20 May 2022 10:24 AM
RAJEEV KHANNA | 19 APRIL, 2022
Warn of new nationwide protests
The farmers’ movement that scored a major victory last year in compelling the union government to withdraw the three ‘pro-corporate’ agriculture laws is all set for a revival to get their other issues addressed.
The farmers received a major morale booster from the Supreme Court, which cancelled the bail of Ashish Mishra who is the son of union minister of state for home Ajay Mishra Teni and prime accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre of last year.
This has been accompanied by week-long protests against the government dallying on the issue of minimum support price on which it had made commitments in December. The farmers have now called for the sacking of Teni warning of another nationwide agitation.
Meanwhile sources said that efforts are on to further strengthen the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the umbrella group for the historic protests, by ironing out differences among farmer groups that had fallen out before the recently held polls to five assemblies. Discussions are on between a committee of the SKM and one representing the latter.
In another major development, more than 1000 farmers from various organizations in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan will arrive in Lakhimpur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh on April 24 to provide moral support to the eyewitnesses in the case which involved the murder of farmer protestors by running over them and the subsequent killing of a local journalist and three Bharatiya Janata Party affiliates.
Farmers say the witnesses have been facing intimidation and have demanded that they be given proper protection. They will also be taking up the matter of some farmers allegedly being falsely implicated in the case.
They are also skeptical of the recently reported assertions made by a Niti Aayog member that repealing the farm laws prevented cultivators getting higher prices. They say these assertions are a clear move to bring back the laws in the name of reforms.
“The farmers understand that they have a big fight on their hands and the prevailing conditions demand a huge effort for which things are being put in place,” disclosed Narayan Dutt of the Inquilabi Kendra Punjab.
He further said, “It is the persistent efforts of the farmers that have led to the Supreme Court cancelling the bail of Ashish Mishra.”
Responding to the cancellation of Mishra’s bail by the apex court on Monday morning, the SKM underlined that “hope has been restored among the farmers and the people of the country about the justice system”.
It said in a statement, “Efforts were on to save the criminals from the very beginning in this heinous murder that took place on October 3, and justice has been achieved only after repeated intervention of the Supreme Court. After this order, there is no justification left for Ajay Mishra Teni to continue in the union cabinet.”
It said the brutal case has become a trial for the rule of law across the country. “From the very beginning, the government was determined to protect the minister and his son in any way possible and, constitutional norms and legal process have been flouted time and again in this case.”
“Today's decision of the Supreme Court can become a historical precedent in this context. With this decision, it is hoped that now the culprits in this murder case will be punished according to the Constitution and the law. It is noteworthy that the counsel for the aggrieved party has requested that, while hearing the matter again, it should be sent before a different bench of the High Court,” the SKM said.
It also said that many farmers injured in the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre have not till date received any compensation and that attacks on the eyewitnesses are still ongoing. And that four farmers falsely implicated in the case are still in jail on charges of murder without their bail application even being considered. “The terror of Minister Ajay Mishra Teni and his family continues even today at the local level,” the SKM said.
It underlined that the Supreme Court’s sharply worded decision makes it clear that Teni's continuance in the union cabinet is the biggest obstacle to a fair investigation and justice. It warned of national level protests if Teni is not sacked.
Meanwhile away from the glare of most big media that was busy with the incidents of communal poison and hate, farmer organizations across the country held programmes to mark ‘MSP Guarantee Week’, with protests, demonstrations, meets, conventions, seminars and other programmes across the length and breadth of the country.
At these events, the farmers came together to reiterate their demand for a minimum support price guaranteed in law not executive discretion. In Punjab, memorandums addressed to the prime minister, Narendra Modi, were submitted through the local administration in every district.
In Madhya Pradesh, Kisan Mahapanchayats were held in Teonthar and Dewas, and a Jal Satyagraha for MSP was carried out through Mangawan, Mauganj, Deotalab, Gurh, Sirmour, Jawa, and Teonthar. A convention was held in Barwani while an MSP awareness campaign is being carried out in the Sagar district.
There were programmes in other parts of Madhya Pradesh along with neighbouring Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Odisha, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and other states as well.
The SKM said that “legal guarantee of MSP based on Swaminathan Commission Report, i.e. one and a half times the comprehensive cost (C2), was one of the key demands of the farm movement, and discussion of which was one of the assurances made to the SKM by the union government in its letter dated December 9, 2021.
“Despite SKM’s repeated requests for clarifications regarding the committee on MSP, vis-à-vis its composition, its mandate, its tenure, and its terms of reference, the government has failed to reply. The SKM urges the agriculture minister to send the government’s clarification at the earliest so that the Morcha can decide whether to participate in this committee.
“The SKM had earlier stated that it will not join the committee without clarity regarding the nature and agenda of the committee. With the conclusion of the MSP Guarantee Week, farmers have now vowed to start a long agitation for the legal guarantee of the MSP.”
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