By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, April 1 (IANS) At least 20 persons from Mumbai have joined thousands more from all over India in the unique Dandi-Delhi “Mitti Satyagraha” initiative, intended to express solidarity with the farmers agitating outside Delhi since the past nearly four months, activists said here on Thursday.
The ‘Soil Satyagraha’ is an enactment of the historic ‘Dandi Yatra’ launched from Ahmedabad to Dandi, 390 km away, by Mahatma Gandhi, culminating in the ‘Salt Satyagraha’ 91 years ago (March 12-April 5, 1930).
“At that time, the Satyagraha was against the oppression of the British rule. This time, it is to highlight the insensitivity of the present Central government to the cause of the farmers, workers and common masses,” Feroze Mithiborwala, one of the participants from Mumbai, told IANS.
Making it special, the processionists on the Dandi-Delhi route and other parts of India, collect the local soil from all villages, districts, regions and states, as the march traverses from around two dozen states and Union Territories, he said.
“The soil symbolises Mother Earth, who provides us food through the toiling farming community, whose existence and livelihood are now being threatened by the crony capitalists and mega-corporates. We shall present this soil to the farmers protesting on all the points outside Delhi,” another participant, Dr Sunilam, said.
The soil will be mixed as a sign of national integration and later a ‘Shaheed Smarak’ (Martyrs’ Memorial) will be constructed with it outside Delhi, as a mark of respect to the 350-odd farmers who lost their lives in the past four months, the activists added.
“On April 6 morning, like Gandhiji breaking the unjust Salt Act of the British by picking up a fistful of salt, we will take a pledge with the soil in our hands and challenge the anti-farmer and anti-labour laws of the government,” said participant, Guddi S.L.
Supported by Samyukta Kisan Morcha constituents, Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of Gandhiji, other prominent participants include crusaders like Medha Patkar, Odisha environmentalist Prafulla Samantra, Anhad’s Shabnam Hashmi, and many more from different parts of India.
Mithiborwala said that this is also the centennial of Mahatma Gandhi’s launched epochal ‘Non Cooperation Movement’ (1920-1922) challenging the might of the British Empire which resulted in India’s Freedom after barely 27 years.
Just as a century ago, the country’s streets, towns and villages had reverberated with Gandhiji’ peaceful challenges to the tyranny of the British rulers, there is a similar wave now all over India, with the historic farmers’ agitation outside Delhi – at Singhu, Tikri, Ghazipur and Shahjahanpur, he said.
The ‘Mitti Satyagraha’ was launched in two phases, first from March 12-28 as a decentralised movement of farmers-workers protesting the privatisation policy of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre.
In the second phase from March 30-April 6, the satyagrahis from all over India are carrying urns containing the soil collected from the remotest parts of the country to Delhi’s outskirts.
“An average of 50 satyagrahis are coming to Delhi from all states/UTs by April 5 evening. The next morning (April 6), emulating Gandhiji, we shall take a united pledge with India’s soil in our hands and defy the anti-farmers and anti-labour laws being implemented,” said Mithiborwala.
The organisers, along with the SKM leaders, plan to construct the Shaheed Smarak memorial outside Delhi before the agitating farmers leave the spot to return to their fields “after their inevitable victory”.
“The soil ingrains in us the feeling of self-reliance, self-respect, its represents our existence and identity… The farmers movement is poised to repeat the history of our glorious freedom struggle,” he pointed out.
En route, the organisers said people give enthusiastic welcome to the Satyagrahis, voluntarily bring fistfuls of the local soil, and many pledge their support in the form of signing a white sheet which the processionists are carrying.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)