Land Rights 'Victory' for Marchers
Last Saturday (6th October) 91 people, including many members of our Diocese, walked Christian Aid’s 12-mile Bede’s Way Walk between Monkwearmouth and Jarrow in solidarity with tens of thousands of poor Indians who were marching 200 miles to Delhi to secure the rights to their land. Within five days they received news of a stunning campaign victory that could lift 400 million people out of poverty.
The Indian March for Justice was called off today following Government agreement to their demands. Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh publicly signed the agreement in front of marchers as they gathered in Agra, Uttar Pradesh this morning.
The new deal gives statutory backing to the provision of agricultural land to the landless poor in the poorer districts. In addition, the Government will urge states to protect the land rights of dalits, tribals and ‘all other weaker and marginalised sections of society’, and fast track land tribunals will be established to resolve land issues quickly.
Some 60,000 marchers, mainly socially marginalised dalits and tribal people, began the 200-mile Jan Satyagraha march from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh to Delhi last week. They were due to reach the capital later this month. Simultaneously, 10 solidarity walks took place around the UK with hundreds of people participating to show support for the Indian marchers. They recorded messages of encouragement and raised sponsorship to boost the campaign.
Revd. Alastair MacNaughton, Director of Developing Discipleship for Lindisfarne, who took part in the Bede’s Way Walk said ‘I am absolutely thrilled that the Indian Government have fully met the demands of the Indian marchers. I know these newly-won rights will make a huge difference to millions of small-scale farmers like those in Chota Nagpur diocese which has been linked with the North East over many years.’
Revd. Lindsey Goodhew from Durham who walked with her family said ‘This is absolutely fantastic news! We enjoyed the walk enormously on Saturday and it’s great to know that our efforts, and those of the Indian marchers have been successful. It’s particularly encouraging for my children to know that something they’ve been involved in has achieved such a significant result!’
The Indian march was organised by Christian Aid partner Ekta Parishad which mobilised some 2,000 civil society groups around the country to provide marchers.
Anand Kumar, Christian Aid’s Country Manager in India said: ‘Congratulations to Ekta Parishad and the marchers. This is a true example of people’s victory through peaceful negotiation.
Anand added: ‘Access to land is critical for the eradication of poverty. We hope that today’s success will give hope and inspire other land struggles in other parts of the world.’
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