Articles published in Anasakti Darshan: July 2010, [Vol.5 No.2] and June 2011, [Vol.6 No.1]
[ International journal for building a non-violent egalitarian society ]
A case for revival of Sarvodaya-Bhoodan like Movement in post Gandhi-Vinoba phase Civil society discourse has now entered into public domain from the academic interpretations. People’s upsurge against corrupt and autocratic regimes in different parts of the world has displayed a great potential. It has also displayed a potential of making an elected government to follow some of its dictats in the absence of right to recall in a democratic set up like India. On going Civil Society movement against corruption in political class has shown this power once again in action. There is no doubt that people’s trust in the political class and in the government is at the low ebb today and the line of separation between civil society and political class have sharpened.
Corruption, of course, is a big issue but we should not forget that the roots of corruption also lie within the society itself. Civil Society cannot disown conducts of a society which it claims to represent. Corruption in political class is merely a reflection of the darker side of our society. No doubt, political class is more responsible for spreading corruption down wards in the larger society. Still, can Civil Society rule out any of its involvement with the political parties? Politics is the only process by which we can decide the claim for representation. Civil Society seems looking at politics and parties as ignoble, immoral and corrupt in general. Perhaps due to this reason it could not muster enough support it was expecting on the issue from opposition parties. Even Government after having long discussions and formal meetings with the Civil Society groups today, is questioning their stake in framing of nature and content of a Bill against corruption. These are creating serious doubts about sustainability of ongoing movement. India has a vast and rich experience as far as people’s mobilization is concerned. Our long history of Freedom Movement is full of such local, regional and nationwide movements which combined both political protest as well as social reforms together. A society which has witnessed such a high degree of moral and social commitment of our reformers and political leaders is bound to compare the present movement with the past ones. This comparison becomes more obvious when Civil Society groups choose to call their protest by words like ‘Satyagraha’ and ‘Anshan’ etc.
While attempting to give an impression of Gandhian character to the present movement, Civil Society should also focus on constructive aspects of Satyagraha at par with political protests. Presently no such initiative is in sight except for a sudden increased and developed networking and bonding between visual and mass media and the Civil Society groups. Perhaps the use of information technology may be the need of the hour because of its widespread reach in the society today. Mass contacting and obtaining feedback from the common people is also part and parcel of Gandhian mass mobilization. This is the only way through which a political protest can obtain its legitimacy in India. The fact of the matter is that no Civil Society movement in India can do away with the name of Gandhi and the methods/ techniques he devised for mass mobilisation.
In India, at this moment, it seems that Civil Society is claiming to be acting only to represent the people of India, not just to produce accountability of the office of Lokpal. Besides the issue of bringing Prime Minister and higher judiciary under the purview of Lokpal, one of the proponents of Civil Society draft LOKPAL Bill says that the office of Lokpal will have 15000 staff who will look into the complaints of corruption against 43,00000 government servants. Practically, this sounds unreasonable in the wake of increasing use of RTI Act, whereas proposed Lokpal Bill, once enacted, is expected to be used by people in much larger numbers for which human resource of mere 15000 will not be sufficient. More so, when it has become almost difficult to find even one person of integrity, then from where will Civil Society get such a larger number with unimpeachable integrity? As the expression of Civil Society is gaining new currency, it is generating more questions than answers. Whom do we consider a civil society? Does Baba Ramdev or RSS represent the civil society or the team Anna represents the civil society? There is definition which may suggest RSS and similar organisations also falls within its framework. The entire connotation associated with this word is not as positive as its current usage would suggest. So there is a genuine fear that the movement may not just end up adding another ineffective Bill to the already existing exhaustive list! The Indian society has always been portrayed as a society where modes of authority and legitimacy lay outside the formal political structures. It is considered to be an association of associations based on ethnicity, kinship and cultural cohesion. This social construction has been built-up over the ages through indigenous forms of social transformations. Present Civil Society mobilisation seems to have focused itself on a specific issue that is corruption, especially in the political class.
