We were welcomed with much dancing and slogan-shouting by young social work students as soon as we entered the campus of Barli Grameen Mahila Vikas Sanghatan. Many activists, social workers, senior agriculture scientists and technocrats from Indore were present in addition to more than 150 students and trainees of the host organization. Tribal girls were seen busy cooking food for us on solar-powered stoves and in solar cookers.
People who attended included Arun Dike (the one who put together this event along with others), Janak Palta, Padmashri Kutty Menon, Dr Radheshyam Dhanotiya, Dr Anant Oza, Anil Trivedi, Ajay Kumar, Upma Diwan, Vasant Shintre, Sudheendra Mohan Sharma, R N Berwa, Dilip Singh Tomar, Dinesh Kothari, K N Kharnal, Rahul Banerjee, Subhadra Khaparde, Chinmay Mishra, Pankaj Rajput, Vivek Dumir, Ravindra Verma, Inder Veermani, Jayesh Jaiswal, Vikas Damoder and others.
Speakers like Anil Trivedi firmly affirmed that the only people who can show us a sustainable path forward would be the Adivasis of this country who live as one with nature. He pointed out how the adivasi people hardly talk to each other whether they are in meetings or during cattle-grazing or when fishing whereas the so-called “mainstream” developed world is being shaped in a manner that it is impossible for us to even concentrate on a particular issue for any decent period of time (channel-surfing on TV is a classic case). He pointed out that it is Adivasis who have shown the world that it is possible not to be acquisitive and to live with very limited resources. That it is adivasis in this country who have shown the world that they can feed themselves without the support of others.
He urged everyone to respect the values and knowledge of Adivasis and learn from them if we really want to sustain ourselves.
There was a unanimous feeling all around that the rest of the country cannot afford to sit back and pursue its own path of ‘development’ when our anna datas are in great distress. The hall resonated with heartfelt slogans around the message of the Kisan Swaraj Yatra.
At least ten students got very motivated and came forward to join the Yatra at the end of this event.