The ovation received by the Vishwa Mangal Gau Gram Yatra all through its course, in almost all states of Bharat, was an indicator of the longing of the farmers and villagers towards the traditionally time tested cow based agriculture. Villages after villages were all festooned the first of its kind of Yatra highlighting the importance of “Gau Mata” and the yearning for the development of the villages through agro based industry which has the potential to provide employment on a mass scale. The yatra has generated environmental awareness together with organic farming, usage of Ayurveda, water management, afforestation and all related issues.
Social activists from various foras joined hands for the successful completion of the Yatra while Swamis and Sadhus provided the spiritual support to the Yatra in abundance, gracing the Yatra all along. This issue is devoted to the “Vishwa Manga Gau Gram Yatra” for the benefit of our readers.
Yatra turns into a mass movement
On the very first day itself, i.e. October 1, 2009 the people waited for hours at the places fixed to welcome the Yatra in bright sunlight. The Yatra was normally moving late due to the unprecedented reception being accorded to it by the gobhaktas at different places. People stoped the yatra in middle way and did not allow it moving further till they welcomed the saints, performed goupuja and expressed their commitment for cow protection. People in villages were happy as they felt that for the first time some-people were fighting for their cause. People from all sections of the society including children, youth, old and women participated with full vigour and fervour. The Yatra has also cleaned the image of Indian youth who are depicted an anti-Indian culture by a section of media. The youth in particular were seen highly energetic for cow protection and village development.
The way the villagers extended warm welcome to the Yatra in whole India, is a clear indication that they are ready to fight for their rights and also for cow protection. The Yatra has not only mobilized the common man for cow protection but also established the fact that the forces committed to restore pride of the nation were not yet weakened. Women in Hisar (Haryana) distributed more than 10,000 food packets to the gobhaktas. An emotional wave was seen in the areas of Punjab too where the Yatra visited. It also received warm welcome while entering in Jammu on October 6, 2009 which is considered as highly sensitive region for security reasons.
It is unique Yatra spreading the message of Bharatiyata. Recognising the cow as a symbol of change, it was moving with the objective of bringing a positive change in the system. It was an initiative, which generated a debate all over the nation, for the first time after Independence, whether the model of development we adopted during the last 62 years led us to prosperity and development or to destruction.
The Vishwa Mangal Gou Gram Yatra formally began from Kurukshetra on Vijayadashami Day i.e. September 28, 2009. Began with the Gayatri yajna and Kamdhenu yajna performed on the banks of Brahm Sarovar in Kurukshetra, the Yatra touched more than five lakh villages of country in 108 days. The Yatra basically educated the countrymen about the significance of govansh, Indian traditional social, economic structure and their relevance in today’s perspective. The senior saints were educating and exhorting the common men for cow protection and her preservation at various halts and also in the welcome meetings normally organized at night halts of the Yatra.
Starting from Kurukshetra the Yatra turned to north direction. Within just one week it reached the beautiful valleys of the Himalayas where the nature still exits with its full youth and beauty. As the Yatra moved forward, subyatras continued to join it and very soon it took the form of a gigantic movement. Crossing many mountains and valleys of Jammu and Himachal Pradesh the Yatra entered Uttarakhand, situated in the Shivalik range of Himalayas. The enthusiasm of the people even in the small towns was very encouraging. There was the same shankhdhvani, the same slogans for protection of the cow, the Ganga and the Gita and the same inspiring speeches of the saints, but the crowd listening to the speeches and raising slogans was different at every place but with same vigour, energy, faith and devotion.
Originating from the hills and joining many tributaries as the Ganga takes a gigantic form while entering the plain area, the Vishwa Manga Gou Garam Yatra also took a gigantic form receiving energy from the subyatras that joined it at many places. This form of the Yatra began from Chandigarh and continued to assume bigger and bigger form.