Mahatma Gandhi knew the strength and possibilities of Civil Society in controlling political class when it tends to go astray. But at the same time he was very well aware of the weaknesses of Indian society due to its own internal disorientation. He was perhaps one and only leader who gave equal importance to both political protest and social reforms. He believed that no political reform could be sustained without required social transformation. Not only he had the courage to challenge an Empire but also he could speak up against his own people, ills inherent in their social customs and their moral degeneration. He strongly believed that temptation towards any kind of violence was the root cause of all social problems manifested in different forms. His definition of violence included physical as well as mental one that reflects in our overall conduct. He was rather disappointed on seeing fast erosion of moral values and continuation of violent tendencies deeply rooted in our society. Moral erosion resulted in phenomenon like corruption and roots of violence in our society resulted in phenomenon like Communalism and Naxalism. The Post-Gandhian era has seen all such decays that obviously resulted in loss of Social bond or Social Capital. Term ‘Social Capital’, like the word ‘Civil Society’, is also a sociological concept, which refers to connections within and between social networks. If Civil Society represents the conscience of a society, then Social Capital may be considered as active state of the same conscience. It has been discussed as “something of a cure-all” for the problems of modern society. The core idea behind this is that social networks have value, just as screwdriver, a physical capital, or university education, a human capital, can increase productivity [both individual and collective], so do social contacts affect the productivity of individuals and groups. The concept of Social Capital highlights the value of social relations and the role of cooperation and confidence to get collective or economic results. In general terms, it could be said that social capital is fruit of social relations, and is expectant of benefits derived from the cooperation between individuals and groups. This is something close to the enlightened society of Gandhian connotation. This state of enlightenment comes only when individuals and groups work in harmony for the overall progress of society. Such opportunity of involvement, interaction, networking of individuals and social groups are possible only when the process of social transformation is in action under a general or specific motivation. Gandhi’s mass movements had not only enlightened Indian society as long as these were put into practice but its impact is still felt which is reflected in frequent use of conceptual terms like ‘Satyagraha’ and ‘Anshan’, nevertheless in post-Gandhian scenario. The question arises here is how this social capital or the enlightened state of society can be achieved and put to use in Indian context? The ongoing Civil Society mobilization in India, of course, is providing an opportunity to activate and utilise available Social Capital not only for achieving desired collective result but also to act decisively for internal reorganisation of society. But is the Civil Society, as it has displayed itself today, capable of taking to ethical enrichment of our own social fabric? Whether a strong Bill against corruption will be enough for moral regeneration of Indian society? In this context can we learn something from our past experiences of Civil Society mobilisations? Do such movements fit into the parameters of modern sociological definitions of Civil Society and Social Capital? Can a sincere review of Gandhian and Sarvodaya movement, like Bhoodan, suggest something to address both corruption and violence, especially Naxal violence, which is also linked to the agrarian land disputes and is a post Gandhi-Vinoba phenomena? It poses a greater threat to Indian democracy than any other form of violence as it has now gripped almost 150 districts of India by rooting out all democratic values and law of the land. In this context it is important to understand whether the genesis of Naxal violence still lies in the inequitable distribution of land or it has become more ambitious to capture political power through undemocratic means under a fake ideological commitment of its cadres? This paper intends to start with the assumption that the Gandhi-Vinoba version of social movement is best suited to Indian social conditions and still has potential of mass mobilisation for a just cause. This might sound impractical specifically to the Sarvodayaites as they seem more disheartened today than the common person who still gets excited and motivated by the name of Gandhi and Vinoba.
