Report of the Pithora Consultation 24-26, JANUARY 2016

To commemorate the long historic legacy of organizing people on issues of life by Comrade Gardiaji, Programme for Social Action [PSA], Public Justice Concern [PJC], Delhi Forum, Urban Rural Mission [URM] and Jan Jagruti Munch [JJM ] and the local groups came together to reflect upon and to redirect the vision of peoples struggle in the era of Neo Liberalization. Peoples Movements including activists of various issue based movements assert the principle that a consultation needs to be “people-driven”. Allowing delegates the time and space to tell their own stories contributes to that goal and plays a vital role in answering the real needs of the oppressed and the victims of the Neo Liberal System.

This principle was put into practice at this commemorative consultation in honour of Comrade Gardiaji on 24th-26th January 2016 in Pithora, Chattisgarh. Over 50 members representing  movements from all over India participated in this consultation. Stories of human rights being violated, of injustice, and of violence, as well as stories of liberation from bondage, dominated the agenda.

Many of these stories as they were articulated and as they were reflected upon and discussed elicited shock, fear, hope and sadness. But at the end of the day, these emotions were transformed into a new resolve among the participants to re-affirm their commitment to working with the poorest of the poor and the most marginalized, and to protect and promote their interests.
The participants also re-affirmed their commitment to work with the Peoples Movements, churches, and  people, irrespective of their religious beliefs; a final communiqué from the meeting called for efforts to prevent the commodification of human life that economic globalization seeks to perpetuate.
The introductory remarks made by Vijayan M. J.  of PSA were evocative of human suffering and injustice; his sociopolitical analysis of the current Indian scenario was an appropriate introduction to a consultation to strategies from the Perspectives of People in Struggle.
Peoples Participation.
The opening input was from Mrs. Manju Gardia, wife of late Gardiaji. She called on activists to continue their prophetic role “as the conscience of society” and to champion the cause of the less privileged. Pointing to growing inequalities between the rich and poor, she challenged people to  be committed tot strive for equality, and along with it to address the growing tension of communalization. She also called on Indian governments to seriously address the huge gap between the rich and the poor that, she said, has been an underlying factor in conflicts on the continent.
Deploring poverty levels in the less developed countries, the Joint General Secretary of the Confederation of Jan Van trade union Ashokda called for positive action from People.

J John of the Labours Collective living in the Delhi noted that although globalization is supposed to be an economic process, its “other face” is economic militarism, and that this is destroying human lives and values and accelerating the struggle for the survival of the fittest. ” Reflecting on the understanding and practice of mission today, he also spoke of “a discernible shift in political perspectives towards a more holistic understanding of mission that emphasizes option for the poor, and thus a need for the people to be in solidarity with the poor.”

There needs to be an understanding and practice of people’s movements that brings activism back to where we belong, to the poor and the outcast, that enables the marginalized to reclaim the church as their own. This can  be achieved only when mission is “done with the poor, when it can be an enterprise of the communities of the poor themselves, when it is the perspectives of the people in struggle that are shaping the agenda.”
Violence and restorative justice
In discussing the concept of restorative justice, participants agreed that as a means of eventually reconciling people who have suffered deep injustice with the perpetrators of those injustices, it can succeed only when the perpetrators or the oppressors accept guilt and repent. It is only through such action that any authentic process of reconciliation and possible reparation can be considered.
It is clear that reconciliation is difficult, if not impossible, when people are unable to repent, and let that repentance be followed actions that change situations.The term “restorative justice” hints at the need to give back what has been taken away or stolen. In such situations, one must find a way to imagine and create a new community. Reconciliation processes always aim at healing memories, and at creating a new future.
Peoples Movement and our responses.
VCLC Coordinator with the National Council of Churches in India, Rajesh Jadhav emphasized that the since I come from Church, Church can only succeed in efforts to do mission from the perspective of people in struggle when it sets a good example in the community in which it lives. This view is accepted by most activists.
Pranita URM Intern said that this is why the movement is training people in various parts of India with a Christian Perspective, for example, to go further into the field to create awareness, counsel and empower communities through practical training to undertake projects that will raise their standard of living. “We train a few who serve as a nucleus of trainers. These then move into the communities to further train others in literacy, mobilize them into cooperatives and support them to undertake income-generating projects,” she reported.
By exploring contemporary challenges of land rights, human rights, bonded labours,environment and liberation at large from the perspectives of people in struggle, the Pithora consultation was able to fulfill its main aim, which was to review, renew and sharpen Peoples position and vision.
Our objectives were achieved, and this gave us the right focus.By ensuring safe and sacred spaces where the stories and insights of those in struggle could be told and heard, the Pithora consultation was able to create a community where participants could struggle together to discern the peoples mission in their respective places and time. It was able to inspire and energize them with new vision, renewed hope, fresh insights and the tools and skills to bring a holistic mission imperative alive again.
Rajesh Jadhav.
VCLC – Coordinator.
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