Rajagopal talks about his unique experience in Ekta Parishad and what it means for him today.
"Ekta Parishad is a people’s movement and it is made up of people I met in villages over thirty or more years. From people at the grassroots, I have received a great deal of affection and support which has given me the resolve to work on issues related to their life and livelihood. I have always felt that I am only an instrument of their social change and that through a process of exercising their rights and practicing non-violence in groups, that they could be liberated from many of the strictures imposed by poverty, conflict and exploitation.
I have also had the lifelong experience of working on training young people. Unlike other NGO leaders, I wanted to work with rural youth and help them to go back to their villages and work to make social change. With some I was able to influence their actions; with others I did not have much success. In any case I was able to bring together Gandhian values with empowerment processes and give a large number of people a way to carry out social change. In the process we created a social movement, which provides people the space to act alternatively.
Through Ekta Parishad’s work, I was also privileged to work with many solidarity groups and individuals outside of India. Maja Koene who helped me to set up the Swiss–funded organization, the CESCI foundation, the many friends in Europe, that worked tirelessly to form Ekta Europe, a large support group made up of many friends and solidarity organizations in eight states of Europe; the Quakers who worked on the formation of a peace alliance in South Asia, namely SAPA; to name a few.
Ekta Parishad over time has become a national organization, and the largest people’s movement working on land reform issues. Ekta Parishad’s large campaign in 2007, the Janadesh, was the largest non-violent action in history. Although there are many shortcomings in working in a people’s organizations, it is a valuable social space for the marginalized poor. People are using it to make change in their lives and the lives of others. They know the value of being part of something larger than themselves."