Farmers Determined to Take Their Struggle Further
One year of farmers protests
Having secured a major victory in compelling the government to repeal the three ‘black farm laws’, the farmers with their confidence boosted are now taking the fight further pressing for acceptance of their other demands.
Marking one year of the farmers’ struggle on the gates of the national capital, Friday saw a massive mobilization of the Indian peasantry at the protest sites around Delhi, at state capitals across the country and at various places in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh that have been the cradle of this unique people’s movement that has sent ripples across the globe.
While there has been jubilation after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the withdrawal of the three farm laws, there is perceptible anger over the 683 lives lost and the narratives that continue to be spun targeting the participants of the movement.
Friday saw the farmers, members of various trade unions and others sections of the civil society joining hands to raise demands including a legal guarantee of minimum support price (MSP) for the farm produce, withdrawal of the draft ‘Electricity Amendments Bill, 2020/2021’ proposed by the government, removal of penal provisions on farmers in the ‘Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Act 2021’, withdrawal of cases registered against farmers and other participants in the agitation, sacking and arrest of union minister of state for home Ajay Mishra Teni for his alleged role in the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre, compensation and rehabilitation support for their families of those who died in this movement and allocation of land at Singhu Border to build a martyrs' memorial.
These demands echoed at the various events held across the country on Friday where marches were also carried out. In a letter to the Prime Minister on November 21, the farmers had stated, “You have appealed to the farmers that now we should go back home. We want to assure you that we are not fond of sitting on the streets. We too desire that after resolving these other issues as soon as possible, we return to our homes, families and farming. If you want the same, then the government should immediately resume talks with the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) on the above six issues.”
There was hardly any village in Punjab that did not send teams comprising farmers, women and youth for participation at the events at the protest sites in Delhi on Friday. There have been videos doing the rounds of teams from Punjab being welcomed by residents of Haryana by showering petals.
Meanwhile, events and marches with renewed vigour, enthusiasm and massive participation were held at the protest sites within the state.
Eyewitnesses told this reporter that people gathered at various protest sites in the state. At some places there were recitation from religious texts and paying of respect to the martyrs. Sweets were also distributed at some places to celebrate the victory.
Sources said that there has been participation from all sections of the society. Members of families that have seen farmer suicides too joined in at various events held across the state.
Haryana saw teams going to the protest sites on Delhi borders from the districts adjoining the national capital while programmes were held at other district headquarters.
“The mobilization for moving to Delhi is the same as on January 26 this year. The only difference is in the mood. While it was anger on January 26, there is a sense of euphoria and confidence this time for having scripted history,” pointed Inderjeet who is an All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leader from Haryana. He added that the large participation of women in the events is a very positive sign.
“The struggle for the demands being raised by farmers, mainly legal guarantees for MSP, has been going on for a long time. It was the government that had introduced the farm laws in between and has now taken them back. It is a positive step and the government must now initiate negotiations on the MSP,” he added.
According to the SKM, a majority of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) supporters also want MSP to be legally guaranteed. “On the other hand, official data from the recent 77th Round of NSO's Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural Households show that a vast majority of farmers have not got MSP. This context reinforces the demand for legally-guaranteed MSP by this farmers' movement,” the SKM has stated.
In Punjab, there is anger among the masses on the new narrative being spun by the right wing and the embedded media saying that the farm laws were taken back to prevent Punjab from becoming Kashmir as Khalistani forces were getting active.
The people are questioning that it was the same forces that were trying to alienate them by calling them ‘anti national’, ‘Khalistani’, ‘Naxalites’, ‘Maoists’, ‘Parjeevis’, ‘Andolanjeevis’ etc. They are pointing out that it was the same forces that had identified ‘Nishan Sahib’ that has religious sanctity as a ‘Khalistani Flag’ to defame the movement.
“It is a fake propaganda that will fall flat like all the attempts they made to derail the movement over the last one year. They tried to give the movement a communal and regional colour and failed miserably. They are the forces that try to break the society while we have always worked towards uniting the people. We believe in preserving the plurality and rich diversity of this land,” underlined Narayan Dutt of Inquilabi Kendra Punjab who has been among the key organizers of the protests in Punjab.
