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20 Years of National Alliance of People’s Movements
An encounter with people’s history
At Vikalp Sangam, when I asked one of the organisers of NAPM’s 10th biennial convention, ‘how many people would attend the event?’, she said, ‘close to a thousand people or even more’. Surprised, as I had never attended one with so many numbers, neither had I read/seen such a big people’s event being reported in the main-scream news media. Also, I did not know much about NAPM then. When I first entered the Rashtra Seva Dal (Pune) campus, where the convention was held, a colleague remarked, “it’s the JNU of Pune”. I gave it nice laugh. However, soon after entering it, I realised, it was more than that. It was a conglomeration of I-don’t-know-what; gandhians, ambedkarites, marxists, socialists, environmentalists, feminists, secularists, et cetera all had a place for. And was very easy to verify this in the posters and pictures hung on the walls and the trees and people attending the event in their ‘appropriate’ attire.
Entering the Dr. Narendra Dabholkar Hall, which was big enough to host a thousand or more people, was filled with the number of people I was told would attend. I would call it an all India gathering; people from all over India, 17 states (cities, towns and villages), someone told me. We were there to document all three days of the convention.
Background to NAPM
20 years ago, in response to the rising inequality, oppression and destruction in the name of development, country’s progressive individuals and sangathans came together and envisioned the birth of the National Alliance of People’s Movements. There was enthusiasm, hope and determination to struggle towards establishing peace, justice and truly participatory democracy. Over the last two decades, we have been a part of the various people’s movements and struggles; there have been victories and there have been setbacks. (from NAPM website)
Scenario after 20 years
Despite the changing times which are defined by neo-liberal policies and supported unanimously by all political parties, and having damaging impacts, people’s movements have continued to challenge, propose alternatives and pushed the boundaries of ideas and vision for a just society. We witness that the rights of the people are increasingly curtailed, natural resources being appropriated and rule of law deliberately violated to undermine people’s movements. However, our struggles have together built increased awareness about such draconian policies, as a result of which exploitation and injustice can no longer be justified under the rubric of nationalism. People are resolutely fighting against the violations of their rights and no longer need outside instigation. Every village, every basti, every city has people who are raising their voices against capitalist and oppressive forces. But on the other hand, religious fanaticism and violence and discrimination based on gender and caste are raising their ugly heads. On one hand the ruling classes are keen on changing the pro-people laws enacted by the Parliament and rights bestowed by the Constitution and on the other hand, it is trying to take political advantage of the existing exploitation and violence to exercise its continuing control over society. (from NAPM website)
What has NAPM achieved in the last 20 years of its existence? Well, the answer is not as simple as the question makes it to be. Yogendra Yadav, speaking at the convention said, “… in the last 20 years, NAPM has given us the strength, possibility and a platform to question what is development“, in days when ‘it became impossible to question ‘development’ as such. One was quite free to debate its forms, the ways of accelerating growth or distributing its effects more equitably, but the transitive character of ‘development’- that is, the intervention it represented into the internal affairs of the nation- was not to be challenged. That would have been to attack the underlying belief of a programme designed for universal happiness. You don’t argue about the obvious; the most you can do is try to improve it.’ (Gilbert Rist, The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith)
Also, it has achieved the sympathies of millions of peoples around the world through its movements, like Narmada Bachao Andolan, it has won the sympathies of writers who have dedicated their work to people’s movements, the singer, the painter, the musician, and also given the strength to the victims of development to fight back. And most importantly, the sympathies of the young, to take ahead the struggle for peace, justice anddemocracy.
Other than a few Marathi newspapers, the only main-stream English news outlet to publish a story on NAPM was scroll.in. But, to our rescue we also had some independent news websites like Counterview, Two Circles reporting the event.