‘Democracy in Peril’: How Kalpana Baudh Taking the Message to Rural Masses

She is embarked on the second phase of her yatra ' Chalo Gaon ki Or', which will go to 72 districts of Uttar Pradesh and 20 states across the country.
‘Democracy in Peril’: How Kalpana Baudh Taking the Message to Rural Masses

Lucknow: The installation of sengol at the newly-built Parliament in May 2023 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had not gone down well, with many seeing it as an attempt to “subvert democracy”. Kalpana Baudh, a social activist, is one of them who feels if “democracy is subverted, it will lead the country to the age of oppression and marginalisation”.

And therefore, she has been undertaking the second phase of her yatra (march) since December 28 last year to sensitize people about the “looming threat”. The first phase of her march began on May 28 and continued in Delhi on October 29, 2023. 

The Mooknayak spoke to her about the threat perception and the march. 

“The government is imposing a religion on the state, which is supposed to be neutral as per the Constitution. It is not ready for a caste census despite the latter being a reality of Indian society. There are serious questions on the credibility of the EVMs that the incumbents are refusing to address. If our election process is not fair, the Constitution and democracy are in peril,” she stated, adding that the Electronic Voting Machines need to be banned.

She said her march is aimed at sensitising people about the threats.

Explaining why such yatras are needed in the present political scenario, she said since political parties and rights organisations have stopped going to people to make the latter aware about the prevailing circumstances, the “Right-wing forces have penetrated villages with propaganda, hatred and bigotry”.

“They are successfully sowing the seeds of hatred and dividing the society in the name of Hindus and Muslims and mosques and temples. They are very smartly and tactfully imposing a Hindu culture everywhere. Such yatras are extremely essential to counter their narrative and reunify the society and make it equity-based and just,” she adds. 

Starting from Bhoginipur block of the Kanpur Dehat district in Uttar Pradesh, she aims to go to villages and kasbas in 72 districts of the state and 20 states. 

Engaged in the ground-level movement since 2010, Baudh claimed she participated in the protest against the brutal 2012 Delhi gangrape and founded the Mahila Shakti Brigade.

“There has been a spike in the atrocities on Dalits since 2014, and there is a conspiracy to make us economically weak. This concerns me the most,” she said. 

She believes that the Cadre Camp started by Kanshiram was stopped by some “selfish” people; and as a result, the marginalised “lost their influence in the corridor of power”. 

She exhorts the people to struggle against the incumbents, whom she describes as “kale angrez” (black Britishers), who intend to make the former “slaves”. 

Asked why she does not use social media aggressively in this age of technology to reach larger masses, she said it’s certainly a good tool for people’s campaigns but still confined to cities and bigger villages. “It is yet to penetrate into the remote corners of the country,” she added. 

“The effectiveness of social platforms is highly exaggerated. Those who do not want to leave their comfort zone and want to do drawing room activism rely much on virtual spaces,” she said, adding that when she goes to villages, people from the Dalit community and other marginalized sections complain that their leader never shows up except during election season. 

“They say it’s people associated with the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) who ensure they get free ration and their grievances are addressed. They are not aware that their rights are being taken away and they are being systematically unemployed. We can counter the politics of the Right by only meeting people on ground. There is no shortcut to it,” she said. 

Baudh alleged the BJP is managing to secure the votes of the marginalised with its free ration scheme. “The rest is done by EVM tampering,” she alleged. 

Baudh, who was born in Auraiya district of Uttar Pradesh, has spent a considerable time in the National Capital region region, but her growing up in the city did not prevent her from staying grounded.

She said she is continuing with the march despite intimidations and threats. During the first phase of het yatra, she said, her vehicle was attacked, but she escaped unhurt as she was not sitting in that vehicle. 

“I have death threats, but I remain undeterred. I accepted the challenge because it is about saving our Constitution and country. I won’t allow my nation to be enslaved by these forces,” she concluded.

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