We reached Mananthavady at 2.45 am this morning after a long drive on a ghat road full of slow-moving traffic and of course, in our tired, not-in-a-good-condition bus. Our trip from Nilambur turned out to be a seven and a half hours’ trip where we thought it would be a four hours’ trip. And, our day began with a few people falling prey to a virus going around in the bus.
By 9.30 am, there was a rally on the undulating roads of Mananthavady to a martyrs’ memorial for Pazhassi Raja, the King who fought the British for independence, with the Adivasis on his side. The little town reverberated with the slogans of the Yatra, now shouted both in hindi and Malayalam. Usha chechi in particular has a sing-song way of leading the slogans – the slogans are not just blind chants – they communicate our messages very clearly and it is always energizing to see more and more people stepping in to endorse the slogan. It is obvious that they have listened to the slogan/message and have mulled over it and then begun shouting together with others. Yes, they are also with us, is the sense that we get.
The first meeting had around 120 persons from various walks of life. One of the key speakers was Kalpetta Narayanan, a writer and poet. His talk was very inspiring and his questioning of industrialization of agriculture was very powerful. He argued that it was agriculture which was the basis for the formation of family in the first instance and he talked about how the failure of green revolution is actually a failure of industrialization of agriculture. He narrated many instances from Gandhi’s life to explicate the meaning of “Swaraj”.
Mr Narayanan felt that even the concept of “loss” in agriculture that is prevalent today is a notion from the industrialization of agriculture. “What is loss in farming in any case and did it exist earlier?”, he said. He bemoaned the fact that we are having to suspect the safety of nearly everything born out of our soils and farms now.
The meeting left a lot of space for people from the audience to bring up issues of concern – this kind of an interactive session has been missing for some time now, many of us felt.
Together, many of the participants took a resolution to go to the Collector to try and get an earlier report recommending organic agriculture implemented immediately. There was a view that information with regard to GM seeds/foods should be taken to more and more people by volunteers from amongst the participants.
There was a cultural session after the meeting where students of Kanuvu sang several songs including a song on the glory of “Wayanad”, a couple of Adivasi songs and so on. It was an invigorating time.
Later, the Kisan Swaraj Yatra visited the organic farm of Raman where 23 different traditional varieties of rice were being conserved and grown by the farmer. Vegetables and other crops were also being grown for home-consumption by the farmer.
We then left for H D Kote in Karnataka – the highlight of this drive through the forest was that we saw a couple of elephants and everyone in the bus was delighted. As dusk settled in, we watched the changing colours of the landscape, the gentle undulating mountains covered with clouds and wonder of wonders, we reached our destination hours before we thought we would!