Raah Shamilat is a research group founded by Dr. Minoti Chakravarty-Kaul.

Raah Shamilat literally means “way of the commons”.

RAAH SHAMILAT & RAHAT: Foundation for Common Lands in India

Raah Shamilat or the “way of the Commons” is a research institution with three components to build up the Foundation for Common Lands in India. Common lands – a definition

Common lands are those resources which are held, used and governed with institutions recognised by communities engaged in both agricultural and pastoral production.

These are located in villages as in their shamilat-deh or village commons that is pastures, woodlots, abadi-deh or residential areas, johads or ponds, field channels and wells;

In riparian lands, marsh and wetlands, open grasslands, on hills and terraces of hill-sides; In woodlands held by clusters of villages in the Siwaliks, Himalayas and the other mountains of India and communities within the ambit of national parks and dams;

Raah Shamilat & Rahat recognises

  • that commons are central to eco-systems which are devised and sustained on principles of complementarity between two systems of production – small-scale agriculture and nomadic pastoralists using rules of reciprocity and trust;
  • that the eco-system services provided by pastoral communities are:
    • conservation of the grassland-scape and flora by organic manuring and re-generation of grasses by seasonal use in alpine and fragile areas;
    • policing of forests and alpine meadows in remote areas of the Himalayas and deserts and which are held as common property resources;
    • protecting marshes and riparian lands by alternating use;
    • adapting to climatic variations which nomadic peoples provide for their own herds and do the same service for the agricultural communities.

Objectives

First to promote research in ‘shamilat-deh’ or resources which are central to eco-systems devised and self-governed by communities of both sedentary and nomadic people in rural India;

Second, to provide relief or ‘rahat’ through (a) information which link pastoral people with institutions of both the Government and the media; (b) support for education for children of nomadic people and (c) focus on issues of health for women pastoralists wherever possible;

Third, to act as an Observatory for all NGOs who help in federating pastoral people to protect common lands in the different regions of India and to liaise with an alliance among all the regional federations and the Government and other NGOs.

The Strategy: Promote Represent Support

  1. to promote research and disseminate information generated by studies of eco-systems where commons are central to governance of resources which are critically important for livelihoods of rural communities in India;
  2. to support this with a grazing news letter obtained from pastoral people themselves and circulate it amongst them;
  3. to initiate the formation of federations for common lands at the regional level among NGOs to make it possible for graziers on the one hand and cultivators in the plains and hills on the other to federate amongst themselves;
  4. to be a representative voice for the commons and federations of commoners in public as in conferences, lectures and workshops, in the media and with Government departments and ministries to protect these commons;
  5. to explore eco-friendly practices and customs-in-use among shepherding communities and to ensure that hill farming on common land is a worthwhile and viable activity;
  6. to support displaced local communities (a) by providing information and advice on compensation schemes for collective redress; (b) by setting up a centre for education at the primary level in the Siwalik forest held by a collection of 30 villages of Shahpur Kandi; (c) by providing model classroom lessons at the primary level to the upper regions of Himachal Pradesh; (d) to mediate with the Government of Punjab for focusing on the senior school in Patralawan in the forests of Shahpur Kandi; (e) to set up a design centre and outlet of wool products of the gaddi shepherds; (f) to focus on a health centre for women pastoralists in the region of Siwaliks.
  7. to generate discussion in panchayats or village councils on women in Pastoralism and gender issues in local communities;
  8. to create and improve public understanding of the commons specially among students both at the school and university level;
  9. to provide a platform to engage with all interested parties to put forward the case of the commoners in a vigorous and constructive manner

Pilot Projects

  1. Initial case studies will be in:
    • Kanjhawala and the Bisagama Cluster in North West Delhi;
    • Shahpur Kandi in the Siwaliks.
  2. External Links: RAAH SHAMILAT will be linked to various other organisations :
    • International scholars and institutions which have inspired research on the commons :
      • Professor Elinor and Vincent Ostrom from the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, IN 47408, USA.
      • Professor Andrew Humphries, : Foundation for Common Lands in UK and Ireland based in Cumbria.
    • NGOs like LIFE Network, LPPS, Seva, Marag, Sahaja Samrudha, Anthra, Krapavis, Natural Justice, (Lawyers for Communities and the Environment) based in South Africa.
    • Institutions focusing on common lands in India:
      • Society for the Promotion of Wastelands Development, New Delhi; Foundation for Ecological Security, Anand, Gujrat; Winrock International India which are focusing on common lands.
      • Educational institutions like schools as Rishi Valley which show interest studying the environment and those who sustain it.
      • Agricultural Universities/departments like the NBGAR in Karnal, studying effective ways to support indigenous gene pools; NDRI for inputs in pastures and crop and animal yields
      • Forest Departments such as FRI and officers of Himachal Pradesh Forest Department