India

Protest as a way of life: An interview with Rajagopal

On 2nd October 2012, 50,000 people gathered beneath a vast marquee on the outskirts of Gwailior, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, to hear what Jairam Ramesh, the Rural Development Minister of India, had to say to them. For a year the organisation Ekta Parishad had been crisscrossing the country, twenty campaigners in a caravan of jeeps travelling more than 80,000km, speaking to some of the 400 million Indians who have no land to call their own.

They were the tribal people and the forest dwellers, the nomads and the agricultural labourers, and the dalits, or untouchables, who are outside of the caste system.

The Art of Protest

Annual General Meetings are rarely inspiring. But there can be exceptions. A year or so ago I walked into a hall in east London to join the AGM of Action Village India, a small charity supporting non-violent movements for change in the sub-continent, and was confronted by a line of huge photographs printed on boards and propped up along the walls. It was a stirring sight.

These weren’t enlarged ‘snaps’. They were a series of breathtakingly evocative pictures that immediately enthralled with a message of movement, mass collaboration and sheer vitality. They didn’t need captions, but told rich stories through character and colour. The effect was enough to capture anyone’s attention.