It is truly a heart touching sight, to witness the back breaking work of a dalit agricultural labour and the manner he is still bonded in the so called age of democracy. The shackles of casteist oppression embedded for centuries, are still entrenched.
Under the invitation of Sajha Mazdoor Morcha based on rural and farm labour organizations, thousands of villagers and farm labourers from all over Punjab along with their families staged a conference at the PUDA Ground of the royal city Patiala. On this occasion, it was announced to continue the continuous struggle to resolve the demands and to march towards Moti Mahal on August 11.
I was present at the 3 day Dharna of the Joint front of Agricultural labour Organizations from 9-11th August in Patiala at PUDA ground near the Gurudwara,which concluded with a march to the house of the Chief minister at Moti Mahal.The atmosphere had the intensity of a torrent erupting ,as though fire was blazing within the heart of the Dalit community.Inspite of the blazing heat I was privileged to be a participant of the event. The spark of revolutionary resistance simmered at a crescendo at the venue of the conference and at Moti Mahal. Without doubt one of the most significant or qualitative happenings across Punjab or in the country redressing grievances of dalit agricultural labour. Vivid illustration of importance of united front in mass revolutionary movement.
Most notable speeches were made by Lacchman Singh Sewewala, Kashmir Singh Gugshore, Tarsem Peter ,Harmesh Malri and Gurnam Singh Daud.
Most positive that a huge spectrum of trends or forces was woven together in a common struggle for emancipation of dalit Agricultural labour. Almost every component of mass organisations close to the Communist revolutionary camp participated. There were about forty different speakers, whose words touched the core of the hearts of the dalit community. The venue was most elaborately decorated with photos of Bhagat,Singh,Chandrashekar Azad,Babasaheb Ambedkar,Marx,Lenin and Map etc.Participants thronged to get hold of the revolutionary publications.
It was also most heartening to witness the most painstaking solidarity by the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugarhan) who set up Langar and a medical team. It revealed the developing bond of the poor Jat peasantry with the landless dalit community. I was impressed with the participation of the youth community and presence of industrial workers. One must give credit to the painstaking preparation work of the activists to sow the seeds for such a spark to be lit. There was also moral support from the Punjab Students Union.(Shaheed Randhawa)
The most significant contribution was made by the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union, followed by that of the Pendu Mazdoor Union and the Khet Mazdoor Sabha.It is significant that there was also an effective participation of agricultural labour fronts of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Passi) group, Marxist Communist party of India and the C.P.I (ML) Liberation group. It depicted that even against revisionist or rightist’s streams there exist revolutionary democratic ranks, like budding flowers. In many ways I complement the ground work even of the Dehati Mazdoor Sabha or Marxist Communist Party of India or even that of C.P.I,.(ML)Liberation to an extent. A small, but qualitative role was also played by factions of the Krantikari Pendu Mazdoor Union.
From the nature of the rally one could gauge how the dalit agricultural labour is emerging into a coherent force to challenge the semi-feudal or Brahmanical oppression, and the experience it has gained waging many a battle against the ruling class opression.From the expression a viewer could understand the sheer alienation of the dalit agricultural community.
Most important that such amass political front was not converted into a party forum, giving mass revolutionary democratic identity its due respect. Stress was also placed on distinguishing from the nefarious vote bank policies of the ruling class parties.
Overall I was pleased with the progress made since the time of a similar joint rally staged in Chandigarh in 2016.Overall around 5000 persons attended,Inspite of the blazing heat I was privileged to be a participant of the event.
Today a very important debate is on the question of BR Ambedkar and caste factor, in the revolutionary democratic movement. There is significant resistance amongst the dalit cadre of left parties against the neglect of the caste question and lack of respect to Ambedkar.
Heartening to witness such resilience amongst the dalit labourers, in contrast to attitude of submission. The event was a step in bridging the gap between economic and political demands .
Above all the cultural aspects of a casteist society are so deeply rooted that even political reforms will not transform it. It is vividly illustrated even when land is auctioned or when the dalits are labouring on the fields. The event was a true illustration that only a sustained political movement confronting all economist trends can transform the oppressive superstructure or social base. Only from a protracted resistance movement can a politically correct trend emerge. It is vital that the movement is not derailed towards economist path.