The issues attempted here are merely to provoke and attract further interest and attention of those seeking alternative options of social transformation in today’s context. The argument followed is based on established facts and not mere references from published works. However, the issue starts with Civil Society response to corruption in political class with reiteration of the fact that corruption and violence has become a regular feature of Indian society today. So just addressing corruption in political class is not going to solve other major problems of our society. Even if present Civil Society movement achieves its desired result in the form of enactment of a strong Lokpal law, the role of Civil Society and its Social Capital will not end there. To ensure that the proposed Lokpal Bill would not be misused in future, Civil Society and its component i.e. Social Capital need to remain on alert.
Gandhi was perhaps unique in terms of identifying and utilising positively such available resources of Social Capital for collective growth of society who could create an imagined Ashram community despite caste and class differences. That community experience helped him to have a better insight into the Indian realities. His touch with rural India made his thinking more complex, yet closer to the Indian reality. From the experiments he made in Champaran and Kheda, he learnt that without active participation of the poor and socially backward, no popular movement would yield a result. Gandhi devised an intelligent plan of social reconstruction programme based on the abolition of untouchability and promotion of khadi. These programmes resulted in the involvement of the upper caste which in turn exposed them to the multilayered social structure resulting in the elite class’s exposure to the issues and problems of the poor. Once they became conscious of the plight of the poor, they immediately joined hands to elevate their conditions. Moreover, Gandhi was sure of the fact that without active cooperation of the elite, no plan of social engineering would succeed. Creating an integrated imagined community on a moral plane was to help in accelerating social change. He had experimented with his constructive programme at the time of the non-cooperation movement in 1921. He also insisted that the Congress should approve his programme before he launched the mass movement/s. Involvement in the social reconstruction programme helped an ordinary worker to keep in touch with ground realities. Non-cooperation movement was launched at the time when Indian Society was confronted with massive social turmoil. In reality, the non-cooperation movement combined multiple social and political movements within it. It was in fact, the first mass movement organised on an all India level. Participation in the mass movement became an educative experience for a worker. Gandhi encouraged the workers in the social-reconstruction programme when there was no mass politics of political protest. This kept the workers within the fold of social reconstruction programme, something like Social Capital in action. Participation in the great social experiment kept the workers busy in social networking and relation for collective result. It was followed by the Civil Disobedience movement, the second mass movement on an all India plane by combining social and economic issues together especially in UP and Andhra Pradesh.
From the above facts it can be drawn that his movements helped increase in the Social Capital which he wisely invested in India’s struggle for freedom. People in the post-Gandhian era though have not seen those movements and their electrifying effects on our society, are enjoying fruits emanated out of it today. Perhaps that is why Indian society still can claim to have some Social Capital left with it in comparison to other societies of the world. But that does not rule out further loss in it when viewed from the perspective of present condition of Indian society. State machinery is unable to stop financial frauds and irregularities while on the other hand rural and tribal India is suffering from Naxal violence and counter-violence emanating out of it. If Civil Society in India wishes to root out the menace of corruption in political class it also should act against the menace of Naxal violence without which reforms would be incomplete.
Gandhi though always viewed State power with suspicion yet never disputed its inevitability. Despite his disliking for present electoral politics, he never tried to draw a line of separation between Civil Society and the political class. He, instead believed in realising an essentially nonviolent self-reliant, self regulating society in phases, which may replace the State at the end. He had serious doubts upon political class which was to regulate activities of State after Independence. He believed that power, especially the political power, has a tendency to corrupt unless and until there is a strong orientation of character and will in our political representatives. That strong orientation he found missing right from the formation of Constituent Assemblies and among some political representatives who formed part of these Assemblies. Instead of joining the celebrations of Indian Independence in Delhi, he preferred fasting for the communal unity in Kolkata, a wish for his beloved nation that he felt so important to place at the top of his list of constructive programmes prescribed for free India. No wonder a large number of his followers believed in his constructive programme for ensuring economic progress of free India.
