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Citizen power

29 January 2015 | by Rebecca Baron

Social movements are an important part of a free and transparent democracy.

They stimulate, shape and secure profound economic and political change. For justice fighters, they are the key to any lasting achievement.

Our partner, Ekta Parishad, inspires people to be active citizens and to change their own paths. They have had huge success in India rallying people living in poverty to campaign for their rights to the land.

Ekta Parishad director PV Rajagopal

Director PV Rajagopal has many years’ experience in building social movements to win justice for the poor. For him, it comes down to four pillars:

The power of the poor

So often, Rajagopal says, we see poor people as powerless. We need to look again.

People living in poverty are only economically poor; they are spiritually, culturally and socially rich. They can draw on all of this to change their circumstances.

To build a movement, you just need to harness poor people’s strengths efficiently.

The power of youth

In 2012, 50,000 people in India marched for land rights. 12,500 of them were young people. They were the ones motivating and encouraging others - the march wouldn’t have happened without them.

Rajagopal says that their energy and discipline attracted middle-class Indians - people who aren’t poor - to their campaign.

When we campaign and lobby in the UK, how much do we consider or involve the young?

Do our church events incorporate young people, or do we separate them off into their own initiatives?

The power of solidarity

So many people, Rajagopal says, aren’t asking for help to change their lives: they’re asking for solidarity.

People from all over the world wrote to the Indian Prime Minister in support of Ekta Parishad's goals.

In Europe, one initiative encouraged people to skip a drink or a treat and give a Euro to the march instead.

Such small symbols of solidarity are hugely important. They send people in struggle the message: you are not alone.

The power of non-violence

As Rajagopal says - imagine you have a generation of angry young people. They’re unemployed, disempowered and frustrated at the injustice of their situation. If they have no channel for their anger, what happens? Someone puts a gun in their hands.

But if you can offer people positive, non-violent action, you can harness the energy of anger for good.

Be inspired

Rajagopal plans another big march in 2020. He has faith in the people to speak up for themselves, and he has faith in the government to listen.

With the UK general election fast approaching, let’s take inspiration from our sisters and brothers in their own struggles and actively participate in our democracy to make a change for the better.

We're holding an event exploring the link between faith and politics. Read more and register for the day.

Find out more

Hear more about Ekta Parishad's work from PV Rajagopal on YouTube

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