<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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The 2012 Mother of All Marches

The “Movement of Movements” in Oaxaca Hosts “Organizers of Organizers”


By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca

March 2, 2009

On the chilly Sunday evening of March 1 I learned that the mother of all marches is being promoted by three men traveling the world to organize organizers. Before coming to Oaxaca the group, called Gandhi International, spent four days in Chiapas, stopping in the Zapatista towns of Oventic, San Cristobal de Las Casas and Acteal. Prior to their Mexico visit (next stop Mexico City), they met with organizers in Latin America, contacting the poor and landless in Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama.


Preparing the stage for the events
D.R. 2009 – Photos Nancy Davis
Who are these intrepid pilgrims? The three came to Oaxaca at the invitation of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO as it is known in its Spanish initials), one of which is Ramesh Sharma of India, whose role model is Mahatma Gandhi. Sharma led a 350 kilometer march of 100,000 (a figure cited by Christophe Grigri, the multilingual organizer on this tour) landless Indian campesinos who after a month on foot arrived in the capital, Delhi, to demand agrarian reform. As Sharma told me, the government granted two hectares to each participant family, finally complying with a law of 1894.

From that experience Sharma, one of the leaders of Ekta Parishad (Unity Forum), says that non-violence need not and should not be passive. He believes that a global display of dissent by the world’s poor will warn governments that they can no longer ignore the vast numbers of human beings living in poverty and distress.

The two men accompanying Sharma are the French president and founder of Association Gandhi International, Louis Campana; and the organizer Chrstophe Grigri. All three see a similarity not only with the Oaxaca movement initiated in 2006, which Sharma said he learned about in India, but all the social movements which sprang to life after the neoliberal economic model was imposed globally. Sharma said it was easy for him to link India and Oaxaca, sharing information and experiences. Contact was made through the non-violent Investigadores Descalzos (Barefoot Investigators) the Revuelta Cultural Mexicano (Mexican Cultural Revolt), Universidad de la Tierra (University of the Land), VOCAL (Oaxaca Voices Constructing Autonomy and Liberty), La Casota, and Marabú Ediciones, all of whom assisted in programming the Sunday evening event with a discussion of strategies such as civil disobedience and the boycott.

The panel discussion was introduced by Dr. Bertha Muñoz who referred to the first non-violent resistance as that of the women in Aristophane’s play “Lysistrata” who practiced, as she informed the audience, a “closed legs” policy of resistance to all their men until the men would agree to end war. From Ancient Greece she made the leap to India in the 20th century, enjoining us to see the movie “Gandhi.” I thought that probably there were few in the audience of less than 200 who recognized her references from their formal education, but all of those understood “la doctora” from first hand experience of non-violent action.


Louis Campana
Association Gandhi’s current plan is to contact all the popular organizations six months prior to the march, to give each an opportunity to be in contact with the network. During the march a popular court of justice will be held because, “It is very important that the people have the courage and ideas to accuse… we will try to coordinate all the marches by internet to organize in a sustainable way. Any repression will be met with world response,” Grigri told me. He also said that he found Mexico, especially Oaxaca and Chiapas, better organized than other groups in Latin America. As an example he cited the president of Paraguay who told Grigri that Monsanto has the power to overthrow the president in an instant, the “most desperate” observation Grigri had come across.

Luis Campana explained, “The world in which we are living is violent. It is structured for violence, since the Turkish genocide against the Armenians and then to Stalin in the Soviet Union where 20 million died so that he could establish his power. ..Cambodia, Africa…World War II with 40 millions dead… The Nuremburg Court established that we need not obey unjust laws or orders. Civil disobedience is a human right. Each time a man resists he is on the path to truth. There is no peace without justice and we are within our rights to struggle for justice…. The World March of 2012 is to gain the right to land and national resources, taking them back from world capitalism and corruption.”

The Ekta Parishad of India refers to itself as a people’s movement dedicated to non-violent principles of action. Its activists (in several countries, including France) work towards building community-based governance (equivalent to usos y costumbres in Oaxaca), local self-reliance (autonomy) and responsible government (transparency and accountability) Their goal is local control over livelihood resources, especially land, water and forests. Through non-violent struggle, Sharma believes, rural communities of India can secure a self-reliant society, based on community ties strengthened through mutual respect and social equity. The echoes with Oaxaca’s communal heritage are loud.


Chrstophe Grigri and Sharma
At present Ekta Parishad is a federation of approximately 11,000 community based organizations with thousands of individual members. They currently operate in eleven Indian states working for the land and livelihood rights of India’s most marginalized communities (tribals, Dalits, nomadic communities, agricultural laborers, small and marginal farmers, etc.), with emphasis on women as leaders. All of these problems are familiar to Oaxaca, Mexico and to other parts of the world, where Grigri estimates more than three billion people suffer hunger and live in slums, as small farmers are vanishing… After the visiting trio leave Mexico they are going to Canada; next year they will organize in Africa and then, Grigri told me, they go to the USA.