After his death, the general optimism about the State that it could play an important role in the regeneration of society shattered quickly. The Government had rather a different vision of modern India and had no faith
in the Gandhian model of development. This internal drift in the shared vision caused a fundamental disagreement among the followers of Gandhi which had a lasting consequence both on Indian politics as well as on the methods and techniques of social transformation attempted in India after the passing away of Gandhi-Vinoba and even Jayaprakash. Right from the foundation of the Indian State we took development with divided mindsets leaving a scope and habit of criticism. While staunch followers of Gandhi believed in village oriented development, the government was pushing for infrastructural development in order to pave way for industrial growth and environment. Instead of paying any attention to the Civil Society viewpoint, largely represented by Gandhian constructive workers, government went on with their alternative model of development. Within the society itself, interaction, networking, sharing for required social transformation, gradually became stagnant in the absence of a Nationwide Civil Society mobilisation. After winning political freedom, obtaining economic freedom was supposed to be the shared goal for free India where Civil Society and democratic government entered into conflict. This obviously had to reflect in our official plan of economic development and the aspirations and need of the society and affected people. After his death, his followers who preferred Gandhi’s constructive programme as their future vocation, automatically assumed responsibility of representing Civil Society in India especially in matters where they thought necessary to appraise the government.
It was in the midst of a growing agrarian unrest as the long awaited land reforms were ignored due to the aggressive opposition from landlords dominating political class, which provided grey area to the communists on the other hand waiting for a peasant upsurge. Having no sign from the government taking notice of these developments, a group of Gandhi’s followers who scrupulously kept themselves out of power politics, decided to do something to address the growing tendencies of rural violence. Vinoba Bhave, who was considered the spiritual heir of Mahatma Gandhi decided to march on foot to the areas prone to agrarian violence in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana regions during 1951. During this tour he was accidentally offered land gift which paved the way for a massive movement later conceptualised by Vinoba as ‘Bhoodan Yajna’. The method of obtaining land gift was individual persuasion on spiritual grounds. It was the power and aura of Vinoba which worked magically and a massive land gift was received during the movement all over India.
The Bhoodan Movement started in 1951 when Telangana peasant movement on the land question reached at peak. It was a violent struggle launched by poor peasants against the local landlords. Vinoba looked into the problem and came out with a novel solution, viz., the landlords’ voluntary gift of land would help in solving the problems of the landlessness in India. This would pave the way for a non-violent radical solution born out of love and not out of hatred. In village Pochampalli, in Telangana District Ram Chandra Reddy created history by donating 100 acres of land to Vinoba in response to his appeal. The initial objective of Bhoodan movement was to secure voluntary donations of land and distribute it to the landless so that the violent tendencies of society can be rooted out at least on the grounds of economic disparity among rural mass of India. However, the movement soon came out with a demand for 1/16th share of land from all land owners. In 1952, the movement had widened the concept of Gramdan (village-in-gift) and had started advocating commercial ownership of land. The first village to come under Gramdan was Mangroth, Hamirpur District of the then U.P. It took more than three years to get another village in gift. The second and third Gramdans took place in Orissa and the movement started spreading with emphasis on securing villages in gift. The process of Gramdan starts with an awakening of social consciousness among the villagers (Gram Bhavana). This is to be followed by an oath to accept the Gramdan as way of life. In turn it would generate Lok Shakti (Peoples’ Power) something similar to which we call Social Capital today.
