There are no breaking news at the moment

In an unprecedented display of working-class unity, more than one lakh workers, employees, farmers and agricultural labourers from all over India marched today on the streets of Delhi, united in protest against the callous indifference of the incumbent BJP government to the demands of the common people and its subservience to corporate interests. The ‘Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Rally’ has been jointly called for by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU). In a major step forward towards consolidated resistance, protesters descended upon the national capital in large numbers, turning the streets into rivers of red flags; demanding higher wages, better prices for agricultural produce, an end to privatisation of core sectors, stopping the dilution of labour laws and doing away with contract labour, amongst other things.

The protesters celebrated the spirit of their resistance through songs and dance at Ramlila Maidan at night, before starting the rally at around 8:30 in the morning. The massive march from the base camp at Ramlila, along with several supplementary rallies converged near Parliament Street, where the leaders of the CITU, AIKS, AIAWU and other unions affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) addressed the gathering. Speaking to reporters, AIKS general secretary Hannan Mollah said: “We are holding a joint demonstration for the first time to raise our voice against the common enemy. This government’s policies are beneficial to corporates and not the people. Together, we are protesting the government’s anti-worker, anti-people and anti-national policies.” Mollah along with Tapan Sen of CITU, AIKS president Ashok Dhawale and AIKS joint secretary Vijoo Krishnan addressed the rally.

Thousands of Delhi-bound workers and farmers, heeding to the clarion call of the CITU, AIKS and AIAWU, determined to raise their voice against the neoliberal, anti-people policies of the central government had queued up at railway stations across the country in the previous days. A group of farmers from Kerala’s flood-hit Palakkad district covered over 2,500 km in motorbikes to make it to Delhi for the protest. The turnout was enormous, despite several attempts by the authorities to thwart participation. Earlier, there were reports from Manipur that the state police had threatened to take action against the protesters travelling to Delhi to take part in the rally. AIKS has condemned such actions and termed them undemocratic.

The 15-point charter of demands put forward by the protesters include:

  1. Curb price rise; universalise Public Distribution System.

  2. Concrete measures for generation of decent employment.

  3. A minimum wage of not less than Rs 18,000 per month for all workers.

  4. Stop anti-worker labour law amendments.

  5. Remunerative price for peasants as per Swaminathan Committee recommendations.

  6. Debt waiver for poor peasants and agricultural workers.

  7. Comprehensive legislation for agricultural workers.

  8. Implementation of MGNREGA in all rural areas and amendment to the Act to cover urban areas.

  9. Food security, health, education and housing for all.

  10. Universal social security.

  11. No contractorisation of employment.

  12. Redistributive land reforms.

  13. Stop forcible land acquisition.

  14. Relief and rehabilitation for the victims of natural calamities.

  15. Reverse neoliberal policies.

The rally is the culmination of a series of intense struggles and mass mobilisations that were organised by the Kisan Sabha and the CPI(M), beginning from the farmer’s protest in Rajasthan in early 2018 to the massive 180 km Kisan Long March that shook Mumbai in March. More than five lakh peasants and workers courted arrest in over 407 districts in 23 states across the country on August 9, 2018, in what was by far the biggest nationwide ‘Jail Bharo’ struggle in recent times. Held on the first anniversary of the martyrdom of journalist Gauri Lankesh who was murdered by Hindutva outfits last year, the rally also strongly condemned the authoritarian and communal policies of the Modi government and the recent arrests of writers and activists across the country. Outlining the immediate necessity of unity between farmers and workers, several academicians and authors including the likes of Prabhat Patnaik and poet K. Satchidanandan have extended their solidarity to the movement.

What sets apart today’s mammoth march from the routine farmers’ protests in Delhi is its supplementing of the mobilization of the poorer sections of society with a united proletarian theme, the formation of a working class – peasant alliance for achieving a common set of demands, a visible manifestation of the class struggle necessary for economic and sociopolitical transformation. It brings forth a mass movement against the neoliberal agenda, against the hollow, bogus rhetoric of ‘sabka vikas’, against a government that has fuelled the existing inequalities of Indian society, leading to a variety of tragic spectacles, from farmer suicides to communal hatred and mob lynchings.

The rally and its massive public reception depict the extensive discontent fuming within the country at the utter disregard of the government towards the harsh agrarian crisis, farmer suicides and dilution of labour laws. Declaring united struggle of the working people and reaffirmation of commitment to socialism as the only way to take on the divisive, incendiary politics of communal hatred and neoliberal order, the rally with its motive of politically challenging the central government that has declared open war against the working class of India through its pro-corporate policies, has the potential to become the spearhead of the people’s movement in the country and may well give the opposition a trump card against the BJP led NDA coalition in the upcoming 2019 general elections. A one of a kind struggle of the dispossessed many against the powerful few, while its final outcomes and the extent of implementation of demands remain to be seen, it is certain that the ‘Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Rally’ will mark a new milestone in the prolonged struggle of the Indian working class for a more equal and just nation.

(Charter of demands courtesy: kisansabha.org)

The author is a graduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, National Institute of Technology (NIT) Rourkela, Odisha. He can be reached at ramlalunni@gmail.com.

 

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Red News | Protestation