When the Yatra was in Haryana, the Ramlila Grounds at Paper Mill was packed beyond its capacity. There was a big line of the vehicles driven by the villagers participating in the welcome meeting. They included buses, jeeps, tractor-trolleys, etc. People from adjoining villages of Yamunanagar and Jagadhari like Nadgarh, Darpur, Rampur, Golani, Khajuri, Budiya, Thana Dhapar, Sathora, Mugalwani and others had started reaching the ground since noon and stayed there till Swami Akhileshwaranand administered them the oath of cow protection at 8.14 pm. The people responded with clappings on the speech of Shankaracharya Shri Raghaveshwara Bharati Swamiji. The ground continued to reverberate with the clappings and slogans. This response proved that the public was still with those who were honestly fighting for their cause.
People’s participation was inspiring in this agitation launched to make the village self-reliant and taking the nation to the pinnacle of economic prosperity. After crossing the river Yamuna, the Yatra reached Saharanpur city of Western Uttar Pradesh where thousands of gobhaktas had assembled even in early morning to welcome it. Even after the Yatra left Saharanpur, the people continued to come in tractor – Trolleys and in other vehicles.
Besides the local people, there were many leading saints at the function held in Haridwar. Apart from the cow they also expressed concern over the deteriorating condition of the River Ganga. Prior to it, the Yatra received overwhelming welcome at Dev Sanskrit University in Shantikunj. Many senior leaders of Gayatri Parivar were present at the function. The meeting held in Roorkee at night was very impressive. The BT Gang crossing of the city was packed beyond its capacity. Those who did not get the place to sit were standing on the sides. Noted Muslim leader Chhote Miyan Moinuddin Sabri described the cow slaughter as anti-Islam at the function and appealed to the people of all communities to save the cow at any cost.
The scene in Muzaffarnagar was no less impressive than in Saharanpur. There was a large crowd of gobhaktas and the people were continued to come. The main attraction at this meeting was the presence of noted farmers’ leader Shri Mahendra Singh Tikait. Addressing the gathering in his local style he said, “Cow is a unique gift of the nature to the mankind and everything she gives is useful for the man.” He also explained how she is useful for the agriculture and what adverse effects the people are facing today due to the negligence of the cow and her progeny. He said , “It is his own experience that the family, which has a cow, encounters less disease than the families, which do not have cows”. He also quoted Swami Dayanand to prove his argument. After the speech when some youth started asking him some questions he said: “I had almost lost all hopes that somebody will save the Indian breeds of cows. But looking at the response to this Yatra it appears that our Indian cow will definitely be saved now”.
The Tyagi Hotel Ground of Meerut was packed to its capacity, and there was a huge crowd at the meeting in Garh Mukteshwar. The slogan of Gomata ki Jai was reverberating from the venue to the banks of the Ganga. The pain of the farmers and the villager was clearly visible during the speech of Shri Raghveshwara Bharati Swamiji. It was a very emotional moment when the young saint Shri Atul Krishna Maharaj administered the crowd of more than 20,000 people the oath of cow protection. The meeting in Moradabad began late in the evening and concluded late at night. After the speech of Shri Raghaveshwara Bharati Swamiji the local mediapersons reached the place where he was to stay at night.
Beginning from Moradabad and passing through Haldwani, Khatima and Pilibhit the Yatra reached Bareilly where people had been waiting for hours. The atmosphere at the meeting turned very emotional when Shri Atul Krishna Maharaj informed the gathering that Bareilly is the historic Ahichchhatra region. Recalling his family traditions Shri Raghaveshwara Bharati Swamiji informed that his ancestors migrated to the southern region from this Ahichchhatra region itself about 1500 years back. The next morning he went to see the ruins of the Ahichchhatra Empire. These ruins spreading over 100 km near Anwala and its surrounding areas can be seen even today. When Shri Raghaveshwara Bharati Swamiji offered Sashtang Pranam to the Shivlinga there it appeared as if the gap of centuries had filled in a mater of second. He also resolved for renovation of this land of his ancestors.
