A Report on
The First International Conference of Lokavidya Jan Andolan (LJA)
held at Vidya Ashram, Sarnath, Varanasi
between 12 and 14 Nov, 2011

   Vidya Ashram campus was full of participants during 12-14 November 2011, when the first conference of Lokavidya Jan Andolan was held there. About 300 persons attended the conference, each session witnessing a participation of over 150. The participation seemed to indicate that the idea has started striking resonance with those in struggles of the Lokavidyadhar Samaj (the bearers of lokavidya, namely, peasants, artisans, women, adivasis, small retailers and others). Social activists, leaders of farmers’ movement, farmers, artisans, artists, intellectuals, students and many others related to actual struggles and willing to think about social change from a lokavidya perspective had gathered to deliberate on the idea of a knowledge movement of those who have not gone to University.

   Participants came from parts of Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Europe. Specifically, they came from Madhubani, Darbhanga, Vaishali, Gaya, Ranchi, Deoghar, Hazaribagh, Kolkata, Vijayawada, Chirala, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune, Wardha, Nagpur, Indore, Dhar, Moraina, Rewa, Singrauli, Delhi, Amritsar, Aligadh, Muzaffarnagar, Lucknow, Sultanpur, Basti, Faizabad, Allahabad, Jaunpur, Gorakhpur, Ballia, Azamgadh, Chandauli, Ghazipur, Sonbhadra, Mirzapur, Varanasi and Vienna.

   Debates were around three major themes : Lokavidya Perspective, Struggles and Organization of Lokavidyadhar Samaj and Media (including art, language and philosophy). Specially discussed were the ideas of dignity and prestige of lokavidya, displacement from land, habitat and work, jobs to everybody on the basis of lokavidya, control and availability of national and natural resources, a law ensuring a fundamental right to livelihood based on lokavidya, the possibility of a lokavidya-media and LJA in continuity with the movement for Poorna Swaraj (comprehensive self-rule) during India’s freedom struggle.

   Over 50 persons talked about their views, doubts, struggles in which they were engaged, organizational forms they were exploring and constructive activities they were engaged in. It may be specially mentioned that farmers’ leaders, namely those from the Bharatiya Kisan Union, explicitly expressed their solidarity with the Lokavidya Jan Andolan. Vidya Ashram told the assembly briefly about how the ideas and practice related to lokavidya have taken shape for over two decades now and how the systemic changes that characterize the present transition to the information society have created the conditions and the opportunity for a knowledge movement by the people, namely Lokavidya Jan Andolan. Through a session on the world-wide movements, it was discussed how the lokavidya perspective connects globally. Apart from the sessions through the day, a sizable number gathered each evening for a critical review of the proceedings during the sessions. In the session on Media-Art-Language-Philosophy a consensual resolution was passed for the release of Jiten Marandi, a popular loka-kalakar of Jharkhand, active in widespread campaigns for the liberation of adivasis from the present exploitative and life snatching traps. [Jiten Marandi has been falsely convicted and sentenced to be hanged by a Giridih Court].

   There were intense debates on the theoretical and practical location of LJA and how possibly the dialogues emerging in the struggle sites can gel with the critical perspectives to measure up to the challenge. Struggles in the different regions, struggles of different sections of the lokavidyadhar samaj explicitly informed by the ideas of lokavidya and an assertion by the people that they know, are generally seen as the location of shaping the LJA. Participation with the idea of lokavidya in the mass movements of farmers and adivasis was also seen as a major location for LJA. There was general agreement that the task of shaping the LJA was of a new type and required fresh and new imagination to develop new forms and locations.

   Following decisions were taken by the conference through a consensus.

  1. Lucknow - A workshop on the Idea of Lokavidya, January, 2012.
  2. Darbhanga - A Lokavidya Conference, March, 2012.
  3. Vijaywada - A Lokavidya Conference, May, 2012.
  4. Singrauli - A Lokavidya Conference on 9th August, 2012.
  5. Wardha - A Lokavidya event, October, 2012.
  6. Indore - A 3-day event on Lokavidya Bazar, December, 2012.

Overall the conference built a mood to stake the lokavidya claim in the public domain, in all walks of life.

Prepared by Sunil, Surendran and Krishnarajulu