On the sidelines of the Opposition parties’ show of strength at Ramlila Maidan on Sunday, the farmers too have flexed their muscles ahead of the electoral battle 2024.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), a pan India representative body of the peasantry, has planned a ‘Punish Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’ campaign. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha-Non Political, along with Kisan Mazdoor Morcha (KMM) that have cadres sitting on the borders between Punjab and Haryana also had their own show of strength in Ambala.

Mohra Mandi in Ambala was the venue of those affiliated to SKM-Non Political and KMM. Farmers turned up in large numbers to mark the culmination of the ‘Kalash Yatra’ of 22-year-old farmer Shubhakaran Singh. Singh was killed on February 21, allegedly during Police action at the Khanauri border protest site.

The Yatra had started from Shambhu border on March 16, and passed through various villages of Haryana, whipping up support for the cause of the farming community. It ended at Mohra Mandi.

Speaking at Mohra Mandi, farmer leaders said their movement is intended “to save the country”. They said that it was time that the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre understands that the farmer organisations are determined to “carry out a long fight to save the country and the Constitution”.

They said that “it is the same Modi who became the Prime Minister promising loan waiver and making the farmers of the country debt free”. The farmers recalled that Modi had promised to “double the income of farmers by 2022”. The leaders said that now the farmers have been compelled to take to the streets to fight for their rights.

The speakers also lambasted those who they accused of “indulging in false propaganda” on the minimum support price (MSP). The farmer leaders said that “today the farmers income is less than that of those employed under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA)”.

Speaking on the occasion, agricultural economy expert Dr. Devender Sharma questioned the government why it spends only Rs 1.25 lakh crore every year on farmers and agriculture out of a budget of Rs 45 lakh crore? He said that the population of farmers in the country is 55 % and 50 % of the Budget needs to be spent directly on them.

The speakers also attacked the government for “registering fake cases against the farmers and putting them in jail”. They termed the action as the “direct murder of democracy” and warned the government to desist from such acts.

They claimed that farmers Navdeep Singh Jalveda, Gurkirat Singh, Ravinder Ravi and Anish Khatkar were arrested by Haryana Police with the intention of “creating panic” among the protestors. The farmers’ message was that “the path to power in Delhi goes through the villages,” and that “the farmers will respond to this oppression in the near future”.

Earlier on Saturday, the SKM’s national coordination committee (NCC) held a meeting at Rohtak, and endorsed the call given at the March 14 Mahapanchayat at Ram Lila maidan in Delhi for “opposing, exposing and punishing the BJP for the ruinous pro corporate policies and authoritarian drive”.

It was announced that state specific plans will be worked out by the state level chapters who will hold conventions with trade unions, students, youth, women and NGOs etc.

An SKM spokesperson said, “The extended meeting has worked out a detailed plan for executing the punish BJP call through intensive mass campaign through holding of mahapanchayats and rallies across the country up to grass root level.

“It has been decided to expand the kisan mazdoor unity by roping in other mass organisations and social outfits into its fold and involve them into the broadest possible platform making it a mass movement against destruction of livelihood, safeguarding social fabric and defending constitutional institutions.”

Among the decisions taken was to organise more mahapanchayats and awareness campaigns at district and constituency levels. The SKM leadership will visit various states for this. It was decided that a widespread communication network against corporate control over media, will be created through social media.

On April 10, a major event to showcase the farmers' unity and strength is being planned in support of the farmers fighting against forced land acquisition in Chousa village of Buxar in Bihar.

The farming community of Chousa has been reportedly protesting for adequate compensation, employment, rehabilitation and resettlement of those directly affected by the setting up of a thermal power plant there. The protests have been going on since October 2023.

There had been a violent clash between the farmers and the Police at the site some days back. Reports quote a Bihar High Court order on ensuring that the project work is not stalled.

The SKM in a statement issued on Friday had stated, “The photo images and videos of the victims subjected to cruel and gruesome police atrocities and torture is heart breaking, makes the entire people of India ashamed of the real face of India - the ‘Mother of Democracy’ in Bihar villages under the Modi- Nitish Kumar Raj.

“Sunita Devi aged 70 years from Banarpur village has been subjected to heartless torture and suffered injury and bruises all over her body. It is a matter of shame why the National Human Rights Commission did not take suo moto action against this gross violation of human rights. SKM appeals to all the people for no tolerance for state repression on farmers.

