MUMBAI: The simmering agrarian distress that has escaped media headlines took a new turn with the organising of the massive Long March of the Maharashtra unit of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), which began from the CBS Chowk at Nashik on March 6 at 4.30 pm with tens of thousands of farmers from all over the state. The March stopped near the Valdevi river and today, March 7, it will proceed towards Igatpuri in Nashik district.

The march will cover a distance of 200km and will reach Mumbai on March 12 when the farmers will move to gherao the state Assembly. Lead by kisan leaders the march will “denounce the BJP state government for betraying all its assurances given to the peasantry during the last two years” on the above issues as well as the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission and the implementation of the Forest Rights Act.

Its distinguishing feature is that thousands of peasant women are also part of the March and they will walk all the way of 200 Km to Mumbai. The entire area is replete with hundreds of red flags, red banners and red placards giving the demands of the March. Resounding slogans are being given condemning the BJP state government's “callous betrayal” of its own assurances given to the peasantry on the issues of farm loan waiver, remunerative prices, implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA) and many others during the last two years.

The Long March is being led by AIKS leaders Dr Ashok Dhawale, Vijoo Krishnan, J P Gavit, MLA, Kisan Gujar, Dr Ajit Nawale and other state office bearers. The Long March was flagged off by the above AIKS leaders, along with senior PWP leader and ex-MLA Meenakshi Patil, CITU state president Dr D L Karad, AITUC leader Raju Desle and others.

The Long March was flagged off in a public meeting that was addressed by the above AIKS leaders, along with senior Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) leader and ex-state Minister Meenakshi Patil, CITU state president Dr D L Karad and AITUC leader Raju Desle.All the speakers castigated the BJP state and central governments for their anti-peasant, anti-people and pro-corporate policies and for their communal and casteist conspiracies.

The speakers also denounced the attacks by RSS-BJP workers on CPI(M) and Left activists and supporters in Tripura immediately after the announcement of the state assembly election results. They also condemned the pulling down of the statue of Lenin and warned that this could well be a precursor to the pulling down of statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, E V Ramaswamy Naicker (Periyar), Bhagat Singh and other progressive and secular icons by the the Sangh Parivar if they get absolute power in the country.

The March began early this morning, March 7, and is proceeding towards Igatpuri in Nashik district. It will then enter Shahapur tehsil in Thane district, where a big contingent of farmers from Thane-Palghar district will join the March. A large number of peasants from other districts of Maharashtra will join the March at Mumbai when it reaches there on March 12 to gherao the state assembly which will then be in session.

Although the national media, obsessed with urban glamour has not found time to write about the farmers agitation it has attracted huge participation in Maharashtra. Some of the actions in recent years include: two day siege at Nashik in March 2016, coffin rally at Thane in May 2016, gheraos and region wise peasant demonstrations, 11 day farmers strike in June last year, and again in August with at least two lakh farmers blocking the highways.