Solidarity with the Kushinagari Farmers!
Join us as we stand in solidarity with Kushinagari farmers and their families against the forcible loss of their farm land and homes by the state on behalf of a \"Buddhist\" initiative, the Maitreya Project. We stand united with the farmers for justice and for compassion. The Maitreya Project (a part of FPMT, a transnational organization of Buddhists from America to Switzerland to Singapore) wants to build a 500 foot statue in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, as a universal symbol of loving-kindness. The Maitreya Project has contracted with the Uttar Pradesh government to lease 750 acres of land for 1 rupee per year in perpetuity. Now the UP government is trying to force thousands of families off their ancestral farm land. Why choose occupied, arable land Why 750 acres of land when the original plans indicated that only 35-40 acres was needed for the entire project The first problem: the UP government is acquiring the land using the highly problematic Land Acquisition Act, and the farming families who own the land have been protesting for years that the estimated compensation is far from acceptable (usually about 10% of market value, if they wanted to sell, which most farmers say they DO NOT under any conditions). The second problem: there has been no dialogue between the Maitreya Project and the farmers of Kushinagar. The Maitreya Project is letting the UP government do their dirty work for them without trying to work with the local people to find compromises. The UP government is treating this as business as usual, and therefore anyone familiar with the rampant corruption problem in UP must wonder how the Maitreya Project can continue to insist that this is a 100% corruption-free enterprise - how can they guarantee it since they aren\'t watching over the process Although the statistics remain hotly contested, there are between 1100 and 3000 Families/Households who will lose some or all of their farm land, and/or their homes. The farmers have been protesting, fasting and blocking the highway periodically, but have not secured any promise that the project will be moved, cancelled or that terms will be improved. The Maitreya Project has only issued statements that restate their good intentions and simultaneously reject their responsibility for the anxiety and despair that their project plans have already created, and for the suffering that will take place if the land acquisition proceeds as scheduled. Whereas the Maitreya Project is a Buddhist organization that expounds the values of compassion and loving-kindness, we respectfully petition that they take responsibility to mitigate the suffering, uncertainty and anger of the local Kushinagaris NOW, before and during the land acquisition process, instead of afterwards as they have proposed. This should be a grassroots, hands-on, participatory process, instead of the top-down, forced development effort that will only hurt the poorest of the poor instead of helping them. Whereas the Maitreya Project is a Buddhist organization that says they want to help the local people, we respectfully petition that they begin to dialogue with the local stakeholders NOW. Since the Maitreya Project has no chapter or temple or office in Kushinagar, we respectfully request that the Maitreya Project establish a local office to do the sometimes difficult, but compassionate work of standing with the farming families, instead of against them. Whereas the Maitreya Project is a Buddhist organization that has taken donations from many kind-hearted people around the world, they have a responsibility to ensure that this project is done mindfully, carefully, and with loving-kindness from start to finish. We respectfully request that if the project cannot be done without honoring, caring and helping the local farmers, then the project be moved to a different (and smaller) site that does not endanger the livelihoods of so many. There should not be serious collateral damage when building a statue of the Maitreya Buddha! We demand that the Maitreya Project and the Uttar Pradesh state government stop the forcible land acquisition permanently, or at least until the preliminary practice of getting cooperation and approval from the local people has been accomplished to the full satisfaction of the small subsistence farmers and their families. The Buddha never said compassion and right action would be easy, but they are necessary steps along the middle path. Sincerely, Friends of the Kushinagari Farmers *** For more details, please read the linked articles attached from the Washington Times and elsewhere.