Letters from India No 24

´Letters from India´ is a fortnightly brief written by Finnish exchange activists participating in the Lokayan – Kepa co-operation programme. The ´Letters´ are circulated primarily among the staff of the organisations and members of the groups responsible for the joint activities, i.e. Lokayan´s Global Responsibility Forum – Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam and Kepa´s India Group.
Fitria Agustina

Letters from India, vol 24
November 9th, 2002

Regards to all,
This is my second letter. After 1-2 days in India-which I've written in my 1st letter, we (Anastasia, Kob, I, and Rakesh-our facilitator) spent 3 days on arranging things (like providing foods, equipment, etc.)

Last Thursday (07.11.2002) finally we met Vijay for a meeting-actually Anastasia tries to reach him in few days, but Vijay's always busy. So we went to CSDS Main Office at Rajpur Road-in my 1st letter it's CSDS Project at Munirka. Hmm, the office is a large place, but it's in a renovation. And like other building in New Delhi, the area is covered by trees and grasses. It will be nice to have a discussion on open air, considering New Delhi's weather isn't hot for me.

After introduction part, we got a further explanation on "What is Lokayan"-then I knew that there are differences between CSDS (Centre for the Study of Developing Societes) and Lokayan (Lokayan's Office is at Ajpur Road). Even though, both of them can be considered as one 'family', based on historical relation-just like INSIST family. From Rakesh we're informed that Lokayan is kind of a platform-platform?-for peoples to talk about social theories. Noted by Vijay, Lokayan's main concern is having 'dialogue' on comprehensive democracy: 1) economic democracy; 2) ecological democracy; (3) social democracy; (4) cultural democracy; (5) political democracy and (6) gender democracy. I got the point that their focuses are quite many-like INSIST. This dialogue on democracy is known as 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' (The World is A Family).

I wasn't sure with 'platform' term, and Vijay said that Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is rather seen as an attitude (the way of looking each other), sort of a perspective.

Later we're introduced to some excellent persons. One of them is Prof. Suresh Sharma-he's a convenor of Lokayan, who's an expert of Philosophy on History. More information we knew from him, based on the context of Indian history. In 1970s and got worse in 1975, the situation was covered by trust crisis, no human rights, 100.000 and more peoples sent to jail for democracy struggle (implementation of law, freedom of speech, etc.). At that time, there're 2 types of institutions: 1) political institutions/parties, that failed on their function as society representative; and civil institutions, that good on work but fragmented. In 1977, this accumulation brought the idea of Lokayan 'to talk to each other'. NGOs developed vast in 1980s-even Prof. Sharma didn't forget to remind us that NGO and civil society term is brought to Third World by globalization, in this context the international funding institutions.

Some miss-concepts on democracy in India are: 1) Democracy means that give people the right to participate in the elections, people make vote, than those who win the election control the state as "people's representative" for 5 years. Where as the implementation of this power neglects lot of people's needs. It should be that any constitution, which-especially-has large effects on society, must be maintained by developing discussion; 2) Democracy in Indian can be called as 'religious democracy'. Hindus are 80% from total population, 20% others. Moslems are minority; even the amount is quite a number. In politics, Hindus as the majority dominate others. Nepotism phenomenon makes it worse; family relatives-even girlfriends-join political parties and enjoy the taste of ruling.

Prof. D.L. Seth-one of the chairmen on "Islam, Moslems, and Democracy" discussion, also the initiator of Lokayan-later accompanied us. Kob asked many things about forest problems and people movements on ecology to him. He said there are many people movements, like against mining that destructs forest, or to protect some specific species, etc. Btw, Kob is from Project for Ecological Recovery (PER), Thailand.

When I mentioned how about democracy implementation in India if society based on caste, he said 'more or less'-but for Bhupen, an activist of CSDS Project, "One because of caste, India have no democracy." Well, a young activist's perspective surely different than a professor's (this is my own interpretative opinion). "Like Islam. In 'pure' Moslem countries, it would be difficult for democracy," Prof. Seth compared.

Later the discussion got over then we head to Lokayan's Office to fetch a document needed for Anastasia and Vijay's discussion on one programme. We spent just few minutes there. I was shown an output of Rajendra Ravi's research on tricycle/rickshaw drivers. Interesting, because it contents a comprehensive data, from demography till their everyday problems. Unfortunately, this output is still in statistic's form (in tables), a review hasn't been made.

Back at the CSDS Main Office, with Vijay we discussed our programme planning. Like where are the places outside New Delhi that recommended to be seen, peoples to be met. Two places were being discussed: Uttarakhand-in Himalayan-and Rajasthan. Desert condition in Rajasthan brings high mortality, health problem, etc. We're interested on both places, but which one that can we visit depends on the arrangements.

Friday (08/11), we stopped by at Bahri Sons Bookselers-Oh my, too many interesting books. I got so excited and confused, that I bought nothing and only made notes. Later I'll buy some. From that place, we went to Delhi Regional Meeting for WSF-India or ASF at Gandhi Peace Foundation (GPF). About 87 peoples were there-not bad; almost 50% are women. Unfortunately, this forum was in Hindi. So except Rakesh, we couldn't understand what's going on. There were some English, likely they discussed about themes for ASF's seminars, workshops, or conferences. And I thought that that was the main agenda of this meeting-later I'll send the list of conferences to INSIST; you can't find it in www.wsfindia.org.

>From GPF, we had a nice talk with Arun Kumar 'Pani Baba'-means Father of Water, he is 'the water man of India'. Pani Baba involved in ecology and water problems in India for some years. In the way to drive him to his place, he told us lot of things about life and ecology. Life is already 'well organized", examples on the way of living among birds. Human being shouldn't disturb and destroy, but learn from this life balances.

Last, Kob and I discussed about Involvement Programme of INSIST. He wanted to know more about this programme, 'cause some friends in Thailand willing to make this kind of learning process. He asked about the curriculum, the steps, etc. So I explained things to him, including INSIST's plan to make it regional in some parts of Indonesia. One thing, Involvement and INSIST's brochures are in Indonesian, guess this could be a recommendation for having English version?

That's it for now, my family. Hope you don't get bored reading Letters from India.

Take care. Keep in touch.
Warm regards,

-- Still feeling cold here

Agustina is an Indonesian activist and journalist working for Wacana Magazine published by INSIST, an Indonesian partner organization of Kepa