicated and disciplined. The sky was rent with slogans – "1857ke Shahidon ka yeh Paigaam – Karen Lok Raj ke liye Sangram!", "Hum hain iske maalik, Hum hain Hindostan – Mazdoor, kisaan, aurat aur jawan!", "Nayi sadi ki hai yeh maang – Hindostan ka navnirman!" and the evergreen slogan popularized by Bhagat Singh and his comrades – "Inqilaab Zindabad!"
Leaflets were distributed along the way outlining the relevance of 1857 as well as introducing LRS. Apart from the representatives of LRS, Shri Pramod Tale and a respected journalist of a local Sindhi paper addressed meetings at a number of places.
It was a wonderful programme, a wonderful day, which energized and revitalized all those who participated, filling them with hope for the future.