Farmers have won a historic battle but must guard against complacency


I wholeheartedly salute the victory of the farmers in resisting the iron feet of oppression confronting the three Agricultural bills enforced by the neo-fascist Bharatiya Janata party .To me it will win a permanent place in the annals of Indian history  amongst the struggles withstanding tyranny, resurrecting the spirit of the anti-colonial Struggle. The farmers took grit and courage to virtually unprecedented regions in recent times. I praise the consistency and unity of the farmers organisations of Punjab in confronting the ruling classes at their strongest point and doing just what the doctor ordered, even after facing the most striking blows. The peasantry won the support of the working class, students, youth, and intellectuals. What was also noticeable was the non –sectarian approach of the participating organisations, confronting Hindutva neo-fascism, Sikh Separatist politics and corporate monopoly, leaving no stone unturned. Above all the movement taught invaluable lessons to the cadres of the democratic movement, particularly the rural community. It has projected a clear cut illustration of the nefarious operation of neo-fascism as well as semi-feudalism and how people could develop their striking capacity to combat it.

It is simply unforgettable how the BKU (Ugrahan) virtually created the intensity of a hurricane on the Tikri border, with their youth playing a principal role. I would also congratulate the complementary work of the Kirti Kisan Union, and The Bharatiya Kisan Union(Dakaunda) amongst the organisations of the landed peasantry , the agricultural workers groups like Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union and Pendu Mazdoor Union and supporting student and youth groups like Punjab Students Union(Shaheed Randhawa), Punjab Students Union (New Democracy Group)and  Naujwan Bharat Sabha.

However we must guard against complacency by remaining vigilant and maintain the tempo of the agitation. The moral struggle is far from over with the ruling BJP still fluttering the flag of pro-imperialist policies and patronising the corporates.It is also likely that prime minister Narendra Modi withdrew the agricultural bills  ,with the perspective of the coming elections. The roots of socio-economic oppression and pro-corporate economic policies are part and parcel of the government’s policy, which has still not awarded the minimum support price. We must also not be deceived from opposition parties like Congress or Akali Dal,who in essence patronised pro-imperialist agricultural policies. Overall they must sustain the struggle against the autocratic social or socio-economic order.

The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan), though not affiliated to any political party, was the most consistently vocal against the “corporate” monopoly over agriculture policies. The group represents the landed peasantry. The farmers defied the assessment of the PMO was that the farmer’s agitations will not prolong beyond November, 2020. They thought it would retreat when the paddy harvest begins. The mass organisations ensured that the movement would proceed on a secular road and no political party will be allowed to utilise their platforms. The secular thrust of the movement propelled the victory. Even during the peak of the paddy harvest, the movement was not withdrawn.

Still the government has not yielded to awarding the Minumum Support Price. The demands for legalised MSP and scrapping of draft Electricity Act amendments are the demands of working class also. MSP is directly linked to the Public Distribution System. The demand for strong APMC markets, procurement and PDS is very old and and farmers must fight till the last tooth to win them.

A very important factor is the continued penetration of semi-feudalism. Poor and marginal peasants do not have access to institutional credit as rich farmers have and are dependent on private money lenders. The solution is possible only through land reforms, waiving off loans and making institutional credit available to them. A definite economic programme is needed to address these issues. Such an economic programme is an essential part of the agenda during the Assembly elections in Punjab. The Agrarian crisis has to be seriously resolved.

Individually, some farmers’ organisations are demanding cooperative and collective production of agriculture. However without collective land reforms, such initiatives will be unsuccessful. Only then voluntarily, cooperatives and collectives can be formed. Without completing land reforms, cooperatives will not be successful.

It is the duty of farmer’s organisations to bring the real issues of producing classes before political parties. The funds to help farmers can be arranged by taxing rich farmers such as (former Punjab Chief Ministers) Prakash Singh Badal and Amarinder Singh who have hundreds of acres of land. Scrapping of WTO agreements is an essential demand, and the government should be pressurised to the last straw.

The pro-multinational, pro big corporate policies have to be reversed in the interest of farmers, addressing the burning issues f the people.

The Prime Minister is deceiving the people by claiming that it is a movement only of the rich peasants. . It is a fact that a small layer of rich farmers are involved in these protests. Recently, a Punjab University academic did a survey and found that all the farmers who died during the protests had a land holding of 2.5 to three acres or below. None of the group of 750 martyrs constituted a  rich farmer.

A significant aspect however is that Rich peasants are now disillusioned with the WTO policies. The representatives of rich farmers have also started voicing their concerns about policies driven by WTO and multinationals. Even if the rich peasantry is challenging the Centre, it will hardly join a protest in such extreme climatic conditions.

Whatever weaknesses overall I felt the formation of Maha Panchayats was most progressive in the context of the movement.

