‘The Regime Should Stop Testing the Patience of the Farmer’
Farm movement turns political in poll bound UP
The farmers’ agitation against the agriculture policies of the central government is fast transforming into a political battle against the Bharatiya Janata Party, particularly in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
While farmer collectives observed January 31 as a Day of Betrayal across the country, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha has categorically stated, “The farmers will be left with no option but to resume their agitation, if Government of India continues to renege on the promises made to protesting farmers in December 2021.”
The umbrella organisation further stated that farmers will continue with their Mission Uttar Pradesh, campaigning through the state to “punish and defeat” the BJP. The next phase of the Mission will be launched February 3, the SKM said.
Sources on the ground in Uttar Pradesh say the political ramifications of the more than a year long farmers’ movement are now becoming visible, with certain unprecedented signals coming from the masses that spell trouble for the governing party in the state.
“The movement has got translated into a political process on the ground,” said DP Singh, a senior All India Kisan Sabha (CPI [M]) functionary based in Bulandshahr.
“Immediately after returning from Delhi following the repeal of the three contentious agricultural laws and lifting of the siege around the national capital, farmers’ leaders have been organizing hundreds of meetings in village after village. The people have been told that Prime Minister Narendra Modi actually apologized to the corporates when he agreed to repeal the three laws.
“He wanted an interval to change the poll agenda to other tried and tested narratives. The people have understood that had the three laws continued, the farmer who cultivates land on lease, the marginal farmers and the farmer labour would have been devastated. Dairy farming would have been badly impacted along with the agriculture based cottage industry like small four mills, threshing units etc,” said Singh.
Adding that the message has also travelled to the eastern and central parts of the state.
While the farmers have not announced support for any political party, they are encouraging tactical voting, by supporting candidates who have chances of victory against the BJP candidates.
Sources say that the farmers’ agitation and the Lakhimpur Kheri murders are playing on the minds of people in western UP and the Terai districts where many Punjabis live and work. Both areas had voted largely for the BJP in 2017.
The issue of stray cattle devastating standing crops in the fields is also expected to play an important role in the polls, with the elders in farming families being compelled to stay in the fields during the nights to protect their crops.
The Yogi government’s crackdown on “cow slaughter” left many unable to sell their unproductive cattle to meat or leather producers, depriving them of a source of wealth and creating a new stray cattle problem.
Sources say that BJP MLAs being chased away or meeting resistance in the villages of western Uttar Pradesh is a strong indicator of people’s mood as typically no one would dare mete out such treatment to members of the party in power.
There are also indications that the strong Jatav base of the Bahujan Samaj Party may shift base, with the message going out that party president and four-time chief minister Mayawati might ally with the BJP after the polls. More important are reports of resentment in the community on the issue of privatization, as the youth feel that this would eventually mean an end to reservation and affirmative action.
Meanwhile, protests were reported from across the country by farmer organisations to mark the ‘Day of Betrayal’. There were demonstrations, marches and effigy burnings in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tripura among others.
The SKM also submitted a memorandum to President Ram Nath Kovind stating:
“Your Excellency, it is with deep sadness and anguish that we inform you that once again the farmers of the country have been cheated. The Government of India has not fulfilled any of the assurances given in its letter dated December 9, 2021. That’s why farmers across the country have decided to observe Vishwasghat Diwas (Day of Betrayal) on January 31, 2022.”
It asks the President to see the difference between the words and deeds of the government, with no action taken by the governments of India, UP, Uttarakhand, MP or Himachal to withdraw the cases filed against farmers during the farmers’ movement.
“Only the Haryana government has done some paperwork and issued some orders to withdraw the case. But still this work is incomplete, and farmers are being summoned.”
Not even a letter has been sent by the Centre to other states making an appeal to withdraw the cases registered related to the farmers’ movement as was promised, it adds.
The UP government has not initiated any action on compensation to the martyred farmers’ families and no decision has been announced by the Haryana government regarding the amount and nature of compensation, it adds.
It observes that the prime minister himself and later the Union agriculture minister announced the formation of a committee on minimum support prices. But the government has neither announced the formation of the committee nor given any information about its composition or mandate.
On Lakhimpur Kheri it elaborates:
“In the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre case, despite the SIT report affirming the charge of pre-planned conspiracy, Ajay Mishra Teni, the main conspirator of this case, continues to remain in the union council of ministers violating every constitutional and political norm. This is adding insult to the injury. On the other hand, the Uttar Pradesh Police is active in implicating and arresting the farmers accused in this incident.”
It adds that since “the Morcha was suspended, the union government is moving ahead with its anti-farmer agenda.
“The negotiations on Free Trade Agreement with Australia threaten the existence of the dairy farmers.
“Amendments to Biological Diversity Act, 2002 are an invitation to bio-piracy of the farmers’ wealth.
“Genetically modified food is being allowed through backdoor entry by making new regulations governing the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
“Efforts are being made to cut down on the purchase of the crop with the new quality standard brought in by the Food Corporation of India (FCI).”
The farmers told the President:
“It is your constitutional obligation to protect the interests of the Annadata farmers, the largest section of the country, and warn the government against committing this fraud on the farmers. You know that today the country has become self-sufficient in food grains because of the toil of the farmers. Due to the tireless efforts of the farmers, despite the lock down and the economic slowdown, the agricultural production of the country has increased continuously. Playing tricks with farmers can be disastrous for the whole country.”
The farmers requested the head of state to ensure his council of ministers does not forfeit their trust:
“The regime should stop testing the patience of the farmer. You should remind the union government of its written assurances to the farmers and get them fulfilled at the earliest. If the government reneges on its written assurance, the farmers would be left with no option but to resume their agitation,” the memorandum concludes.
Cover Photo: DANISH PANDIT for THE CITIZEN