Situated in Joura in Morena district, Mahatma Gandhi Seva Ashram (MGSA) has been a revolution in terms of its contribution towards the society. We believe that Gandhian philosophy should not just be a part of speeches and lectures but it should be a part of daily acts and conducts. That is the reason why MSGA is known not only in India but globally for its ideologies and pedagogies.
Mahatma Gandhi Sewa Ashram at Joura in Morena district of the Chambal region took its foundation inspiration from Gandhian Subba Rao A new chapter opened in the history of Chambal region.
In the Footsteps of Gandhi
Subba Rao now in his seventies was an invisible disciple of Gandhi, like many that an Independent India witnessed. To apply Gandhi’s weapons of truth and nonviolence, Subba Rao chose Chambal notorious for its violent banditry. He would establish a new tradition that of peace and mutual brotherhood, he promised to himself. To bring peace to region was a formidable task that fell on the shoulders of Shri Subba Rao.
Peace and Construction
In 1970, under his direction, Shri P.V. Rajagopal activised peace works in this region. He tried his level best to establish here a society based on social justice and peace, his work culminated in 1972 in surrender of a number of Dacoits whose names had created terror throughout this region. Surrender was done before Mahatma Gandhi’s idol and in presence of a large multitude, proceedings of surrender started with much rejoicing.
The dacoits surrendered in hordes. It made international headlines. What police had not been able to do, these two inspired disciples of Gandhi had achieved. The surrender was catalyst to the region’s transformation.
This surrender also launched a program of social reconstruction. Peace was restored in the region, barren and unproductive and where nothing but thorny bushed grew soon changed into fertile land and vast farms spring up with golden crops as if by magic but it was not magic but silent work by devoted band of workers of Joura Ashram.
A lot of credit goes to Dr Subbarao for his continuous and relentless efforts towards conceptualising this NGO and touching the lives of lacs of people associated with it. Currently, MGSA works with tribals and Dalits to secure their land and livelihood rights. One of the objectives of the NGO is to support the Ekta Parishad organization to fight for a political cause. This NGO works for protecting the human resources by undertaking the Jan Andolan and fighting for the rights on Jal-Jangal-Jameen. In order to conduct such Yatra and protest rallies MGSA has to rely on some natural resources of earning revenue. The purpose of such revenue generation activities is to not only collect fund for MGSA but also to generate a source of income for the marginalized communities.
Review of the Past: The Struggle
“To build society free from exploitation and based on justice.
To build political strength for bargaining to the development of poor. ” Vision in 1990’s
The bonded Sahariya
In 1990, Under the guidance of P.V. Rajagopal, Ashram workers initiated work among work among 3,50,000 Sahariya tribals. Sahariya tribe exploited a lot, most of them were bonded labours and were treated as sub humans because of continuous humiliation and suffering, they had become mute and were unable to tell their tale of woe to outsiders.
A conspiracy was also going on to eject them out of their forestlands. They had started to leave their forest abodes and were migrating to cities in search of employment; rich outsiders had illegally occupied their traditional forestlands, as the Ashram workers were closely monitoring their migration to the cities. They chalked out a program to stop their migration.
To give their program a concrete shape, the Swiss Aid came to their rescue. Over Ten years of support of Swiss Aid has enabled intervention with Sahariya tribe, which is most deprived and neglected in the region.
They started off by organizing a group of Sahariya tribes in the two villages by identifying the persons, who had leadership and skill talents and promote them to fight for their rights and development. The first three years were spent in establishing the organization in the area.
Thereafter to unite and strengthen the Sahariya tribes a mass contact programme to generate awareness among adivasi was organized. In this phase our emphasis was build up youth leadership.
Number of meetings, rallies and workshops were organized. By the end of the 1996, people were empowered for taking up water issue.
In the later years they launched Capacity Building Programs for enhancing their skills, boost up their courage and to unite Sahariya tribe to fight for their rights was taken up.
Among the things done were making people aware of their rights. Making efforts to release bonded labours; forcing governments to change their policy; strengthening the voice of Sahariya tribe. By the year 1988, the land issue became major issue. The organization succeeded in getting land for the people to help them survive and gain control over livelihood resources.
Mukhiya based Movement
Manpower was the limitation that the organization faced to reach out to maximum number of villages. Secondly, we shared a vision of making it a people based organization. So, a new strategy was adopted. In every village, One Mukhiya was identified, who had leadership ability. Mukhiya functions include carrying out the local activities like grain bank, Village Fund etc. Also to keep communication link between Ekta Parishad and the village people.
Important milestone in the lives of Sahariya adivasi occurred with the launch of Bhu-Adhikar Satyagraha Padayatra by Rajgopalji on the December 10, 1999.The ‘Bhu Abhiyan’ or the ‘Movement for land’ was launched on people’s initiatives, to achieve peoples right over land. Peace and Justice again become a big question in Chambal Valley. This culminated in Janadesh 2007 where 25,000 people undertook foot march which started from Gwalior, Chambal region to Delhi in October 2007.
The Philosophy of action
“Nature can never be managed well unless people closet to it are involved in its management and a healthy relationship is established between nature, society and culture on one hand and in turn their relationship with the Govt. organization, non government organization and people’s movements etc.”