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Need of the Hour – A New Social Movement

June 12, 2012

Writer: Sanjana Janardhanan

Recently, I had a short chat with Colin Gonsalves, the founder of Human Rights Law Network. My question: what do we need in this country, which will transform the human rights situation as we see it today? His answer, in short? An action movement which will topple the existing systems of power. Coming in the aftermath of a highly dramatized anti-corruption movement, which fizzled out almost as fast as it began, I was a little leery of what he was talking about. What good will another movement do, I thought. Previous movements that I had exposure to, like the Narmada Bachao Andolan, seemed to exist (atleast, in my reality) only in the media, and the glowing reports from several people I had met, who had been part of them. Did they really bring about much change? Or any at all? I was still skeptical.

Photo courtesy: Meera Vijayann

And yet. Recently, I also had the great pleasure of interacting with Bablu Ganguly, the founder of Timbaktu Collective in the heart of Andhra Pradesh. And late last year, I was interviewed Chetna Gala Sinha, a phenomenal entrepreneur working out of rural Maharashtra. Both of them, working in completely different sectors and regions, both having achieved considerable significance and impact through the work they are doing, both of them naming a single source of inspiration: Jayaprakash Narayan and his call for revolution.

The more I read about what Jayaprakash Narayan was able to achieve, the more I begin to believe that it is this which is required for a new generation of strong and inspirational leaders to emerge. A movement which can inspire young people to become powerfully empathetic to the world, and instill a drive to change it for the better. Looking at the work achieved post the Bihar Movement, it becomes evident how powerful it was. So my question: how can we keep the momentum going? How can we ensure that these achievements don’t fade away, in this new regime selling us such a bright, and artificial, idea of India?

The time is indeed ripe for a new movement. I am not talking about an ‘India Spring,’ nor am I advocating for another ‘India against Corruption.’ What I am talking about is harnessing the energy that is already awakened, and turning it into something constructive. I am talking about systemic overhaul, through the power of the collective voice.

This might sound idealistic. But Vinoba Bhave did it. So did Jayaprakash Narayan. At perhaps a different level, Aruna Roy achieved it. What do we need? Someone who can articulate that voice, and translate it back to the larger public. Someone, who can through the sheer power of ideas, confront the existing systemic malaise, and lead that kind of transformation. And I don’t believe this someone should be one single person. In this disaggregated world, where everything appears byte sized, this someone is going to have to take a highly different form.

So what will this look like? Who is going to take the lead? I don’t have answers, but I do have hope. Everyday, I learn about few, but very exciting reports of young people doing extremely interesting things to transform different realities. My goal? To see how this can be catalysed so that young people are able to see the opportunities which didn’t exist for prior generations. And this is where my (idealistic) movement comes in.

So what do you think? Is a movement what we truly need? Or should we be focusing our energies towards making the sector more lucrative? Or maybe a combination of both? I would love to know what you think.

Note: Sanjana Janardhanan is a graduate from the London School of Economics and currently works as a consultant at Ashoka India, a leading citizen sector organisation. This article has been sourced from her blog.

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