Hello, friend of Ekta!
This eighth issue of Voice of Ekta is a special one. We’re dedicating this issue to Subba Rao ji, who left us on the 27th of October, 2021 at the age of 92.
Salem Nanjudaiah Subba Rao, or “Bhai ji” as he was lovingly called, was a Gandhian leader and President of the Mahatma Gandhi Seva Ashram in Morena, Madhya Pradesh. He was also one of the key board members of Gandhi Peace Foundation and founder of the National Youth Project.
His message of justice, peace, and non-violence, which he carried for over seven decades, created a profound impact across the world.
He did incredible work with Shramdaan (voluntary contribution of labour), held thousands of youth camps across the country, and was well-known for his role in reforming 650+ dacoits in Chambal. Over the course of his life, Subba Rao ji was honored with Karnataka Government's Mahatma Gandhi Seva Award, Shanti Doot International Award, Anuvrat Ahimsa Award and the Jamnalal Bajaj Puraskar, among others. All of us here at Ekta Parishad are mourning this loss. Bhai ji’s work will impact generation after generation, and we recognize our role in carrying forward his legacy.
Remembering Subba Rao ji, a practitioner of self-reliance and simplicity: Editorial by Rajagopal P.V.
“Subba Rao Ji has gone. When you think about Subba Rao, you think about simplicity in life. At a time when we are saying our last good-byes to this great man of peace, the media is preoccupied with the forthcoming Climate Summit in Glasgow.
Subba Rao exhibited simplicity and self-reliance in every aspect of life for he believed, like Gandhi before him, that this was the key to any change. He was one person who brought words and deeds together. One could see him repairing his shoes, stitching his clothes, washing and ironing his clothes. For him self-sufficiency was not an idea but a day-to-day practice. The current market-centric and consumerist economy that presses people to buy more is gobbling up the very resources on which we depend for our survival. The planet is in peril and our survival is in jeopardy.
The way out of this cycle of expanding our needs and over-consuming resources is also countered by Adivasis and indigenous people. In Adivasi and tribal villages in India, it is evident that they have minimal needs for their mainstay. The indigenous communities know how to fulfil their needs and enjoy life by remaining close to nature and by minimising consumption to what is available and regenerative. Unfortunately, Adivasis are victims of a greed-based development model that prioritises coal mines over maintaining Adivasi settlements, cement companies over stripping away the natural biodiversity, limestone excavations over stopping environmental contaminants.
The climate crisis cannot be sorted until we understand that only a simple life can be a self-sufficient life. If one’s needs expand, we become more reliant on others, which can lead to exploitation.
Remembering what Gandhi said-”There is enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’ greed.”
For all those concerned about the climate crisis, we hope that citizens of the world wake up to this reality and BE THE CHANGE.”
Remembering Subba Rao ji: Jill Carr Harris
“Subba Rao ji’s presence inspired peace. Hundreds of people travelled from all over India to remember their beloved “Bhai ji” on October 28th at the iconic Joura Ashram near Morena, and to say their final farewells. The face was visible in the bed of marigolds with the Indian flag draped over his chest. He was lying under a pandal shaded from the hot sun. There was a microphone where different people were called to speak. The background music was Subba Rao ji’s own songs that had become so familiar to the audience. It was festive and at the same time full of sadness. It was striking how he was portrayed: a man so simple, like a saint with few needs and possessions yet unafraid to confront the most difficult of situations. There were many stories told during the day of Bhai ji’s work with bagis, (the dacoits of Chambal) and how he continued patiently through years of training with the youth to achieve the dialogue open before the fierce bagis began to become mild mannered and lay down their arms to accept prison sentences.
With a half a dozen long-moustached Bhagis giving their tearful stories to the crowd, an authentic portrayal of the man came to be seen. Bhaiji’s presence brought out their humanness and enabled them to become purveyors of peace after they were released from prison. Hardened dacoits that find a way to transform themselves must have brought to the minds of many, how this can be applied with terrorists groups in different countries today. It gave an article of faith that the cycle of violence can be broken and that violent incidents can be pre-empted and peaceful coexistence brought into existence.
Subba Rao saw the need to train young people to become peace-loving. Over the course of 70 years he held thousands of youth camps. He trained millions of people in youth camps over seventy years, how to resolve conflict, and take up service and work- even learn to sing and dance.
All of these memories of Subba Raoji’s life flashed in front of the audience over the course of the day. It was a moment when it was not only the passing of a man, but the passing of an epoch.”
We will miss the man who transformed millions of lives : Ransingh Parmar
“Bhai ji, who helped bring about a change of heart in the hardened bagis of Chambal valley, spread his message of non-violence across the world. He believed that sustainable success only comes through non-violence and he proved that through the transformation of 654 bagis, who once walked the path of violence, but surrendered their weapons inspired by Gandhi.
After a very historical and successful mission in the Chambal valley, his message and campaign to bring about a change of heart reached every corner of the country. He then decided to focus on the youth, bringing his message of peace and good will to thousands of youth in states like Manipur, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Punjab, Tamil Nadu among others.
He tried to fulfil his life-long mission of national integration through youth camps, where he spoke about shattering the barriers created by religion, caste, language and regional divides. This is how he connected people with the common cause of unity, love, goodwill and brotherhood.
We will dearly miss Bhai ji, who transformed many lives with his teachings on non-violence, unity and peace."
"I came to the conclusion long ago . . . that all religions were true and also that all had some error in them, and whilst I hold by my own, I should hold others as dear as Hinduism. So we can only pray, if we are Hindus, not that a Christian should become a Hindu … But our innermost prayer should be a Hindu should be a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian."- Mahatma Gandhi
Watch some of Bhai ji’s videos and interviews
From Ramesh Sharma, General Secretary of Ekta Parishad