Jayaprakash Narain’s joining with the Bhoodan Movement gave a momentum to it. J.P. was a hero of the 1942 movement who had an all India image because he was the leader of the Socialist Party. He did not get involved in power politics after independence. He was regarded as a saintly politician in the eyes of the public. J.P.’s popularity gave an impetus to the Bhoodan movement in Bihar. When the first annual Sarvadaya conference was held in the state at Chandil in 1953, J.P. gave a call for creating a Sarvodaya society by establishing a nonexploitative and just egalitarian socio-economic order. It is reported that many students from Allahabad and Calcutta who attended the conference quit universities and colleges to join the movement. Most of the land gift came from Bihar, and the target to collect two and a half million acres of land gift within a year got transcended. The Bhoodan movement touched the most sensitive institution of private property and the need for its redistribution. Property in the form of land got questioned by the movement. That ‘land is a gift of God and it should be utilised by all living beings’, became a common thinking in the Sarvodaya circle. At organisational level, the Sarva Seva Sangh was the highest body in the Bhoodan movement. Those who were associated with various constructive-work organisations, inspired and initiated by Gandhi, formed themselves into an organisation which has come to be known as the Sarva Seva Sangh. The Sarva Seva Sangh was described by Vinoba as “an all Indian institution of experts for planning and executing programmes”. The members at the village level were in the Bhoodan Yajna Committee which was incharge of collection of land and its distribution. This was controlled by the Sarva Seva Sangh. The Bhoodan movement was inspired by the anti-property ideology. It affected the interests of the landed elite in locality and Gramdan villages became a threat to the landed elite. They started opposing the movement and some of them demanded back their land given as Bhoodan.
This is how the movement was sabotaged.
Unfortunately in early 1970s a conflict arose between Vinoba and J.P. that resulted in a virtual split in the Sarva Seva Sangh. However, it can be said that the Bhoodan movement was a novel experiment started on the Indian soil. It created a new awareness among people. It aimed at creating an egalitarian society. Gandhi’s framework of social change brought the issue to the surface. It was realised by one and all that land distribution cannot be tackled by the laws of the state alone. Vinoba Bhave developed Gandhi’s economic thought in a more practical sense. The movement was started also to dilute the anger of the peasants against the landlords which found expression in the Telangana movement. It is unfortunate that the idealism so generated could not sustain for a long period. Also, organisationally Sarva Seva Sangh remained an authoritarian structure. There was hardly any democratic discussion within the organisation on the issues affecting the organisation and the movement could not inculcate democratic values at the village level.
J P was rather more experimental and wanted to address social issues in the changing political scenario. Naxalism emerged as new phenomena during his time. He was perhaps the only Sarvodaya leader who tried to address it in his own way. During 1988 I had the privilege to undertake an interesting case study which was a part of my academic curriculum I was in. It was a study to assess the ground impact of a unique experiment on Gandhian line, started and successfully accomplished in the post-Gandhian era in the year 1971. It was none other than JP who took the challenge thrown by Naxals to kill some of the Gandhian constructive workers of Muzaffarpur District in Bihar. J P could realise the magnitude and extent of the problem and its possible social repercussions. Without having any specific programme, he stationed at Mushahari Block of Muzaffarpur District. After making an intensive socio-economic survey of the area he started working with local people in coordination with the local authorities, and he could manage to channelize righteous forces of the District through hundreds in the Gram Swaraj Sabha. During my visit to these villages in 1988 I found most of them functional and the social bonds established by the extended movement were still intact. The degree of awareness among villagers was found reasonably well as compared to the other villages of Bihar. There were complaints from all sides about the Government’s apathy. Till then there was no sign of resurgence of Naxalism either, in the area. However, JP’s encounter with this problem and the methods and techniques he applied to address it, is well documented in his famous booklet ‘Face to Face’ but due to absence of canopy of able leadership, this problem escalated to a dangerous state in other parts of India during the last 40 years. He tried to strengthen the Gramsabhas which played a crucial role in the affairs of villages in Gandhian model of development. This was the part of Gandhi’s political planning where village Panchayats have been viewed as nucleus of the Indian democracy. He made Gram Sabhas in-charge of ensuring livelihood for the landless while functioning as the administrative unit for allocating land and labour of the village people for community development. He not only succeeded in restricting Naxal violence from spreading in the district on the ground level but also countered it on ideological level. This is perhaps a unique example of its kind which needs to be reviewed carefully to derive possible line of revival in the Sarvodaya movement according to the need of the hour.