We must reflect on the painstaking preparation rallies undertaken by the various organisations, On 29th July thousands of men and women workers organised demonstrations and dharnas in front of ruling class Congress ministers, legislators and MP’s at 17 places for remission of electricity bill and loans, repeal of amendments made in labour laws and agricultural laws etc. Demonstrations were staged in front of the residences of Gurpreet Singh Kangar, Revenue Minister from Rampura Phul, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot from Nabha, Raja Warring, the MLA from Gidderbaha, Nazar Singh Mansahia, MLA from Mansa, Hargurpartap Singh from Ajnala, Varinder Meet Singh from Gurdaspur, Navtej Singh Cheema from Sultanpur Lodhi, Surinder Singh Chaudhary from Kartarpur, Darshan Lal from Balachaur, Lakhwinder Singh Lodhinangal from Batala, Fatehjung Singh Bajwa from Quadian, Ramanjeet Singh Sikki from Khadoor Sahib, Dharamveer Agnihotri from Tarn Taran, and Santokh Singh from Baba Bakala.Chaudhary Santokh Singh,MP from Philaur and Makit Singh Dakha chairman of district planning board.
Labour leaders like Zora Singh Nasrali.of PMKU,Gurnam Singh Daud of Dehati Mazdoor Sabha, Avtar Singh of Pendu Mazdoor Union , Devi Kumari of PMKU ,Bubby Atwal OF Krantikari Pendu Mazdoor Union,Sukhpal Singh Khialai of Krantikari Pendu Mazdoor Union and Hrawinder Singh Sema ,addressed the meetings. accused the Congress Govt. Of breaking their promise on remission of loans, and merely remitting 590 crore raised by the co-operative. They also accused the govt.of launching unpayable power bills and cutting electricity connections to workers. Categorically they accused the govt, of striping the workers of all their rights through reforming labour laws. In their view the agricultural laws will deprive all the workers of employment of al employment opportunities.
RALLY AT PUDA GROUND NERA GURUDWARA
Under the provincial invitation of Sajha Mazdoor Morcha based on rural and farm labour organizations, thousands of villagers and farm labourers from all over Punjab along with their families staged a conference at the Puda Ground of the royal city Patiala. On this occasion, it was announced to continue the continuous struggle to resolve the demands and to march towards Moti Mahal on August 11.
The leader of the joint labour front and the darshan of the rural labour sabha Nahar, the state president of rural labour union Punjab Tarsem Peter and the state leader Lakhwant Kirti, the president of Punjab Khet Labour Union Jora Singh Nasrali, General secretary of Punjab Khet Mazdoor Unionn ,Lacchman Singh Sewewala ,the general secretary of the revolutionary rural labour Union Balwant Makhu, Devi Kumari, General Secretary of Punjab Khet Labour Sabha, State Leader of Revolutionary Rural Labour Union Punjab Baljit Singh, Bimal Kaur and State President of Labor Mukti Morcha Punjab Bhagwant Samoun,Punjab Studenst Union(Shaheed Randhawa) activist Balwinder Sony ,asserted that the government implement the election promises Instead of this, there is a lot of anger in the hearts of labourers across Punjab against their abject refusal. They demanded that amendments to labour laws and agriculture laws be withdrawn, all government and non-government loans of labourers be eliminated, arrears on electricity bills and plots be given to the homeless and needy. The labour leaders said that for the economic and social equality of the labourers, land should be implemented among the labourers by ending the distribution of land, permanent employment should be arranged and the third part of the panchayat lands should be given to the labourers at cheap prices. Let’s go. Labour leaders alleged that Captain and Modi government are paving the path for fulfilment of corporate families by implementing anti-people policies. Due to these policies which have bred unemployment or semi-unemployment workers have lost their lives. The Congress government has also proved unsuccessful in waiving off entire loans of the labourers, giving employment, housing plots, waiving off domestic electricity bills, relieving social force etc as promised. The state government has discriminated against labourers even after passing a resolution in the Legislative Assembly regarding the cancellation of amendments to labour laws by the fascist Modi government. Rural and farm workers have no choice but to struggle to resolve their demands issues, he said.
On this occasion, the provincial leaders of the front Mahipal Bathinda, Kashmir Singh Ghugshore, Gurnam Dawood, Harkhwan Singh Munak, Gulzar Gauriya, Pragat Singh Kalajhar, Harvinder Sema and the state president of Punjab Farmer Union, Ruldu Singh Mansa, President of Medical Practitioners Association, Dhanna Mal Vaid Addressed and the artists of the folk music group of Jida and others presented revolutionary songs.
Morcha demanded strict action against such ghostly police officer by SHO of Banur for threatening to kill farmers.