This unity today in the struggle has maintained its consistent flow, confronting all odds.. The Samyukta  Kisan Morcha should consider the differences in farming and marketing patterns across the country. I was overjoyed to hear the appreciation C.P.I. (M.L) New Democracy secretary of Punjab Darshan Singh Khatkar,expressed for both the Ugrahan group and that of Kirti Kisan Union.

An important factor not to be ignored is that of caste. Marginalising the rural dalit labour community would be fatal error. The gap must be bridged between the demands of the landed jat peasantry and the dalit agricultural labour. Today still a weakness exists of the integration of the upper caste landed peasantry with the dalit agricultural worker.

In light of the coming elections in Punjab a sustained mass political campaign must be launched exposing the essence of the anti-people social order and not soft –pedalling with ruling class politics by projecting a democratic revolutionary alyernative.

The author referred to the interview of BKU (Ugrahan) coordinator and Surkh Leeh editor Pavel Kussa.It would be most enlightening if the Punjabi journal Surkh Leeh published a compiled collection of articles, translated into English, on the agitation. I recommend readers to read the interview of Pavel Kussa.

Statement of farmer Leaders

While reacting to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Announcement regarding the repeal of agricultural laws in the coming session of the parliament, BKU Ekta(Ugrahan) termed it a victory of the determined peasant struggle but at the same time stressed upon the need to remain vigilant. In a statement issued to the press Joginder Singh Ugrahan and Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, President and General Secretary of BKU Ekta (Ugrahan) respectively, said that Modi government, no doubt, had to bow before the historical and unprecedented peasant struggle but still it has not affected any change in its policies designed for the infiltration of the corporates in the agrarian sector. It is yet to be watched whether the Modi government still tries to deviously feed the corporate interests. Besides these laws, the issues of MSP, PDS and Electricity Bill are pending even now. They further added that whereas Modi has only talked about the MSP, but the demand of the peasants is to have all the crops procured at the MSP by the government as a legal right. The issues pertaining to the constitution and expansion of the MSP Committee and to bring it within the legal framework are still pending. They emphasised that PDS and the procurement of the crops at MSP are not independent of each other, instead these are interlinked. PDS is a major issue for the poor working class consumers. In this context, MSP and PDS constitute a single set of demands which can guarantee the interests, both of the peasants and the consumers.

Besides these demands, the punishment to the culprits of Lakhimpur Kheri killings, action against officials and political leaders of Haryana responsible for oppressing the peasants, and withdrawal of cases registered against the peasants during this movement, are few of the many demands that still remain unresolved. The PM’s announcement does not even touch upon these demands. The President and General Secretary of BKU (Ekta)) said that the further programme of the ongoing movement will be planned by keeping in view the holistic resolution of all these issues and will be done after due consultations with all the organisations of SKM. They also called upon the people to stay vigilant while celebrating the bowing down of the Modi government.

They further said that the Gurpurab of Guru Nanak Dev was observed at the Tikri Border and dozens of struggle sites in Punjab. The news of the bowing down of Modi government has further brightened the celebrations of Gurpurab. The speakers on different Morcha sites spoke highly of the voice raised by Baba Nanak against social evils and state’s oppression. They called upon the people to clearly identify today’s Babars and Malik Bhagos i.e. Rulars & Corporates alliance. Lastly, they also spoke to live one’s life by doing ‘Kirat'(labour) and defending its interests.

Excerpts from News Reports (Tribune News)

As the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looks to project Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw the three farm laws as his love for Punjab and farmers, there seems to be no love lost between the party leaders and protesters.

Farmers led by the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) have been staging protests outside the residences of BJP leaders at several places across the state for more than a year now. Sources said after the announcement by PM Modi on Friday, the BJP’s top leadership instructed local leaders to make “truce” with protesting farmers by offering them sweets and congratulating them. Subsequently, the local leaders tried to approach the farmers but they were turned away.

In one such incident, sources said, on the directions of party’s state general secretary Dinesh Kumar, two leaders from a Malwa district approached farmers protesting in front of the house of a district president with sweets and the message that “Modi ji was never against farmers”.

However, the farm leaders questioned the saffron party on its silence on the 700 lives lost during the agitation. The farmers said they would buy sweets and distribute these once the laws were repealed in Parliament.

Over the past one year, farmers have targeted BJP leaders across the state. At several places, party leaders were heckled and attacked by protesting farmers.

For 62-year-old Bhupinder Kaur, who has been part of demonstrations against three central farm laws since last year, the fight is far from over, even after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement that they will be repealed.

“The fight will not be over till the laws are formally repealed in Parliament and farmers’ demand for legal guarantee of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops is fulfilled, said Kaur as she, along with other elderly women from Chilla village in poll-bound Punjab’s Mohali district, prepared ‘langar’ at a local gurdwara.”

Harsh Thakor is a freelance Journalist who has toured India, particularly Punjab, and written reports and articles on democratic blogs like ‘Ottos War Room’ and ‘Democracy and Class Struggle.

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