Full text of speech by Justice Hosbet Suresh, Honorary Chairperson, Lok Raj Sangathan at the 5th All-India Convention, November 7-8, 2009

Dear friends,

We had an election in Maharashtra recently and later the assembly elections. Every election has weakened democracy in our country; however, through its steadfast work Lok Raj Sangathan is gaining strength. The UPA government is supposed to be a representative government but it hardly represents more than 10.3% of people and not more than 28% of the eligible votes. We have no genuine democracy. We claim that after the US we are the greatest democracy, the largest democracy, but it is not so; only functionally we are so to some extent.

We have to go back to the framing of the Indian Constitution. It exhibits great aspirations, contains very noble policy objectives – socialist, sovereign republic, and so on. But the machinery to implement the provisions in the Constituion are not appropriate. In our country, representative democracy was introduced in a very unequal society — economically & socially. Democracy cannot survive where there is inequality, where only some people have power and means, while the majority has no power at all. That is why there is a need for Lok Raj Sangathan; without empowerment of people there cannot be democracy. LRS started as the Committee for People’s Empowerment, and later became Lok Raj Sangathan, but the work remained the same. We are working for the empowerment of people.
We thought we could organize society in a democratic way but we could not. All struggles today – of workers, peasants, adivasis – are for equality. There cannot be equality without respecting human dignity of every section, and without rights. Lok Raj Sangathan has to involve itself completely with every struggle of the poor people. Whether India is growing or not is not reflected by her GDP or GNP, but even according to the World HDR we are fourth from the last!!

We have to involve ourselves with people’s struggles in every corner, in every basti, in every city and in every state – struggle of poor against rich, of those who are powerless against those in power (applause).

Everywhere I go, I see injustice. The poor simply do not get justice. They are waiting for years for justice, while the Ambanis get so many hearings in just 20 days! People are suffering injustice and do not see any way out such as in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Malegaon, Vidharbha, etc – people are starving and dying of malnutrition. The solution should be to get justice to people who are suffering. It is not just an issue of development alone; the injustices they are facing have to be addressed also. The government should not be using “development” as an excuse at the cost of the people.

In all these areas, we need a Truth Commission, which will deliver truth with justice. Those who have done wrong should be punished, and those who are suffering from injustice must be given justice. (applause)

One of the resolutions we passed refers to the north east and Jammu & Kashmir.  When the British left, the Manipur Raja declared independence, and the state became a part of India by force, and even today they celebrate their independence from the British on a different day.

Originally these people were happy to become part of India but within two years the army was sent in. Since the last 52 years the army has ruled over the state; there can be no democracy in such a context. Under International Law, nations have a right to self determination. All peoples have the right to self-determination. India signed this Covenant with reservation.

They brought eight women from Kashmir to Mumbai, and they declared that “we are now experiencing freedom”! I do not know who is to blame, but people are tired and angry with the situation because there is no self-respect, dignity for people, they do not know that if they go out of the house if they will even come back alive! They are angry with the government, with the police, with militants – the people are absolutely at the mercy of either one or the other of these forces!

Look at the Judiciary – people have so much faith in it! They think that if they do not get justice in lower courts they can find it in High Court or Supreme Court. At one time, we had justices like V. R. Krishna Iyer, Bhagwati, and others who gave meaning to of human rights and justice. What is the use of right to speech alone in the Constitution? These justices gave recognition to the broadest human right; right to life was recognized along with right to livelihood, to housing, to health and so on. But exactly the opposite is happening today

There are three principles of enabling rights accepted internationally. These are: Identify Human Rights, Prevent Violation of Rights and Fulfil Human Rights.

Demolition of slums is going on everyday in the cities. Around Borivalli National Park, an area has been marked as “forest land” and declared that human beings cannot live there, and that this area must be restricted only to animals!! The Bombay High Court ruled that all people living in forest areas must be thrown out, implying that they are “illegal” and the government resettled them somewhere in Kalyan or Ambernath. There were huge protests from the people. The Bombay High Court stopped water, electric supply, and demolished all schools and hospitals in the area. Not just that, they used helicopters and armed might to ensure that the demolition was executed, and rendered 400 people homeless. I drafted a law to stop this. But this was not passed. Those who had settled before 1995, were given alternative “housing” a very small area per two persons!

As Sanjeewani earlier said, we need Change. Change will not come from the judiciary, nor from the government. Change can only come from the people, Lok Raj Sangathan is that kind of organisation from which that Change can come and from the youth present here in large numbers. I appeal to all of us here and to the people at large: “Don’t stop crying, don’t stop protesting”. (applause)

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