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P.V. Rajagopal

Founder, Ekta Parishad & eminent Gandhian

BACKGROUND/ Academic and professional background

P. V. Rajagopal (known as Rajaji) is born in a Gandhian family in June, 1948. He went to school in South India and came to the Northern part of the country in 1970 during Mahatma Gandhi’s 100th birth anniversary. He began his work on non-violence when he spent 6 years working with the dacoits (outlaws) in Chambal, a region of India. In 1976, more than 500 people gave up arms and moved into settled life and much of this was the result of hard work of Rajaji and others. From here he spent the following fifteen years building the capacity of rural youth through training programs and different initiatives. In 1993, he was appointed Secretary of Gandhi Peace Foundation, and subsequently became Vice-Chairman. In the mid-1990s, Rajaji’s work was galvanized into a mass movement. In 1999-2000 he began to carry out long-marches across the country in different states. In 2007, he carried out one the largest non-violent march ever held, known as “Janadesh 2007″. In this he led 25,000 on a one-month march from Gwalior to Delhi. In 2012, he led a march of 100,000 people to the capital of the Indian Nation to demand people’s control over land and livelihood ressources.

Among other subjects, P. V. Rajagopal studied Agricultural Engineering, Traditional Art and Music, Hindi, Educational Methods. He worked as well for several NGO as well as National and International Organizations. He received many awards for his work as a Human Right activist.

ACHIEVEMENT/ What is your project, initiative, start-up, company all about?

Ekta Parishad is a people’s movement dedicated to non-violent principles of action. Our activists work towards building community-based governance (gram swaraj), local self-reliance (gram swawlamban) and responsible government (jawabdeh sarkar). Our aim is to see India’s poorest people gain control over livelihood resources, especially land, water and forest.

LOCATION/ In which city, country, part of the world do you conduct your activities?

We are a federation of approximately 11,000 community based organizations and have thousands of individual members. We are currently operating in 10 states working for the land and livelihood rights of India’s most marginalized communities (tribals, dalits, nomadic communities, agricultural labourers, small and marginal farmers, etc.). Our work is expanding to over 20 Indian States.

IMPACT/ What is the positive economic, social, political, environmental… impact of your activity, project, initiative, start-up, company?

In Hindi, ekta translates to “unity” and parishad translates to “forum” or “space”. We believe that the grassroots, the village, is the perfect space in which to plant and nurture the seeds of unity and non-violence that can create positive changes at the social, political and economic levels. We believe that through non-violent struggle (ahimasak sangharsh) the rural communities of India can secure Gandhi’s vision of self-rule gram swaraj. Srijan, or the creation of a self-reliant society, is possible when community ties are strengthened through mutual respect and social equity. It is our responsibility as activists, as citizens of this country and as human beings to make sure that the needs of the deprived communities are no longer brushed aside. Our willingness to trust the principles of truth and non-violent civil disobedience is the way to see that happen.

Ekta Parishad works towards meeting these responsibilities by adhering to the spirit of Satyagraha (truth-force) and Ahimsa (non-violence) demonstrated by Mahatma Gandhi and by providing a platform for the voices of the oppressed, the disenfranchised and the marginalized communities of India. Ekta Parishad follows the principles of Satyagraha and Ahimsa to organize collective non-violence campaigns that act as a counterforce to the social, institutional and physical violence faced by India’s poorest communities. The objective of our non-violent campaigns is to convert the sources of violence to the doctrines of peace and unity through exemplary action.

Ekta Parishad has taken up a land rights campaign called Janadesh, the People’s Verdict, to help the poor gain control over their livelihood resources, especially land, water and forest.

QUOTE/ A saying, quote or reference phrase that tells something about you

Between silence and violence there is non-violence.

If you are not indifferent world will be different.