“The police terror still continues, with 30 villagers taken into custody. Many injured are taking treatment in private hospitals fearing the criminal proceedings by the police and the state administration.

“The cost of the mega project the Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam’s (SJVN) 1320 MW coal power plant of which the foundation stone was laid by Prime Minister Modi on March 9, 2019 is Rs 11,000 crore.

“Around 1283 acres of land has been acquired in Chousa block but no fund for adequate compensation as per the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 is allocated in the huge estimate. This exposes the anti-farmer policy of the BJP led Modi Government.”

Meanwhile, the SKM has also intensified its protests over the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) referring to the farmers’ movement as a “step to spread anarchy”.

The SKM has published a leaflet tittled “Why is RSS angry with the farmers?” The leaflet reads: “These gross allegations are without any substance, part of the corporate efforts to paint any dissent against the anti-farmer, anti-worker, pro-corporate policies of the Modi government as ‘anti-national’.

“Yes, the RSS along with the entire corporate forces that have tightened their grip over the political system of the country during the last ten ‘Modi years’ is annoyed with the farmers of India. But why is it so?

“The major factor is the united farmer’s movement under the banner of SKM in coordination with the platforms of workers, students, youth, women etc. has been largely successful to bring back the livelihood issues of the people as the principal agenda in the Lok Sabha election 2024, replacing the “Ayodhya” narrative and other religious disputes being blended by the RSS-BJP combine.”

Asking “Why is RSS silent on livelihood issues?” The leaflet states: “The brutal exploitation of farmers and workers and the acute agrarian crisis and unemployment are the real issues that need to be debated in the election. The RSS never demanded land reforms, distribution of land among the landless and poor, end landlordism and ensure minimum wage to workers.

“Their annual resolution is silent on resolving the livelihood issues including price rise, farmers’ suicide, food security and poverty. The Old Pension Scheme (OPS) of Employees was abolished in 2003, by the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The RSS always stood with the interests of the landlord – corporate classes.

“By denigrating the farmers' movement as ‘disruptive forces’, the RSS is serving as the political agent of the corporate interests- both domestic and foreign.”

Hitting out at the “divisive Ideology that caused division of India”, the farmer organisation underlined that, “The divisive politics of the RSS rooted in the landlord-corporate class interests could only yield eternal communal tension, riots and bloodshed.

“How Israel, a theocratic state backed by the imperialist forces founded on the erroneous idea of ‘majoritarianism’ has become a peril to world peace and colossal human tragedy is an example.

“When the secular and democratic Constitution of India is in danger, upholding the pluralistic culture of India unites the people of India as well as developing long-term friendship and permanent peace with the people of the nations in the neighbourhood is the supreme obligation of the two main producing classes - farmers and workers.”

The leaflet also questions the RSS’ silence on the ‘Swadeshi Economic Policy’. It stated: “The divisive ideology of the RSS is closely aligned with international finance capital and big business that devastate the livelihood of the people of India.

“Now, the RSS is silent on its ‘Swadeshi Economic Policy’. During the last ten years, the Modi regime, under the grip of the RSS was succumbing to the World Trade Organization (WTO) dictates and opening the agriculture, allied sectors and services by signing many Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that endanger the food security and self-reliance of the people.

“The RSS is behind the large-scale privatisation of the public sector units including Air India, Railways, Banks and Insurance sectors, casualization of labour and handover of natural resources including large tracts of land, forest and mineral resources to the corporate forces - both domestic and foreign.

“By demonising the farmers’ movement, the RSS is proving its loyalty towards the imperialist – corporate forces in their project to devour Indian agriculture, industry and the economy as a whole.”

The SKM has taken a position on the recent electoral bonds scam that has come to light. It has stated, “Now, the largest corruption scandal India has ever seen becomes public under the duress of the Supreme Court in the form of electoral bonds thus, exposing BJP as the fountainhead of corruption. The RSS is equally responsible for the corruption since BJP essentially is its political arm and most of the BJP leadership including the Prime Minister primarily belongs to RSS.”

The leaflet also questioned the RSS’ silence over the ‘hunting’ of Opposition leaders, as even Chief Ministers are in jail without trial. “The RSS - that had the experience of its top leaders like Vajpayee and L. K. Advani imprisoned during the entire emergency period- is silent on the murder of democracy,” it stated.