Using Gandhi’s philosophy of Satyagraha – Land acquisition protest in India


November 1, 2017

Photo: Celebrations of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, were also held during the month of protest (Hindustan Times)

Published on 01/11/2017

On Tuesday, hundreds of farmers who had been protesting in Nindar village in Rajasthan, Northwestern India, ended their monthlong strike. What was special, was their unusual form of protest which they called zameen samandhi satyagraha, which translates to Burial Satyagraha* (for more information see below). At the occasion of Gandhi’s birthday on October 2, men and women buried themselves until their waist or neck, going on a hunger strike.

They did so in protest against acquisition of their land for a housing project, refusing to accept the proposed compensation. Different claims estimated the number of families who would be affected, leaving them homeless, between 1000 and 5000 (see Al Jazeerah). Since 2010, the Rajasthan government has involved itself in the process of acquiring an area of about 540 acres of land (according to Vice), a majority of which is privately owned. A group called Neendar Bachao Yuava Kisan Sangharsh (NBYKS) led the protest to gain the government’s attention and initiate talks addressing a proposal of a new land survey. Besides claims of inadequate compensation, they accused the former survey of falsely marking the land. A state official, on the other hand, declared “that people with ‘vested interests’ were behind the agitation” and “accused protest leaders of playing politics over the issue of development”, reported Al Jazeerah.

After about a month of deadlock, the protest ended when representatives from NBYKS and the Rajasthan government met on Tuesday. The government assured in written to conduct a new survey, while the village agreed to give part of the land for construction to start, awaiting the survey to re-evaluate the rest of the area, wrote The Logical Indian. The Hindu reported the farmers to be hopeful for the new survey to “reflect the ground situation and ensure a better compensation.”

Nevertheless, a video on Vice dating back two weeks, painted a more drastic picture of the situation. It reported that people were largely dependent on the land, being their only source of income. Two women said in an interview that they would not leave their home and surrender their land. “They can take it after we die”, one stated.


*The Satyagrahic fast is an example of the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action, more specifically, it is a nonviolent (psychological) intervention. Robert L. Helvey described the concept of Satyagraha (meaning something like “truth-force” or “holding onto truth”) as “a type of principled civil disobedience against unjust laws that included the concept of ahimsa, the notion that no harm should be done to any living thing” (2004, p. 97). Rather than being just a strategy in conducting nonviolent struggle, Satyagraha is more of a philosophy. Gandhi incorporated this as a means to include many in his acts of noncooperation and civil disobedience throughout his nonviolent struggle in the 20th Century.


You can watch the video on Vice from earlier this month, or read these articles by Al Jazeerah, The Hindu and The Logical Indian, for more information about the strike in Rajasthan.

To read more about Nonviolent Action by Robert L. Helvey, you can consult his work On Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: Thinking About The Fundamentals from 2004. For the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action by Gene Sharp, see our Must Read page.