While talking about ideological grounds of Naxal movement and the method and technique it has adopted, JP’s comment is perhaps most appropriate. He made his special criticism of Naxalites on two important counts. One is the method they are following. He called it terroristic rather than revolutionary. He felt in all their invocation of Mao’s name, they are not even Maoist. He also tried to compare it with Guevaraist, but no one has
called Che Guevara a Marxist-Leninist. Terrorism, he believed, always born out of frustration, may conceivably create a narrow revolutionary base among sections of the frustrated youth and backward and embittered tribals and the rural poor, but such elements would be too weak, even with foreign assistance, to make a truly indigenous social revolution by themselves. Terroristic violence, in fact, is more likely to provoke counter violence from the stronger sections of society, leading eventually to some form of despotism. The other count of his criticism is about their anti-nationalistic approach. He believed that certain forms of nationalism may be objectionable, such as aggressive, expansionist, and neo-colonialist. But as far as the Indian nationalism is concerned it certainly does not belong to that category. On the other hand, Han nationalism of China, particularly as expressed in the claim that any territory that at any time was a part, or under the influence of, Imperial Peking, is forever China, is certainly according to him a variety of not only objectionable, but dangerous, nationalism. He found that all brands of communism suffer in some measure-the least perhaps the Marxists-from extra territorial patriotism, but the slogan ‘Chairman Mao is our Chairman too’ beats them all in toadying to foreign masters. He says, ‘It is one thing to borrow ideas and techniques from others – this we do all the time – and even to accept leaders of other countries as one’s ideological leaders, but quite another to accept a foreign head of State as the head of one’s own revolutionary State – to – be.’ Under such an ideological derailment where this movement is going to lead its cadres can easily be understood. Today, land is no more a bone of contention. Nobody is interested in agriculture. Fast easy money has become the motivating factor. At times, there are expectations for huge amount of money to be earned through even extortions. This has given rise to factionalism in its cadres. Recent news suggests that factional feud may lead to split in Maoist ranks. Sources say that Koteshwar Rao Kishanji from People’s War Group has developed serious differences with Maoist Coordination Committee’s Jhantu Mukherji. These two factions were separate parties which merged to form CPI-Maoist on September 21, 2004. Last year, Kishanji wrote to Maoist chief Ganpathy
accusing Mukherji of misappropriation of party funds and fuelling factional feuds. Mukherji, on the other hand, accused Kishanji of womanizing and egoism that had dealt a big blow to the Maoist movement in West Bengal. There are similar claims of insult by cadres of a Maoist Dalit for his caste and language. Sources say many leaders of both factions have now begun doubting if the merger was a good idea. These are obvious developments of a movement centred on the ideology of violence. JP could smell its real character right at the beginning when he said, ‘It should be borne in mind that all that passes under the cloak of Naxalism is not genuine. There is quite a mix-up of motivations behind the so called Naxalite violence, ranging from outright criminality to personal and family feuds and enmities. It is becoming common for unmitigated criminals to embellish their crimes with shouts like “Mao Zindabad”; ..... At the same time, it does seem that there is to some extent collaboration between criminals, such as dacoits and Naxalite revolutionaries; perhaps it is in the nature of a marriage of convenience.’ Today, Naxal violence has become a routine affair in India and the loss of human life and property hardly affects our minds. But the magnitude of this particular problem can be understood from the assessment of Army which has expressed the need to deploy 65000 troops to fight Naxals. This view has been expressed recently during a meeting of Army Chief and seven Army Commanders at the Lucknow-based Central Army Command. They are of the view that six Army divisions will be needed to cover Naxal-affected areas in West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, parts of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. This proposal seems to have been signalled by the Home Ministry to go ahead and we may see more blood bath in the coming days.
