An Indian activist said on Wednesday (7) that he expects thousands of people to join his “March for Justice and Peace”, a 9,500-kilometre hike from New Delhi to Geneva next year.
Rajagopal PV told reporters in Geneva that he plans to begin his long trek from New Delhi next October 2 and should arrive in the Swiss city on September 25, 2020.
The departure date is the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, which Rajagopal said “India is celebrating in a big way” against a backdrop of an intensification of conflicts around the world.
The 70-year-old engineer and advocate for the rights of landless peasants in Indiasaid the idea was to cross through Pakistan, Iran and Turkey on the way towards the Swiss “city of peace”.
The aim is to draw international attention to the links between a growing number of conflicts around the world and dwindling natural resources.
“If land, forests and water are taken away from the poor people, then that will lead to unrest in the society, that unrest will lead to conflict and that conflict can evolve into large-scale of violence,” he said.
“In a world where conflict is increasing, peace is in great demand, so we thought probably we can offer the idea of peace-building to the world at large.”
Rajagopal acknowledged that there were many challenges ahead.
He said there could be problems obtaining visas for the walkers to some of the countries in their path, and that they may choose to take a boat from Bombay to Greece, and continue their walk from there.
The man often dubbed the “New Gandhi” — a title he says he is uncomfortable with — said he hoped to get the Dalai Lama and former US president Barack Obama involved in his cause.
From now until next October, he said he planned to travel around the world to seek support from organisations and cities, in the hope that thousands of walkers from other corners of the globe will also set off on a trek towards Geneva.
Once they arrive in Geneva, the walkers plan to organise a week of discussions on peace and non-violence in the city.