Mar 07 2014

Conversation with Acclaimed Indian Activist, Medha Patkar – Part 2

In honor of International Women’s Day which is tomorrow, we turn to an internationally acclaimed political activist from India. Medha Patkar is best known for founding the Narmada Bachao Andolan organization against major dam projects in India such as the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada River which threatened to displace millions of people. In the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi, Patkar went on a hunger strike to oppose the building of the dam.

She is outspoken in her criticism of neo-liberal capitalism embraced by the major political parties and in 1992 she convened the National Alliance of People’s Movements. She has won a number of international awards for her work including Amnesty International’s Human Rights Defender’s Award, the Right Livlihood Award, and the Ramon Magsaysay Award.

India is the largest democracy in the world, but faces a challenge similar to what the American system faces: a highly polarized landscape dominated by only two major parties, the secular liberal, National Congress Party and the right wing Hindu party called Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP.

In just the past few months, an independent third party, called the Aam Aadmi Party (which means the Party of the Common Man), is making waves for its uncompromising stand against corruption, which plagues the Indian legal and political system. Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal helped start the party to address the struggle he faces in getting the Delhi police force under his control rather than federal control where they accept hefty bribes.

Medha Patkar, after decades of agitating for change on the streets, has decided to enter the electoral fray as a candidate for the Aam Aadmi Party. In this second part of Bipasha Shom’s interview with her, she discusses the political situation and why she has joined this third party.

Medha’s visit to the USA was sponsored by the India Friends Association. Visit their website!

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