Arguably the most qualitative protest of the dalit landless labourers challenging casteist oppression in the entire nation took place near the chief minister’s palatial house at Moti Mahal in Patiala, yesterday. Around 2000 dalit agricultural labourers led by the Zameen Prapti Sangharsh Commitee besieged Caspian Amrinder Singh’s residential house. The intensity of the demonstrators was immense. The protest embarrassed the ruling classes in their very backyard, and compelled them to yield to the demands of the agricultural labourers. No organisation in recent times has waged such a determined or consistent struggle for dalits to win residential plots or Nazrool land, 1/3rd panchayat land rights, scrapping of debts and introduce concept of co-operative farming. The administration literally bowed down to agreeing to dalits becoming members of co-operatives, to get proper homes and to receive 1/3rd share in plot.
The event was a perfect illustration of the impact of collective resistance and a manifestation of how the Zameen Prapti Sangarsh Commitee has pioneered a new movement of a kind. I recommend every reader to see the YouTube interview of leader Parmjeet Kaur,where she testifies the ground realities which literally enslave the landless labourers, and the protracted resistance organized around it. I can’t express how much any democrat missed, by not witnessing this programme. The youtube recording of the march also reflects the magnitude of resilience of the protestors and the spark lit in their hearts. One must salute the protestors for delivering such a knockout punch, braving all the odds. The protestors resolved to storm through police barricades in the manner of a bulldozer, if their demands were not met.
One must give credit to the painstaking preparatory work for the protest, which was able to knit the struggling forces into a cohesive unit. Such preparatory meetings were held in village Kot Khurd, Soja Channa , Dehla Siha, Taraksheeel Bhavan in Barnala, Anadana in Munak,Binaheri,Banarasi in Munak, Manvi ,Raidharana,Ghoranab,Badrukahan,Samura,Jhanedi,Chaunda,Dhanori,Chatte Sekhwan,Abhepur and Kakrala.They literally sowed the seeds of the spark lit in Patiala.
The main theme of the speakers was on how dalits were denied promised residential plots, enforcing loan waivers and scrapping debts. A most pertinent issue highlighted was the infiltration of micro finance companies into the very thick of the belly of agriculture. Another aspect touched was the subjugation of women by upper caste elements and the cooperatives preventing members of the dalit community from being inducted into them.
On this occasion, the protest was addressed by the Land Acquisition Struggle Committee and Zonal Finance Secretary Bikkar Singh Hathoa Jaswant Singh Kheri Gurwinder Singh Boran Dharampal Noorkhedi Dharamveer Harigadh Prasad, said that if these demands are not resolved, the struggle will be further intensified in the coming days.
The speakers also highlighted how mass activists were incarcerated within prison walls and outside, for aging struggle for land rights of dalits.They narrated how inspite of paying 30 % of the land value, the labourers were prevented from obtaining 5 marlas of landsite was highlighted how the lockdown led to greater economic hardships or health hazards and how still the govt,did not award proper houses for the dalits. In an interview with correspondent Santosh Kumar ,ZPSC Secretary Paramjit Kaur summed up the role of dalit women in confronting casteist discrimination and integrating into the ranks of the broader movement. She narrated the initiative taken by the ZPSC to involve women. In her view inspite of Corporate infiltration, feudalism was still the economic base, which generated the economic disparity and caste alienation.Paramjit explained the nexus between debt and land relations and ho whether were interwoven with microfinance companies. Preceding the rally a most notable speech in an interview was delivered by ZPSC convenor Mukesh Mulaudh.
I wish such a protest or protests in future could be staged with the protection or shelter of cadre of the landed peasantry, which would provide a necessary insulation. Integration with the landed peasantry is imperative to build a movement on class lines.
Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist.Toured India,particularly Punjab .Written on Mass movements ,,Massline,Maoism on blogs like Democracy and Class Struggle and frontierweekly .An avid cricket lover too who has posted writings on blogs like Pakpassion Indian Cricket Fans and Sulekha.com