On June 26, lakhs of farmers and farm-workers will assemble in various border points of Delhi will observe “Save Democracy, Save Farmers” day. On that date three important occasions are coinciding — (i) completion of 7 months of the historic continuous sit-in protest of lakhs of farmers around Delhi on the border points; (ii) 7 years of first swearing in of Modi led BJP/NDA government; and (iii) 46 years of declaration of Emergency by the then PM Ms Indira Gandhi. And on June 30, they will observe “Hul Kranti day” – observing the day of the beginning of the great Hul, or ‘Santhal Rebellion’, 166 years ago. The farmers unions through their coordinating body Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) issued the call.
But what do occasions like Modi’s first swearing-in day or Ms. Gandhi’s declaration of Emergency have to do with the present fight of the farmers? And how does Santhal rebellion relate with this movement of farmers? Farmers are only fighting for repeal of the 3 farm laws that are anti-farmer and anti-people. Moreover, the farmers are demanding to make MSP of farm produces something mandatory for the governments, something like a law of MSP. Why are the farmers unions bringing politics into a farmers movement with farmers’ own demands! 12 opposition parties have issued a declaration of their support towards farmers observing June 26, and it was very polite from their part, because several of the signatories, 12 parties, were in support of promulgation of Emergency 46 years ago. And those opposition parties cut short their support there, they did not yet extend support to the SKM call for observing Hul Day on June 30.
The farmers have been gaining valuable experiences through their 7-month long struggle and months of preparation period for this movement. Among those experiences we take 2 sets of such experiences and learning for this study.
(1) The Farmers knew that they are not only fighting the BJP govt over its 3 new agricultural laws and MSP. They have been fighting corporate take over of agriculture all along. They have been encircling Delhi, the seat of power, and also stopping operations of Reliance malls, petrol pumps, and other outlets, Adani’s dry port. They would have been forcing close down of Direct Foreign Corporate powers like Hindustan Unilever (HUL), Pepsi, Nestlé had those been working in a big scale regarding agricultural produces in Punjab, the epicentre of this movement. The farmers knew that the BJP led NDA govt is acting at the behest of those foreign and native capitalists in their quest of subjugating Indian agriculture – capitalism-imperialism dictating policies of BJP led govt, BJP/NDA politics, legislations and actions through the ‘state machinery’ like arbitrary arrests under black acts, dividing the people by their divisive politics, doping the people with anti-Muslim anti-Pak anti-China (and also, at times, anti-Sikh) hyperboles. The bourgeoisie led media, on their part, are magnifying those BJP propaganda. A big political fight is going on against this farmers movement. At times, BJP is using its Haryana State govt also in their game, like its covert and cunning tactic of concentrating farmers efforts inside Haryana by instigating farmers there. To jeopardise that political tactic, the farmers unions too made a political tactic – they asked farmers to continue boycott of BJP leaders and MLAs on their govt or political activities, but not during their family rituals, like observing rituals after the death of member of extended family or kinsfolk; and thus, averted build up of tensions along clans/village or caste line. 7 years ago, PM Modi of NDA govt was first sworn in on this very date, June 26, and started a regime that has moved away from the minimum constitutionally guaranteed democratic atmosphere, for the last 2 years people are experiencing an undeclared Emergency, that Emergency that was promulgated by Ms Indira Gandhi in 1975 also on this very date June 26, the date when this farmers’ continuous protest sit-in around Delhi will complete 7 months. This way this movement of farmers is connected with, integrated with, a bigger political movement countrywide, movement for Democracy against Fascism. This realisation is being expressed by the call to observe “Save Democracy, Save Farmers” day on June 26, 2021.
(2) On June 17 police opened fire on Adivasi villagers who were protesting land-grab without sanction from Gram-Sabha for making yet another CRPF camp near Silgar village, Sukma, Chhattisgarh. The central govt and state govts of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, etc are grabbing forests, land, rivers of this Adivasi hinterland at the behest of various capitalist-imperialist corporate powers, so that those can ‘clear’ forests causing deforestation, can dig up earth to plunder mineral resources, to pollute land, water and air. This is continuing for years, and Honourable Ex-President K.R. Narayanan during his presidency in one Pre-Republic Day address to the nation, warned against this exploitation and loot of Adivasi people and Nature! It reminds farmers the Hul Rebellion, led by Sido, Kano, Bhairab, Chand and their sisters Fulo, Jhano, one of the great anti-imperialist revolutionary war efforts against the Company Raj of British East India Company by the Adivasi people that took place before the so-called “sepoy-mutiny” or Independence War throughout British India. That rebellion started on June 30, 1855. And what a coincidence, June 30 is coming soon. In that Hul, many non-tribal lower-caste working men like peasants, iron-smiths, cow and buffalo keepers, milkmen, and also people from the cleaner (dhangar, methar), dom, etc castes, joined. Today the political climate of the country is pushing farmers, farm-workers, Adivasi people, workers of industry, construction, transport, communication and service sector, all toiling and exploited people to come together and join hand to resist the unsaid Company Raj of today. So, the farmers sent invitations to the suffering and fighting people of Sukma and also from other places to join them at border points around Delhi to observe “Hul Kranti Day” together on June 30. Farmers put themselves and their fight in the string of political struggles of history of modern India.
Such a gesture from the farmers as expressed by their unions was unthinkable just 6 months ago and hence it is an advance. Consider an event on December 10. The largest of the fighting farmers’ union, BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) was observing International Human Rights Day at Pakoda Chawk, Tikri Border. They demanded unconditional release of all political prisoners detained under UAPA etc black acts, the prisoners mostly from the intelligentsia, who are friends of the struggles of suffering people all over India, for example, Sudha Bharadwaj, Varvara Rao, Sharjeel Islam, Umar Khalid, to name a few. On that occasion none of the farmers unions inside SKM, not even CPI-CPIM led AIKS made any move; rather some unions openly criticised BKU (Ekta Ugrahan). In these decades after so-called the “End of History”, fall of actually existing socialisms and triumph of imperialists, the term ‘politics’ causes nausea among many; they refer to it as dirty politics. Apolitics, anti-politics, try to steer people away from politics. Media took a leading role in this. Yet forces of history compelled. The logic – why and how farmers’ struggle is connected with politics, and more than that, the political onslaught of ruling class against this farmers struggle and the farmer-leaders’ political replies – all these experiences taught many important lessons, of which only two were discussed here. The farm-workers struggle for wage-rise in Punjab and the ways adopted by farmers and workers unions, in which meetings of all villagers together – all these brought the question of classes and class contradiction within country side, question of class-caste relationship, question of handling non-antagonistic contradictions, all came up. Farmers and farm-workers all learning through life experiences. It may be a fact that these lessons are not yet formulated and digested. It may be a fact that these observations and experiences have not yet developed into notions or ideas in the realm of consciousness. But surely history is moving in this direction. These lessons need to be taken to the working class, peasantry and all toiling people of all castes, nations, nationalities and tribes of India. It is, however, really embarrassing for an inexperienced and less knowledgeable person like this present author to comment like this, hence the author prays to be forgiven.
Sandeep Banerjee is an activist who writes on political and socioeconomic issues and also on environmental issues. Some of his articles are published in Frontier Weekly. He lives in West Bengal, India. Presently he is a research worker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org