Even the SKM has stated, “It is now reported that at least 80 fake social media accounts are being operated in a networked manner, that too in the names of Sikhs. These fake accounts have been discovered to be promoting divisive narratives and were targeting Sikhs. These accounts have now been suspended across social media channels like twitter, facebook and instagram. SKM is concerned about the divisive agenda being promoted in this manner, and asks citizens to be extra alert about this virtual strategy to pit citizens against each other. The BJP and its supporters have not hesitated to use various strategies to attack the peaceful movement, even as the government went out of its way to suspend and stop the accounts of supporters of the protesting farmers.”
The SKM has also been pointing towards the News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) order that has held a pro government television channel having violated the code of ethics in three videos it broadcast in which it linked farmers' protests to Khalistanis. The Authority found that it falsely reported that the Indian flag was removed from Red Fort. The Authority expressed its disapproval to the broadcaster and asked for the video to be removed immediately.
According to the farmers’ leaders, “Apart from the government's decision and cabinet ratification of repeal of the three anti-farmer laws, the movement achieved several victories for the farmers, common citizens and the nation at large. The movement created a sense of unified identity for the farmers, cutting across regional, religious or caste divisions. Farmers are discovering a newfound sense of dignity and pride in their identity as Farmers, and their assertion as citizens. It has deepened the roots of democracy and secularism in India.”
They further stated that the movement has been able to sustain and strengthen itself mainly due to the peaceful determination of each individual protestor who participated. “The andolan also drew strength from its collaboration with trade unions, and other progressive and democratic mass organizations including women, student and youth organizations. Nearly all opposition political parties of India stood in support of the farmers in the year-long struggle. Numerous sections of society including artists, academics, writers, doctors, lawyers etc contributed their part in this people's movement,” the SKM leadership said.
The farmers also have put up a united fight with workers over the past one year, and have supported the Central Trade Unions' demand for a repeal of the four labour codes brought in by the Union Government and against the privatization drive. Protesting farmers have also been asking for fuel prices to be halved, and made affordable to the ordinary citizen.
Meanwhile, the one year of farmers’ movement is also being marked internationally. A protest outside the Indian High Commission in London has been planned on November 26. A sleep-out in Surrey in Canada along with that in Vancouver has been planned for the night intervening November 26 and 27. A protest has been planned in Paris. On December 4, a car rally is being organized in California along with a city march in New York in the USA. There will also be a commemoration and candlelight vigil at San Jose Gurdwara on that day. Events have been planned on December 5 and 8 in the Netherlands and in Vienna, Austria respectively. According to SKM more events are to follow in Australia as well as other places like Washington and Texas in the USA.
On Friday, farmers planned to block highways in Karnataka besides organizing protests in districts of Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh jointly with the trade unions. Tractor rallies were planned in Raipur in Chhattisgarh and Ranchi in Jharkhand. In West Bengal, rallies were planned in Kolkata and other districts.
The farmers have maintained the tempo successfully. A Maha Dharna was held in Hyderabad on Thursday that saw large scale participation of farmers from Telangana. A massive Kisan-Mazdoor Mahapanchayat is scheduled to be held in Mumbai’s Azad Maidan on November 28t that is being organized under the joint banner of Samyukta Shetkari Kamgaar Morcha (SSKM) comprising over 100 organizations, and will see the participation of farmers, workers and common citizens from across Maharashtra.
A Shaheed Kisan Asthi Kalash Yatra is going through different districts of Madhya Pradesh and local farmers are congregating in large numbers to pay their homage to the martyrs.
The farmers celebrated Sir Chhotu Ram's birth anniversary as Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Diwas on Wednesday. He is well known for his work on raising peasant consciousness and uniting them across religious and caste boundaries in the early 20th century.
The Lucknow Kisan Mahapanchayat of Samyukt Kisan Morcha held on November 22 was a grand success where farmers from various districts of Uttar Pradesh and even from neighboring states participated.
ALL PHOTOS: Danish Pandit reports for TheCitizen.in from Singhu Border, as farmers gather in large numbers on November 26