Passing through Badanyun, the Yatra reached Kasganj on October 13, 2009 where it received grand welcome. People were showering flowers from both sides when it passed through the main streets of the city. People extended special welcome at many places. The participation of rural people was very inspiring here. Same day the Yatra reached Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, where a large number of saints were present at the meeting. Gopalan and goupujan is an integral part of daily life here. The Yatra reached Agra on October 14, 2009 where the gathering of people was very inspiring. In the presence of thousands of people, the Yatra was flagged off from Western Uttar Pradesh on October 15, 2009. Visiting Dhaulpur of Rajasthan and Muraina and Gwalior of Madhya Pradesh it again entered Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh.
Traversing over 19,000 kilometres the Vishwa Mangal Gou Gram Yatra reached Delhi on December 26, 2009. The response it received all over the national capital was tremendous. Youth took out vehicle rallies and burnt firecrackers to vent out their enthusiasm. At the same time people showered flower petals from both sides of the road and women conducted kalash yatras as well as performed deep pujas.
Addressing the goubhaktas at Uttam Nagar, Gokarna Peethadhishwar Shankaracharya Shri Raghaveshwara Bharati Swamiji said the goubhaktas would not bend before the government, rather the government would be forced to impose complete ban on cow slaughter. “If one fourth population of the country signs the memorandum to this effect, the government shall have to ban cow slaughter and enact a Central law for it,” he said.
Earlier, addressing a gathering at Andheria Mode on the night of December 26, 2009 the Gokarna Peethadhishwar said, ’The Yatra is not being conducted by any religious sect, Peeth, political party or the person of any State, it is being conducted for the welfare of the whole world. The larger number of cows which are being killed today in so-called Independent India, were not killed even during the British and Mughal period. It is very unfortunate that the policymakers and rulers have to be told that cow is their mother and if she is not saved today the very existence of the country will be at stake,” he said urging the government to save the country from destruction and enact a Central law for cow protection.
A total of five large meetings were held in Delhi at Lado Sarai, Kalyanpuri, Yamuna Vihar, Pitampura and Uttam Nagar. More than one lakh people participated in all the meetings. Apart from it, various social, religious and cultural organisations of Delhi also welcomed the Yatra at more than 100 places. In Yamuna Vihar, some Muslim youth participated in the procession in an open car and extended complete support to the cause of cow protection.
Addressing the gathering at Netaji Subhash Place in Pitampura Akhil Bharatiya Sewa Pramukh of RSS Shri Sitaram Kedilaya said, “Formation of Gramrajya is must for the formation of Ramrajya. That is why Gandhiji had called upon the educated youth to move to the villages and take concrete steps for village protection”. Describing the cow and the village as two eyes of the country he said, “Both these eyes are in danger today. It is due to the blind following of the west, both in deeds and thinking, that we are totally dependent on the west”, He emphasized, “If the nation has to be protected from destruction and has to be led to prosperity and development three mantras have to be kept in mind and to be followed in practical life. These mantras are—turn to the village, turn to the cow and turn to the nature”. A ‘Kavi Sammelan’ was also organised at Pitampura in which various leading Hindi poets including Shri Gajendra Solanki participated.
Mahant Naval Kishore Das appealed to the countrymen to boycott all the things made of leather and contribute in cow protection by using the products made of panchgavya and other things provided by the govansh. He stressed the need to save one rupee and a chapati everyday for cow. Underlying the religious significance of the cow he said, “The benefit one gets by conducting the parikrama of 33 crore gods and goddesses, the same benefit can be get by just one parikrama of the cow.” Swami Ramate Yogi and Smt Shahnaz Afjal of Muslim Rashtriya Manch also addressed the gathering in Yamuna Vihar.
