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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 7, February 11, 2023

Social justice warriors effecting the change | Joydip Ghosal

Friday 10 February 2023


Review Joydip Ghosal *

Being the Change: In the Footsteps of the Mahatma

by Ashutosh Salil, Barkha Mathur

HarperCollins India (23 September 2022)
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 176 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9356291985
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9356291980

The only way to find God is to see Him in His creation and be one with it. This can only be done by service of all…..My countrymen are my nearest neighbours. They have become so helpless, so resourceless, so inert that I must concentrate myself on serving them. –- (Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, writing in the Harijan on 29 August 1936)

On the occasion of 153rd birthday the book Being the Change, In the Footsteps of the Mahatma authored by Ashutosh Salil and Barkha Mathur published by HarperCollins Publishers India chronicles those unsung heroes who essayed social changes with utmost perseverance . Their belief in the words of Mahatma that India lived in the village and to serve the poor we would have to serve in the villages propelled them to relentlessly tread on the unbeaten path. It is needless to say that the paths were not primrose one. Their unstinting belief that truth might get troubled but it never got defeated motivated them to march with definite aims. Authors in their introduction quite rightly said that in the maddening machinery of the world the Mahatma’s ideals had become relics. So the authors felt the need to document the lives of those extraordinary individuals who had kept the spirit of Gandhian ideology aflame. It helped them to understand how much can be achieved through perseverance and it helped them to aloft the timelessness of Bapu’s teachings. The perennial appeal of his values he lived by is the beacon of hope in this world of all-pervasive aloofness. The stories of those seven individuals is the clear examples of how relevant Mahatma’s teachings remain in the new millennium.

Bandhu Dhote through his organization Eco-Pro had resurrected Chandrapur’s landmark water body by clearing it of grip of water hyacinth. The news of coal block allocation near the buffer zone of Tadoba – Andhari Tiger Reserve had alarmed Bandhu. The premonition of felling of thousands of trees and the bleak picture of denuded trees appalled him. He began to oppose the coal block allocation. He was not deterred despite fighting alone. He went on an indefinite fast to get the mining order quashed. Ultimately the project was cancelled. It was a big validation for Bandhu and his agitation. Ravindra and Smitha Kolhe made selfless service their lifelong motto. Renouncing the comfort of materialistic lives the couple defying all odds devoted themselves to the needs of suffering populace in Melghat region of Amravati. They made selfless service their lifelong motto. Mohan and Devaji envisioned a better future for the destitute people. Through their tireless efforts they ushered a new beginning. They were the chief architects in bringing about revolutionary change in the lives of forest dwellers in Chattisgarh and Maharastra region .Ideals of Vinoba Bhave deeply impacted their lives. They played key roles in taking the community towards Poornaa Swaraj which was the vision of self- sufficient village which Mahatma Gandhi dreamt of. The dynamic roles played by the community leaders helped transform a village named Mendha Lekha to a single village community. In order to keep the flame of Baba Amte alive Digant Amte and Anagha Amte and Aniket Amte and Samiksha Amte woked at the heart of the jungle terrain where bloody skirmishes between the insurgents and the law enforcing agencies were common. They did not let the burden of the legacy of Baba Amte bog down. The hospital at Hemalkasa provided healthcare facilities to the extremely impoverished and neglected population. In the thick forest of Chandrapur their generation-wise painstaking work remained embedded in the minds of local people. In the penumbral region of Vidarbha Phanse Pardhi tribes eked out a miserable living. They were de- notified tribe. Martin Bhosale belonging to the tribe once vowed to ensure a better future for the tribe. He helped the community to rise above the squalor of their existence.

Mobilizing and motivating a large number of people he advocated self- sustenance through farming. Dr. Satish Gogulwar and Subhada Deshmukh had brought empowerment and healthcare to the Khurkheda and its neighbouring villages, about 150 km from Nagpur. They responded whole- heartedly to the teachings of Mahatma and his apostle Vinoba Bhave which was nothing but the clarion calls for rural development. Leaving the comforts of luxurious lives Ashish and Kavita Satav settled down in Malghat region to serve the tribal population who were ravaged by disease and malnutrition. Their unflinching spirits and high moral standards to serve the needy lessened the mighty impact of many diseases in the region.

This book is a clear example of how these people inspired by the life of Mahatma left the primrose path of life and adhered to the basic tenets of his teachings . They have proved beyond doubt that how the path of non- violence and non- cooperation can still effect path-breaking change in the trajectory of ordinary man’s lives. These enriching and socially beneficial teachings that the individuals adopted in their lives can morally uplift the society. These social justice warriors represent another world shaped by the ideology of Gandhi. By documenting these stirring and riveting stories which chronicles the lives of agents of change at the grass root level the writers pay real tribute to the legacy of Mahatma.

(Reviewer: Joydip Ghosal Rights is a rights activist)

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