MARCH TO CHIEF MINISTER’S HOUSE IN MOTI MAHAL
Thousands of women workers marched in demonstration towards Chief Minister’s residence at Patiala on the 3rd day of their state wide protest under the leadership of rural and agricultural workers organizations. Participates blazed the rage of an inferno .On being stopped at the YPS Chowk by the police, the workers sat in dharna on the road there and called the Congress government anti dalits and workers. At the dharna site itself, the SDM handed over government’s letter for a meeting of the leadership of Joint Mazdoor Morcha with Mr. Brahm Mahindra, minister in the Punjab Government and concerned officials on 18th August. On this occasion, Kulwant Singh Selbrah, Sanjiv Mintu, Lacchman Singh Sewewala, Tarsem Peter, Gurnam Singh Daud, Bhagwant Singh Samao and Gulzar Gauriya, the leaders of Mazdoor Morcha announced their resolve to actively work for the proposed dharnas in front of the ministers’ residences throughout the Punjab from 1st to 3rd September. The breaking of promises made to the agricultural workers would prove costly to the Congress government, the leaders declared. The leaders also said that they will not sit idly till their demands are accepted and implemented. The demands include waiving of debts and electricity bills of the workers, plots for the homeless and house-building grants, daily work throughout the year under MGNREGA and raising of daily wage to Rs.600, implementation of PDS scheme, distribution of surplus land to the workers and poor peasants by implementing the land reforms, ensuring one third of the common panchayati land on rent to the workers at cheap rates, giving property rights to the dalits on the nazool land, raising of the old age, widow, handicapped and dependents pension to Rs.5000. In the event of the non acceptance of these demands, the will be continued to be waged.
The leaders emphatically declared that a broad, militant and united movement is an unavoidable need of the hour for the annulment of the unequal division of land for economic and social equality of the workers and for the restoration of their honour. They said that the workers are compelled to take the extreme step of suicide because of the anti workers policies of all the governments she which came into power since 1947. They also castigated the fascist Modi government for passing the three anti farmers bills as these Acts would, according to them, further destroy employment opportunities for the workers, wind up the PDS system, and give monopolistic control over the entire food products the big corporates and , thus, throw them into the jaws of starvation. Therefore the fight against these Acts has tremendous Importance for the workers.
Many resolutions were also passed which demanded immediate repeal of agricultural laws, withdrawal of UAPA and other black laws and release of all the intellectuals arrested under these laws, cessation of the repression on the contract workers and acceptance of their demands, government service to the dependents of the workers and peasants martyred during the present peasant struggle, arrangement of budget for the dalits in accordance with the proportion of their population and full utilisation of funds kept for the welfare schemes for them. On this occasion workers leaders who addressed the gathering included Harmesh Malri, Kashmir Singh Ghugshor, Darshan Nahar, Lakhvir Singh, Makhan Singh Ramgharh ,Devi Kumari and Dharm Pal. The morcha leaders also announced that the mortal remains of Mata Gurtej Kaur will not be cremated untill a cheque of five lakh rupees is not given to ber family as promised by the administration. Mata Gurtej Kaur died on the first day of the dharna. PMKU secretary Lachamn Sewewala concluded the protest with a fiery speech.
Most significant that a police barricade obstructed the protesting contingent at YPS chowk , when approaching the Moti Mahal. A perfect illustration of how partisan the so called democracy is ,with the oppressive castes and ruling class landlord sections.
They said that due to the labour and anti-people policies of the changed governments from San Santali till now, the labour class is being forced to commit suicide and the agricultural law brought by Modi’s fascist government to further ruin the employment of labourers, the bogus of the public distribution system Workers will be pushed into more hunger by making the corporate households full of food items and corporate households. He said the fight to withdraw agricultural laws is of utmost importance to labourers. All the leaders condemned the fascist Modi Govt. For passing 3 bills that broke the backbone of the PDS system, granted monopolistic licence over entire food products to corporates and thus fling workers into the grave.
Resolutions were also passed demanding immediate repeal of agricultural laws, withdrawal of UAPA and their black laws cessation of repression on the contract workers and the acceptance of their demands, government service to the dependents of the workers and peasants martyred during the present peasant struggle, arrangement of budget by the dalits in accordance with the proportion of population and full utilisation of funds.
At this time, by passing resolution from the stage, cancel all black laws including UAPA, release intellectuals and activists in jails, stop the torture on unemployed and contract workers asking for employment and their rightful demands apply Karan, the promise of giving government jobs to all the families of the labourers and farmers martyred during the farmer’s movement should be fulfilled, the budget should be kept according to the illiterate population of Dalits and the budget should be spent full for welfare schemes.
Meanwhile, the family of Mata Gurtej Kaur who was martyred on the first day of the protest, as promised by the administration, due to not giving a cheque of Rs lakh, they could not be cremated even today and the labour organizations have announced not to do post-mortem until the cheque is handed over.
Morale boosting that Democratic Teachers Front and Medical Practitioners Association made a donation of One lakh in support of the rally.
Workers pledged to stage day and night protests at minister s’ homes across Punjab from 1 to 3 September’.
Ironic that Mata Gurtej Kaur who was martyred in rally did not get cremated even on the third day. The Morcha leaders declared that the mortal remains of Mata Gurtej Kuar will not be cremated until a cheque of 5 lakh rupees is not given to her family as promised by the administration Mata Gurtej Kaur died on the 1st day of the protest.
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