Reminiscence and Celebrations: 80 Seasons of the Journey with the Dalit Bahujans of Konaseema.

That’s what it has been. The Journey of People’s Action For Rural Awakening, a journey where often times we walked, sure footed towards our vision, hand in hand with our people among whom we pitched our tents. Other times we were being pushed to greater efficiency and effectiveness by the demands on us from those we accompanied. There were seasons when we had to push and pull our people to reach out to the goals we set together. Humbly we acknowledge that there were moments and seasons when we faltered.  In all the journey has been a great learning and one if we have to start all over again we would joyfully and willingly begin anew, without any hesitation.

Comes A Time, Comes a Moment.

Individuals as well as Institutions are challenged to tread a NEW path hitherto untested, unfamiliar. Some times nature itself conspires to make it happen. For Don Bosco Mission Ravulapalem that defining moment was the 6th August 1986, the day of the devastating Godavari Floods, a flood the like of which people of Konaseema had not seen for over half a century. As the mighty Godavari broke through its confining flood banks it forced people and institutions to reach out far beyond their own boundaries and comfort zones which they had conveniently settled into.

The boundaries of Don Bosco Mission Ravulapalem were literally breached. People came pouring in hundreds upon hundreds seeking shelter, relief and rehabilitation. Lead by Fr. Muthalkuzhiyil Sebastian, the community responded generously, not only providing succour to those who came in search of it but also by seeking out those who needed it.

Thus began the work of People’s Action For Rural Awakening (PARA) an initiative that literally became our Pilgrimage with the Dalit Bahujans of Konaseema, the land between the Gowthami and Vaishta, the two branches of the mighty Godavari. Till 1988 PARA worked under the name: Don Bosco Welfare Centre.  By the end of 1988 registered as Society with a legal entity different from Don Bosco Mission People’s Action For Rural Awakening realised that the time had come to move away from relief and welfare to take up challenges posed by man made disasters of economic exploitation, social exclusion, political oppression and unending human rights violations against the poor especially the Dalit Bahujans. After 80 Seasons of that journey PARA has an identity of its own as an organisation that will not compromise on the rights of the underprivileged.

Reminiscence and Celebrations:

14th, 15th, and 16th of October we relived that journey. Over 1500 people participated in the events planned for the occasion

  1. Workshop on 20 years of SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989 – Review and Recommendations:

14th was a State level Workshop on the 20 years of implementation of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989. Despite the tardy  implementation the Act did render a measure of justice to the Dalits. And because of that there is also immense pressure on the Indian State to withdraw the act on the pretext that it is being misused to harass the upper castes! The workshop attended by over 120 dalit rights activists and graced by the Mr.V. Elisha, Director, National SC/ST Commission for AP, MP and Chattisgrah, came out with far reaching recommendations to strengthen the implementation of the act.(refer photo gallery)

  1. Public Hearing on Violence Against Adolescent Girls and Women.

15th October was dedicated to Public Hearing on Violence on Adolescent Girls and Women. 25 out of 123 cases registered with the Gender Desk of PARA came up for hearing. The stories of violations were heart-rending. The most tragic of them was that of E.Baby (name changed) of Kakinada, just a nine year old girl raped by a 40 year old, family friend. The incident had occurred on 17th September, only 29 days before the Public Hearing! Around 250 people mostly women attended the hearing. They went away determined to stand up and be counted in the arduous task of moulding a society where as the Mahatma hoped “any woman will feel secure to walk the streets alone even in the middle of the night”

  1. Stand Up and Take Action – for Millennium Development Goals:

We joined the Global Community on that day to Stand Up and Take Action in support of Millennium Development Goals. That day saw over 1500 at the city centre taking pledge along with the local member of the legislative assembly and ex-minister of AP. It was a grand show of civil society from all walks of life standing up in solidarity with the Lord’s “little ones” the same to whom the Maiden had promised more than 2000 years ago that “He will fill the hungry with good things………” Earlier in the day under the guidance of PARA 845 students of Don Bosco School took the pledge against poverty in the presence of Rev.Fr.Provincial, Fr.Noel Maddichetty and the Principal Fr.Bobba Joji. Those numbers added up to the 420,000 (mostly students in the Human Rights Education Programme) PARA mobilised across India on the days of Stand Up from 16th to 18th of October.

These numbers tell us that out there, there are those who are willing to Stand Up and be counted and work for “Another World (That) is Possible. So our Journey will go on and as a sign of that resolve we laid the foundation stone for Ekalavya Navajeevan Home at Rajamundry for children on the street. The Journey will go on for another, more important reason: for  Someone keeps walking with us and HE does not tire nor  tarry.