Though the present challenge is from Naxalism but the problem is much wider in the form of poverty, unemployment and a myriad socio-economic injustices. Government’s failure to implement laws pertaining to land reforms had inevitably led to the growth of rural violence. It was not that the so called Naxalites had fathered all such violence but those who had persistently defied and defeated the reform laws for the past so many years – be they politicians, administrators, landlords and corporate houses. Naxalism is a post-independent, rather a new phenomenon, having history of not more than fifty years, is being perceived today as the greatest threat to law and order of the Indian states. More than 150 districts are said to be under its direct influence and has occupied the minds of tribal/rural poor millions spread in the hilly and forest regions of eight different States of India. All state enforcement agencies including para-military and state police have failed completely in tackling the Naxal violence and lawlessness. Dantewada District has witnessed killings of 150 security men excluding civilians in two different incidents in the beginning of this year followed by many other similar incidents so far in Bijapur and in many districts of Bihar and Jharkhand. This trend is continuing and recently they killed three Congressmen and wounded at least fifteen others near Raipur-Orissa Border. Now this situation demands Civil Society intervention. By leaving all responsibilities on the state we hardly can provide any solution to the problem of Naxal violence. It would be unfortunate if our armed forces enter into a conflict of civilian nature. A sustained mass mobilization against this menace can address this problem effectively. And this is only possible when civil society involves itself in tackling this problem. It is also true that we do not have leaders who could focus exclusively on such types of reforms. Tackling violence non-violently is a tricky situation which requires a high moral authority on the part of the Civil Society leadership. Institutions like Sarva-Seva-Sangh and its organs have already become defunct and inactive. Whatever is remaining in its fold is incapable of leading reform movements of this magnitude. This vacuum has been filled by Civil Society activists of comparatively younger generation out of necessity. People from Gandhian tradition are absent in this new form of movement which is very disheartning.
They either see the present movement as different from Gandhian framework or susceptive about its success. Social Movements are essential part of a society which is under continuous phase of evolution. Social unrest though always undesired but inevitable, provides grounds of internal dynamism of change, suggests correctional measures to be taken. In that way both have their own significance and co-relation. This implies, if there is no unrest, no social movement is required, but that is not the ideal case here. Social unrest is a continuous feature of a society which intends to grow out of socio-economic compulsion of the weaker section of society. If such inherent tendencies of society let loose then these are bound to turn violent. That is why Gandhi believed in a peaceful but continuous revolution through his twin principles of satyagraha and constructive programme. His principles are uniform in nature. Satyagraha, meant for the active opposition of injustice, reflected through social unrest where social capital need to be invested to attain justice, whereas constructive programme is to cater and increase that Social Capital through productive use of such social networking, relation and bondings in social reforms during the time of peace or when there is no unrest. In that situation social capital will always be in reserve, ready to be invested in the times of need. So there is something which can be learnt from our past experiences of such movements. There has to be people, part of the civil society, to address any eventuality of social unrest at the appropriate time. In the absence of such vigilant forces the ever growing unreasonable disparity will escalate to an alarming level and is bound to go out of hands as we see in the case of naxal violence today in India. While initiating Sarvodaya Movement, Gandhi and Vinoba must have envisioned a group of conscious and alert people who will keep vigil on such tendencies in society leading to social unrest. Those people will acquire this authority through their services in raising social capital of the society. They will regulate and invest such reserve of social capital for further increase in it for the benefit of the society as a whole by primarily addressing violent tendencies for seeking economic or political redressal. The Bhoodan movement was initially started with this objective only. Once it started getting land as gift, its focus shifted to provoke the age old mythological belief i.e., the duty of renunciation, in order to shun the hereditary inclination for the ownership of private property or land. On the other hand, they were advocating such donated land to be distributed among landless peasants, which was nothing but merely transfer of private ownership by exploiting mythological beliefs of a section of the society. So this created a conceptual confusion in itself. Today, when we have stepped out of socialistic mode of thinking, such persuasions are meaningless and non-effective. Naxal problem is no more linked to land issue, instead