It started with a reminder of the powerul Salt March of 1930 that Mahatma Gandhi lead in India, taking hordes of people with him on a march to the small town of Dandi on the Arabian sea coast to break an unjust law and sow the seeds of a civil disobedient independence movement in India. That freedom was hard fought with innumerable sacrifices along the way, and today, for the 100 odd youth listening to this story, it was clear that the road ahead for them demanded a deep reflection of that chapter in our history. 

Udaan, or India power shift brought 100 organisers and activists from across 20 states of India with the purpose of training them on new tools of campaigning and building a strong community of individuals who can continue to work together in strengthening the environmental movement in India. The need to conserve natural resources and stave off the worst impacts of climate change requires dramatic changes in India’s political and policy response. The need for a stronger movement is therefore stronger than ever before given the country’s undeterred and blind desire for greater economic growth that only benefits a few and leaves the masses disadvantaged. 

The conference brought young organisers from urban areas to interact and learn from the various grassroots struggles in India that are taking on dirty energy projects head on. From the coal belts of Chattisgargh, coal mines of Chandrapur and Maharashtra and Andhra’s vulnerable coast lines, movement leaders shared their stories and invaluable lessons of struggle and social change that invoked a strong sense of empathy in the participants. 

Skills on digital campaigning, non violent direct action and creative activism and ways to use legal tools like RTI & PIL were disseminated to the participants. The 4 days gathering was held at the beautiful fireflies ashram in the city of Bengaluru. Deprived of intrusive gadgets that we surround ourselves with and our proximity to nature definitely added value and helped the participants stay engaged throughout the conference. 

The conference yielded a strong desire in participants to stay engaged and work on building solidarity for grassroots struggles across the country. Imagine young people standing up for the rights of those who are negatively impacted by dirty energy projects and who’s voice often gets stubbed in the mainstream media. Solidarity groups in key political capitals of the country will therefore be a strong feature of our campaigns in 2014 and beyond. College campuses will also play an active role with efforts to promote decentralised renewable energy as a strong and effective solution to climate change. 

The gathering left a positive impact on the organisers and participants and as we like to say, this is just the beginning of a long journey in our efforts to change the way India understands and acts on energy and environment. For more, contact us on [email protected].

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