Book Review: The Story of a People’s Movement


By Rupesh Anand Patkar

2010, Publication No. 42, Kolhapur, Comrade Govind Pansare Amrit Mahotsav Samiti, Pp. 137, Rs 65/-

my mothers storyFrom the early seventies, in the wake of revolutionary movements that started in the late 60s the consciousness about the evils of development began to grow. One of the earliest was the Silent Valley Movement in the Palakkad district of Kerala. It was started in 1973 to save the Silent Valley Reserve Forest from being flooded by a hydroelectric project. Since then there have been movements in practically every state in India. For example, Koel Karo movement in Jharkhand, Narmada Bachao Andolan spread over three states, Niamgiri movement in Odisha, and Save Western Ghats which also was spread over several states and so on. While in most cases the movements ‘failed’ to achieve their goals, they transformed millions of people in their attitude towards ‘development’.

This little book in Marathi is a close up of one such movement in Sindhudurg, in the south coastal region of Maharashtra. This is a real life story about the author’s mother, Vaidehi Patkar. The late Comrade Pansare (who was brutally assassinated in 2015 in Kolhapur by Hindutva activists) wrote about this book: ‘Activists carry out the movement and new activists are born in the movement. This story tells the passage of an ordinary housewife to a fearless organiser activist.’

The story begins with a simple notice that a farmer gets about a pipeline that will go through his land. This notice is from Reliance Company about a gas pipe line that will go from Vasco to Hyderabad. That starts the farmer, his son (the author) and mother to start looking into the issue. Like a simple stream that is formed by a few rain drops and then it joins other streams and becomes bigger and bigger, ending in a big river, the people’s movement also grew both in consciousness about the issues and the size.

The story is told simply. It describes day by day the growth of the movement and its consciousness. The movement engulfs every one – the farmers, their families, Xerox shop owners, various government officers, police and officials of the reliance company. Slowly the collusion between the capitalist company, government and police and even some political parties and media persons comes out. At the same time people coming together in greater and greater numbers, facing the officers, debating with them and embracing arrests also emerges. Sure enough there are people who get scared. At the same time there are individuals in the government and police who understand the people’s point of view and are sympathetic or even helpful! In short the full gamut of a fully fledged people’s movement comes out.

Finally the Reliance Company gives up the project. However the author says that they had no illusion that it was only their movement that stopped. There were internal struggles in the company; there was change in government and many other factors. However it changed the life of the family completely. Their quiet and simple life changed and they all became conscious and uneasy about the state of the society and the world. And running through the story, the central character, the mother emerges as a conscious product of the movement!

The author becomes Marxist and atheist. The mother hears bad words about communists and to find out she starts reading Marx’s Das Kapital! Eventually she learns enough about surplus value and where do the profits come from? Meanwhile the author started his practice of psychiatry and comes across many alcoholics. So the author and his mother got involved in anti – alcohol programmes and sure enough they came to clashes with the local authority and the police! Mother became quite active in what we call the women’s movement due to these alcohol related atrocity cases. She could call meetings of Mahila Mandal, address groups of hundred odd people, take a group to the police station and register a case etc.

The mother gets involved in another struggle. This time it was against a mining project and stakes involved were much higher. In this struggle one meets the whole gamut of the people’s struggle. Hunger strikes, murder charges by police, involvement of every shade of politicians. While the mining has not been allowed to go, the police cases keep on going.

This book is a close up of people’s struggle going on in India. Similar struggles are going on all over India. What one concludes is that there is class war going on between poor people who are dependent on commons resources and the ruling classes which are bent on looting them in the name of development. The media is increasingly taking the side of the ruling classes and calls people’s struggle as anti-development. We need to stand by the people’s struggle more firmly.

Finally a word about the publishing house set up in Kolhapur, which published this book. When comrade Pansare became 75 years old in 2008, his comrades collected some money for the ‘Amrit Mahotsav’ (celebration for attaining 75 years). Comrade Pansare refused the money and the money was used to set up this publishing house to bring out books on activists and people’s movements in Marathi. It is an excellent example of a local publishing house. By 2010 they had published 41 books! Now there are more than 50 books.

T Vijayendra (1943 – ) was born in Mysore, grew up in Indore and went to IIT Kharagpur to get a B. Tech. in Electronics (1966). After a year’s stint at the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata, he got drawn into the whirlwind times of the late 60s.

Since then, he has always been some kind of political-social activist. His brief for himself is the education of Left-wing cadres and so he almost exclusively publishes in the Left-wing journal Frontier, published from Kolkata. For the last ten years, he has been active in the field of ‘Peak Oil’ and is a founder member of Peak Oil India and Ecologise. Since 2015 he has been involved in Ecologise! Camps and in 2016 he initiated Ecologise Hyderabad. In 2017 he spent a year celebrating the Bicentenary of the Bicycle. Vijayendra has been a ‘dedicated’ cyclist all his life, meaning, he neither took a driving license nor did he ever drive a fossil fuel-based vehicle.

He divides his time between Hyderabad and organic farms at several places in India, watching birds and writing fiction. He has published a book dealing with resource depletion, three books of essays, two collections of short stories, a novella, an autobiography and a children’s science fiction story on the history of the bicycle, apart from booklets on several topics. His booklet, Kabira Khada Bazar Mein: Call for Local Action in the Wake of Global Emergency (2019, has been translated into Kannada, Bengali and Marathi and is the basic text for the emerging Transition Networks in these language regions. His last book ‘Vijutopias’, which has 12 short stories, is an entertaining book full of hope and energy in these dismal times.

Email: [email protected]

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