Ekta Parishad calls their land rights campaign Janadesh, ot “the People’s Verdict.” Louis Campana asked me if Oaxaca has had any sort of people’s judgment against the government, and indeed the APPO held a people’s court. However, it was only in condemnation of Ulises Ruiz in 2006, and the condemnation of neoliberal policies was not formally “judged,” although it is routinely condemned. Sadly, total impunity for crimes violating human rights persists, leaving land and resource struggles to the work of the multitude of local assemblies and organizations active in the state. If the APPO, along with Section 22 of the National Education Workers Union, takes up the challenge of the 2012 march, it will indicate that their growing global affinity tendency is addressing practical needs.

A second meeting with the Association Gandhi representatives was held in the town of Tlacolula forty minutes from Oaxaca city, on Monday March 2, with emphasis on agrarian and environmental organizers and workers. It was supported by other groups such as Maryknoll Lay Missioners, and EDUCA.

Below is a portion of the Ekta Parishad web site in English:

The principles that guide Ekta Parishad’s actions are;

  • Working within the framework of truth and non-violence at all levels of action.
  • Ensuring that women and traditional tribal and Dalit leaders head the campaign for land reform.
  • Inspiring equitable social, economic and political changes for the benefit of the masses.
  • Supporting and strengthening traditional and local leadership.
  • Promoting peaceful mass mobilization at the grass roots level.
  • Promoting community based governance, local self reliance and responsible governance at the local, state, and central levels.
  • Promoting the integration of land, water and forest rights and equitable natural resource management in the regional, national and international development agendas.

Action Village India:
AVI is a partner led organization working to support rural communities in India in their struggle to create village self-sufficiency, to reduce the migration to urban areas and to promote non-violent change. Action Village India provides moral, networking and campaigning support for Ekta Parishad’s efforts to provide landless communities with access to land, forests and water. Please visit their website for more information:

http://www.actionvillageindia.org.uk/

Centre for Experiencing Socio-Cultural Interaction (CESCI)
CESCI is a training and education centre that provides Ekta Parishad activists with a place to gain further training and reflect on their work. It provides a serene space for Ekta Parishad activists to hold meetings and discuss their work and plans for future actions. Please visit their website for more information:

http://www.cesci.ch/

Community Self Reliance Centre (CSRC):
CSRC is a Nepalese social organization that views development as a process to be initiated from grass root level rather than as a commodity to be transferred from external sources. It works to mobilize youth to help create social change and find creative ways to alleviate poverty. CSRC submitted a memorandum to the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu to support the demands of Janadesh 2007. Hundreds of people participated in a rally to show their solidarity with Ekta Parishad and the landless people of India. Please visit their website for more information:

http://www.csrcnepal.org/index.htm

Ekta Canada:
Ekta Canada is a consortium of organizations, groups and individuals dedicated to promoting non-violence in communities in Canada and around the world. Ekta Canada supports Ekta Parishad’s efforts by organizing solidarity actions in Canada and by working to raise awareness on the use of non-violent measures as a means to promote social change. Please visit their website for more information:

http://www.ektacanada.com/index.shtml

Ekta Europe:
Ekta Parishad Europe is an open network of independent organizations and individuals of European countries. Members provide moral, political and financial support to Ekta Parishad in its struggle to assist deprived people to achieve control over their means of livelihood such as water, land and forest using non-violence as a means of creating changes for the people. Please visit their website for more information:

http://www.ektaparishad.org/europe/index.html

Kenya Land Alliance:
Kenya Land Alliance is an umbrella network of civil society organizations and individuals advocating for the formulation and implementation of equitable land and natural resource policies and institutional reforms in Kenya. Kenya Land Alliance shares Ekta Parishad’s vision for the creation of a society in which all persons have secure and equitable access to, and utilization of, land and natural resources. Kenya Land Alliance supports Ekta Parishad’s work and participated in Janadesh. Please visit their website for more information:

http://www.kenyalandalliance.or.ke

La Via Campesina:
La Via Campesina is international movement of peasants, small- and medium-sized producers, landless, rural women, indigenous people, rural youth and agricultural workers that focuses on develop solidarity and unity among small farmer organizations in order to promote gender parity and social justice in fair economic relations; the preservation of land, water, seeds and other natural resources; food sovereignty; sustainable agricultural production based on small and medium-sized producers. Ekta Parishad president PV Rajagopal is a member of La Via Campesina. Please visit their website for more information:

http://viacampesina.org/main_en/index.php

Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST):
MST is the largest social movement in Latin America with an estimated 1.5 million landless members peacefully occupying unused land where they have established cooperative farms, constructed houses, schools for children and adults and clinics, promoted indigenous cultures and a healthy and sustainable environment and gender equality. MST supports Ekta Parishad’s work and participated in Janadesh. Please visit their website for more information:

http://www.mstbrazil.org

Quaker Peace and Social Witness:
Quaker Peace & Social Witness works with, and on behalf of Friends in Britain to translate faith into action. They are long-time supporters of Ekta Parishad and share the belief that peace, equality, simplicity and truth can be used to alleviate suffering and seek positive social change. Please visit their website for more information:s

http://www.quaker.org.uk

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