A pukka Morcha has been planned outside the office of the chief minister Bhagwant Mann on September 12th by a set of agricultural labour organizations. A most significant event in light of the mass political movement of the dalit agricultural community of Punjab.
A meeting was convened by Zameen Prapt Sangharsh commitee leader Mukesh Mulaudh,where leaders of all agricultural labour groups participated. Around 1000 persons are expected to participate.
A most intensive gherao has been planned to do justice to the sustained challenge to the ruling classes for the basic demands of the agricultural labour community.Inspite of a chain of village level protests the chief minister has virtually paid a deaf ear to the grievances, after making promises earlier during negotiations.
Demands include distribution of 1/3rd of Panchayat land to every dalit family, work for atleast 100 days a year, scrapping of all debts, awarding of 10 marlas of land to each dalit family, implementation of 1971 land ceilings act preventing anyone from being in possession of more than 30 acres of land, pukka houses for dalits scrapping of electricity metres.
It has almost become a routine habit of the administration to retract from promises made to undertake distribution of Panchayat land and auctioning at fair price and many activists have been targeted for waging resistance in recent times.
A most progressive phenomena has been the unity of dalit agricultural labour groups from various sections of the revolutionary camp, since Chandigarh in 2016.They include the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union,the Pendu Mazdoor Union,2 sections of the Krantikari Pendu Mazdoor Union,Punjab Khet Mazdoor Sabha .Together they have undertaken blockades of rail tracks last December and relentlessly staged protests outside the Chief Minister’s palatial house., mobilising over 5000 agricultural workers. A binding force has been the Zammen Prapt Sangharsh commitee,which has propelled many an agitation, waging resistance at the block levels. It is heartening that mutual differences have not vitiated the broad unity, which is absolutely imperative.
Leaders participating included Laxman Sewevala, Sanjeeev Mintu, Lakhvir Singh,Kashmir Singh Gugshore,, Paramjeet Kaur, Makhan Singh,Dev Kumari and Darshan Nahar.
Plans were initiated to fortify the protest with a proper medical team, drinking water and toilet arrangements etc.a with a strong team of volunteers.
In a most calculative or methodical manner the agricultural labour organisations are organising campaigns at the very grassroots, to spur the dalit community to join the protest. Impressive meetings are being conducted by Krantikari PenduMazdoor Union in Sangrur and Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union in Malwa region.An important feature of the united protests in recent years are he mass preparations.
It is important that support is garnered to this protest from students, industrial workers and the landed pleasantry. It is perhaps time that the organizations of the landed peasantry in Punjab initiated self-criticism on the inability to draw in the dalit agricultural labour in their mass rallies. Another important issue to be confronted is the rekindling of Sikh separatist politics, which is tarnishing the name of Shaheed Bhagat Sngh.
Harsh Thakor is freelance journalist who has frequently travelled to Punjab to cover mass programmes and participated in protest of agricultural labour