According to Shri Shankarlal over 10,000 subyatras had been conducted in different parts of the country which touched each and every village in their respective areas. A total of 175 subyatras were conducted in Delhi alone from December 18-20, 2009 which visited each and every colony of Delhi.
A world record of
signaturesThe founder of Arya Samaj, Mahrishi Dayanand Saraswati had once appealed to the countrymen to collect two crore signatures for cow protection. He hoped that the collection of the signatures in such a huge number would force the government to ban cow slaughter. But unfortunately two crore signatures could not be collected then. After that, many signature campaigns were conducted demanding ban on cow slaughter. The biggest record of such campaigns is the collection of two crore signatures by RSS swayamsevaks in 1952 on the call of
the then RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri Guruji. But the Vishwa Mangal Gou Gram Yatra is going to break this record too and will set a new world record. As per the initial indications, the signatures being collected will be in at least nine digits.
The signature campaign has gotten tremendous response all over the country. There was no lack of people signing the memorandum, rather the number of workers collecting the signatures was falling short.
At the meeting in Rajkot, Shri Raghaveshwara Bharati Swamiji received 12.65 lakh signatures collected from Rajkot city, Amareli and Jamnagar districts. A cow of ‘Geer’ breed was worshipped at this function. The unique attraction of this function was that a total of 492 goubhaktas donated blood at this function equal to the weight of this cow. A digital signature campaign was also launched at the website of Vishwa Mangal Gou Gram Yatra (www.gougram.org) which too received tremendous response.Bhutanese Refugee Farmers Sell Shares of Indian Vegetables for 2010 HarvestIt has been 18 months since Bhutanese of Nepali origin started arriving in Greater, Cleveland areas in the largest refugee resettlement in the UN history. With 20,000 arriving into the US till now, over 400 have settled down in the Greater Cleveland area.
Though many of the Cleveland Bhutanese found entry-level jobs in this difficult economy, a majority of the working-age group over 40 years of age are having a difficult time due to language and lack of marketable skills (40% of eligible labor). This population cohort is the most vulnerable and is growing as more rufugees of lesser skills trickle in. The Bhutanese population is expected to quadruple over the next three years in Greater Cleveland.
Enter Mark Mackovjak, a farmer from Madison, Ohio, started training a group of Cleveland Bhutanese through Project Krishi of Sewa International USA. A volunteer-based organization Sewa International is a 501 (C) (3) nonprofit organization that is working to resettle the Bhutanese refugees in 30 cities across the USA. Introduced to Sewa International by Prof Francis Weng (Adjunct Faculty, Horticulture Department, University of Akron). Mark promptly offered his wellequipped 104-acre farm with its own water supply (farm is 4 miles from Lake Erie), two netural gas wells, twelve greenhouses, a deer pen, and a large barn with a big walk-in cooler, for year-round farming.
Ten Bhutanese families took advantage of the opportunity to learn farming under North American conditions. Mark taught these Bhutanese how to use farming equipments. Working patiently and overcoming the language and cultural barrier, Mark turned out to be a natural Guru for teaching these enthusiastic students.
Tradiing the oxen for tractors and modern farming equipment, the Bhutanese farmers learned quickly. They in turn brought in their organic farming skills to create a hybrid technique to seed, plant, weed, prune, fertilize and finally harvest a variety of pesticide-free vegetables including tomato, beets, broccoli, peppers, superhot chillis, Hungarian green and sweet potatoes, cucumbers, herbs, etc.
Sewa International donors gifted a camper-on-wheels and stationed it on the farm to solve the problem of day-to-day transportation from Bhutanese apartments on the West side of Cleveland to Madison. The camper came completedly equipped with electricity, gas, air-conditioning, kitchen, beds and a shower. A portable toilet was also installed on the farm. With this the number of trips were cut down to once a week. Most Bhutanese do not have a driver’s license, and cannot afford to own a car with insurance.
