We all have heard of the phrase “The last man standing”, which is often used to describe victory. Ever heard about ‘the last man walking’. Well, it is difficult to know about the last man/woman walking, when you are amidst 25,000 landless marchers. But what if I said that the position of each marcher remains the same for the entire march. None of the marchers outdistanced each other. This was the greatest strength of Jan Andolan 2018. In the present scenario, where every demand made by any political or ethnic group is a potential threat to the lives and property of the common folks, where any announced protest means a potential breakout of mobs burning cars, shattering windows, closing down markets, I witnessed the true meaning of ‘Satyagrah’- ‘The non-violent way of demanding your rights’.
When 25,000 people march together, chaos is expected but not when they are marching with the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi i.e. peace and non-violence. According to Mahatma Gandhi’s principles, a peaceful and an equal society can only be built when it is for the betterment of the last human, the downtrodden, the poorest of the poor. Only then the structure of the society will be just for everyone. Unfortunately this ideal society does not exist or that was what I thought before. When I was introduced to the idea of Jan Andolan and told that amongst the 25,000 people, 40% are female, and that they will all walk together, eat together and sleep together on the roads, I started thinking about the practical aspects of it. How will they walk together? How can they walk together? These were the unanswered questions which I had in my mind. With these questions, I started walking with them with my camera. The march was about 6 km long. Initially I thought they will be shouting slogans but to my surprise they were singing, dancing and it was a cocktail of folk art from various states of the country.
“We are demanding what is rightfully ours. Then why should we plead or shout. No one is our enemy, and we will get what is ours in a non-violent way,” was the reason given to me by a padyatri (marcher) from the march.