First Round Table
07 – 10 January 2011
Booshakthi Kendra, Tumkur, India
Keynote Address: M C Raj
“Whenever moments of truth dawned on our indigenous ancestors, they used to say, ‘It is time’. Brothers and Sisters, I dare say that our time has come. It is time for us to say, with all the ancestors of all our indigenous communities, that we have arrived in time. We are in need of saying aloud it now more than ever, because as indigenous peoples we have always been silent just as Mother Earth is to all the pains and pangs inflicted on her. But it is our silence that is now becoming the nemesis of the world. If we do not speak up against the mindless exploitation of the cosmos in its totality, who else will? Our suffering has been inextricably intertwined with the sufferings of the cosmos. It is in standing up and speaking for the cosmos that we shall be able to speak for ourselves. The World Parliament of Indigenous Peoples, when it becomes a reality in world history should become a veritable mouthpiece of the peoples of the world.
We did begin to speak up in recent history. Our voice has brought tremendous advantages to our communities. We have been able to bring about the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples against incredible opposition in its formulation stages. When we began to speak and raise our voices it has been mostly about ourselves, about what the other has done to us, about what should be done to us by the rest of the world, about our human rights. We have set up many landmarks in history. The World Parliament of Indigenous Peoples will have to continue this path of struggle against all forms of dominance of our people all over the world.
Our speaking up often has been addressed to the representatives of the oppressors themselves in an effort to establish our compensatory rights. It is time that we examine and see whether we have adequately spoken to one another, to different indigenous communities of the world. Have our history and culture become our voices of communication among our different communities? The World Parliament of Indigenous Peoples can become an effective instrument of not only communication but also of communicative interaction among all indigenous communities of the world. This Round Table aims at a model setting for communicative interaction among ourselves and also among our communities.
It is time that we also began to speak to our own selves if we have to effectively communicate to others what we want to be in the depth of our being. We have been listening too much to others and have forgotten to listen to our own voices deep inside. It is time we began to see what exists deep within us. Others have told us for centuries together what we are but have we told ourselves adequately what we are in the depth of our being? When we begin to understand and see the enormous strength and potential that exist within us and draw this strength out, we are sure to be in the transformation of dominant attitudes towards us. In spite of continuous assault on our dignity and rights we have never stopped contributing to the growth of others. We have never stopped trusting the others. We have never stopped living and celebrating life. The indomitable spirit of our ancestors, the flame of revolution, the aspirations for the well being of our future generations will have to find new life in our communities through the World Parliament of Indigenous Peoples. We are a people of our own. The process of self-actualization that has been an essential component of our resilient existence will have to find further resurgence. It is time that we maximized the gains of our self-actualization through our history and culture and minimize the damages of what I call ‘reflexive actualization’. Reflexive actualization, according to me, is the process self-assertion in reference to what others are doing to me, determining my course of life on the foundations of what is happening to me in reference to the others.
It is time that the self-actualized personality of Indigenous peoples of the world became a point of reference to the rest of the world. This is the twist of history that we need to give through the World Parliament of Indigenous Peoples. Brothers and sisters, we are at a moment in history that cannot easily be ignored any more. It is time we realized that the world is more in need of us than we are in need of the world. If the world has to reverse the path of self-destruction that it has set for itself, it has to fall back on indigenous communities all over the world and pick up its lessons of survival in the most hostile situations of life.
We have ensured our survival in this dominant world by governing ourselves through Instruments and Mechanisms of self-governance that we have drawn organically from a worldview, which is a legacy from our ancestors. This survival is the consequence of an innate wisdom that all the dominant knowledge systems and modern science could not easily dismiss. But it is also true that we have created our own comfort zones in our self-sustaining systems of governance, while being completely oblivious of the perils of subjugation that were weaved around our future by dominant forms of governance. We need to be cautious that our claim for self-governance does not become another comfort zone into which the dominant world will push us vigorously so that we may not stand on its path of mindless exploitation of the resources of our Mother Earth. Instruments and Mechanisms of governance of nations of the world need to be redesigned on the patterns of our self-governance if there has to be a semblance of survival for the world. Brothers and sisters, I do not want to be a prophet of doom. However, we cannot easily dismiss the fact that the dominant forms of governance that are evolving in the name of democracy are definitely threatening the very fabric of many societies in the world today. The World Parliament of Indigenous Peoples is in dire need or offering to the world its time tested methods of distribution of values, both material and spiritual, which is the essence of governance.
Our world is not an imagery, nor is it imaginary. It is very real. We are in need of manoeuvring our indigenous way into the Instruments and Mechanisms of World governance. We are badly in need of shedding our seized mindset of limiting ourselves only to our communities. We belong to the world and no part of the world can be delineated from our indigenous personality. Our foray into the governance of the world will naturally take us into the doorsteps of the UN, which is the most potent space that is available to us at the moment in history. It is time that we created, expanded and consolidated our indigenous space within this Body. This plunge of ours is not for sheer promotion and protection of our rights as indigenous peoples, but for the best contribution that we can make to the survival and progress of the world.
It is time that we announced to the world that we have arrived as a people together and that we proclaimed aloud that the very sustenance of life and dignity of the world depend much on the strength that we bring to it. The World Parliament of Indigenous Peoples should become the voice of the indigenous world that will announce the specific twist of history of the world that we and only we can bring.
The Event in Tumkur is the consequence of our collective thinking and concerted efforts. This is the First Round Table and there may be a need for a few more such Round Tables.
This is almost like a dream come true. The way this idea progressed is a clear indication of a deeply imbedded but unarticulated need for building a future together. Together with Jyothi, REDS, Dalit Panchayat Movement, Booshakthi Vedike and the Campaign for Electoral Reforms in India, I like to thank all the Delegates who have chosen the difficult path of coming all the way to this historic Dalit Ashram to translate this dream into a reality in our lifetime. I also like to thank all our friends who have unhesitatingly come forward in support of making this dream come true.
As it has been made clear already this is neither a Conference nor a Seminar. The First Round Table has a definite agenda of pushing the realization of World Parliament of Indigenous Peoples in the near future. Therefore, strategising future steps is an explicit need in this event.
Though the First Round Table is organized in Booshakthi Kendra, it is of paramount importance that the ownership of this process spreads to all indigenous communities of the world including those from Latin America, Africa and Asia whom we could not invite this time.
Tumkur District and Booshakthi Kendra have been the centres of creating many small histories in the lives of Dalit people in India. Unlike other parts of India the Dalit people in this District have created a saga of success through their land struggles, through their history and cultural resurgence, through their political empowerment and now are in the path of building world peace through their limited but generous contributions. It is only a matter of joy that this great and historic initiative has started in a place where we live in the lap of Mother Earth and in the loving embrace of all our ancestors.
Even as we step into this unprecedented history making I invoke the blessings of all the stars who are our ancestors, of our Mother Earth, of our Father Sky, of our Grandmother Moon, of our brother Sun, of our sisters Trees and Plants, of air, water, fire that sustain our lives, of our ancestor the Reindeer, the buffalo, the fish, the eagle and all the waves of all our ancestors that fill our bodies and the world.”