it survives on the crisis of identity and governments deliberate by surrender the natural resources of the country to the hands of big corporate houses in the name of development. Gandhi, Vinoba and JP tried their best to organise the Indian society on a moral plane. They had learnt the importance of civil society involvement in the process of social transformation from their hard experiences. The Institution they have erected during their lifetime was meant to carry on the process of reform they had started. But it is unfortunate that they failed to prepare the second and third generation leadership who could intelligently find ways to extend their work started with noble intentions by them. Capitalist influence on our economy has also affected our thinking process which stresses more on individualism and private entrepreneurships rather than on community and fellow feelings. The concept of Bhoodan is still relevant if it is adopted with few modifications. Since a large number of land owners are left with limited agricultural land, they find agriculture as an unprofitable venture. Many of them are ready to sell their lands if they are compensated properly. In the absence of potential buyers they are continuing with their lands cultivated by the landless peasantry. They can be persuaded for collective farming. Such collective farming groups may try their hands in organic farming which is gaining momentum today. Not one but several bodies like Sarva Seva Sangh should be re-enacted which should be empowered with advanced technical knowledge of agriculture with all modern tools to take a reserve pool of agricultural experts, as visioned by Vinoba. Undistributed lands acquired during the Bhoodan Movement can be used and developed as model farming centres where landless labour of the surrounding areas can be engaged and trained in the modern techniques of agriculture. Apart from that, the human and material capital available in our society, need to be channelized in a way so that the reformative aspect of Satyagraha may continue without any outside interference. But there comes a stage in Satyagraha when all leaders may be sent to prison, then Gandhi says, everybody will be his own leader and will continue with the movement with their own developed insight of the situation. Today, India needs such a situation where all components of civil society should function with its optimum capacity. Similar programmes can be chalked out for urban areas and involvement of younger generation in the process will reduce the chances of violence in our society.
The ongoing Civil Society movement is indicates that a new kind of resurgence of mass awakening is about to come when protest and reform will become unavoidable. With the abundance of available human capital and a new kind of tool in the form of information technology, it will not only help in accelerating the social reforms but also will equip the younger generation, which is more congenial and sensitive towards social issues, to counter the Naxal violence as well. Even if the Government goes ahead with repressive measures, as it seems today, a large number of its cadres has to be rehabilitated. At that time too a well prepared civil society will have to be ready to take them into their fold of non-violence and compassion. Bhoodan movement was inspired by socialist outlook which was the ideology of the day. Today we are left with no passion for socialism and our focus has shifted to individual growth. But the Sarvodaya ideology provides a fine blend of individual and collective growth because it believes in the development of every single member of the society.
So the present civil society group must have as understanding of the masses with an ability to put it in the right direction at the right moment to achieve maximum advantage of the situation for the permanent settlement of a social dispute like Naxalism. It is surprising that Bhoodan movement was never made a part of academic study though being indigenous in nature, it has lot of content for sociological study. We may study peasants’ movement, farmers’ movement, women’s movement, even movements related to environmental activism in the post-Gandhian era but we hardly get opportunity to study Bhoodan and other sarvodaya movements which might provide further grounds for fresh ideas to activate an effective mass movement against Naxal and terroristic violence. In such condition, rise of Civil Society against corruption in India is an obvious course of action, though not sufficiently matured. This trend will grow if the present movement succeeds to achieve its objective, and the younger generation, which is more capable and knowledgeable than their predecessors, is bound to rise with the civil society to act as true social capital. Civil Society needs to diversify its activities and must think about its responsibility towards other social issues which are equally important as corruption in political class today. Any kind of violence, whether political or otherwise, is merely a reflection of the existing state of our society. If it occurs concurrently then it will clearly indicate in the form of loss of Social Capital. That does not mean that we are losing numbers of human capital in our society. In fact the number of human capital has increased as compared to the initial post-Gandian phase but the forces of motivation are absent to activate available resources of Social Capital.
Contact: Gandhi Museum
Rajghat, New Delhi