Come the time of harvest – what to do with the produce? Sewa volunteers again solved the problem of marketing by settling them up with farmers markets in Cleveland Clinic and at Cleveland State University, and, helping them to sell produce retail through groups of Indian community such as the Sai Group of Solon. The Sai Group of Solon along with Sewa volunteers through the Value-Added Produce Program taught Bhutanese women to pickle the excess produce that would have gone to waste. Two hundred twelve oz bottles of South Indian pickles were made, sealed, and sold for $6 a bottle, which was instantly gobbled up the Indian community.
Fast forward to the present. With the pilot of Project Krishi a success, the Bhutanese fromed Shangrila Farms LLC along with farmer Mark. They are now selling shares of the pesticide-free produce for the 2010 harvest through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) approach.
CSA is gaining popularity for more than 15 years in the USA among locovers (literally local produce eaters), and people who worry about food travel miles – that is how far this tomato at the supermarket has traveled from its origin.
The CSA concept is simple. Farmer Mark explains, “In January 2010, you invest in a share from Shangrila Farms. From June thru September (20 weeks), pickup pesticide-free produce of 12-15 lbs. Each Saturday from a local distribution point in your neighborhood. In addition to staple vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, beans, onions, potatoes and such, we have formulated a special produce mix for the Indian community – bottle gourd (loki), bitter gourd (kerala), Grey pumpkin, gherkins (tindora/tonda), snake gourd (padval), fenugreek leaves (menthe), brinjals (round variety and log variety), and okra (bhindi)”.
If you are unable to pick up our share for instance due to vacation that week, do not worry your share will be donated in your name to the local food bank to feed the needy.
Santi ram Poudel, leader of Bhutanese farmers, adds, “The beauty of CSA is that weekly produce mix changes and you will not be bored, each vegetables is grown at its optimal growing time and picked fresh by us on the day of delivery, hence guaranteeing you the best and frehest. On top of that you get your Indian herbs like mint, ginger, etc.”.
Hira Foretedar, a Sewa International volunteer closely involved with the project, says.
“Not only you will get pesticide-free fresh vegetables delivered to your neighborhood, you will be helping many refugee families settle down in the US.”
Santi Ram continues “We are happy for all the support of the Indian community and the mainstream American community that has provided in this difficult time in our lives. We are grateful for that”.
Anil Kumar Singh, the coordinator for Sewa International Cleveland Chapter adds, “Sewa is proud to help the refugees who are our brothers from the sub-continent.
“We are also happy that Project Krishi was covered by the Plain Dealer, Christian Science Monitor, and TV Channel 5 bringing awareness to the tribulations, hopes and triumphs of the Bhutanese refugees”. --Courtesy: India International, Jan 2010Bhutanese Refugees : A Brief HistoryXenophobia (majority in Bhutan follow Tibetan Buddhism and are of Mongolian descent), preservation of political status quo and resistance to democratic reforms by the Bhutan monarchy led to pogroms – arrests, murders, rape, and looting through state security apparatus on the minority Hindus in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s.
This led to a large-scale deportation and forced migration of nearly 90,000 of these Bhutanese Hindus to nearby Nepal via India (Sikkim).
Having lived in difficult refugee camp conditions in a state of limbo for 17 years with no visible agreement between Nepal and Bhutan, the UN Human Commission of Refugees (UNHCR) requested its member countries to absorb the now 107,000 size refugee population.
The US responded by agreeing to resettle 60,000 between 2008 - 2012, while Canada, the UK, Norway, Denmark, Australia and New Zealand also agreed to provide a new home to them.
Sewa International USA is working in 30 cities across the United States to help resettle the Bhutanese after the government programs, which end after 4-8 months after they arrive.“If any men or creatures come to you, do no discourteously drive them away, but receive them well and treat them with due respect. Shri Hari (God) will be certainly pleased if you give water to the thirsty, bread to the hungry, clothes to the naked and your verandah to strangers for sitting and resting”— Sai Baba of Shirdi.