Even small children in Punjab know the effects of these laws- People behind the historic Dilli Chalo movement 

We spoke with AIKSCC Organising secretary Avik Saha and Kamaljit Khanna of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) Ekta (Dacaunda) who talk about the ongoing movement and dispel some of the BJP propaganda.

farmers

Jis Khet se Dehqaan ko Muyassar na Ho rozi,

Us Khet k Har Khosha-e-Gandum ko Jala Do – Poet Allama Iqbal (1877-1938)

Scorch every cluster of wheat in the field

That denies livelihood (roti) to the tiller

When the working class wakes up it shakes up the whole world. A historic farmers movement is unfolding before our eyes, something that has not been seen since the days of the British Raj.

While the whole world is battling the COVID-19 pandemic, authoritarian governments the world over are using the pandemic as an opportunity to tighten its noose on people. The result is more arrests, repression, and anti-people policies being passed left and right.

Indian government has never been pro farmer as is reflective in the catastrophic number of farmer suicides since the 90s. The resulting agrarian crisis has led to destruction of the rural economy and conversion of a large number of small and marginal farmers to urban workforce. The earlier system was also problematic but instead of reforming the existing system these acts are an attempt to take away the remaining autonomy the farmers had.

In September, the Modi government passed three bills related to the farming sector without consulting the stakeholders in the agriculture sector amid nationwide protests by farmers and strong opposition in the parliament. These bills are being criticised for being anti farmers and pro-corporate and there are nationwide protests against these bills.

On 26th November All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee(AIKSCC) an umbrella organisation with representatives from farmers organisations from all across the country gave a nationwide Dilli Chalo call to the farmers. Farmers from the neighbouring states of Delhi i.e Punjab and Haryana due to their proximity were the first to heed the call and tried to enter the capital but were stopped at the Delhi border.

The Modi government, no different from the East India Company, also resorted to the same deceitful tactics as a face-saving exercise. Within a day the BJP IT cell started the propaganda painting the protesting farmers as ‘misled’ uneducated, separatists, motivated by opposition etc. The ever-obliging Godi media also fell in line and started the false narrative that only Punjab farmers have problems while other states do not have any problems with the farm laws.

Delhi police had put up barricades, cement boulders, dug up trenches to prevent them from entering the capital. But none of these actions deterred the farmers who are leaving from their villages in droves every day to shake the capital city of its slumber.

We spoke with some members of the AIKSC committee. Here is the edited version of our discussion with AIKSCC Organising secretary Avik Saha and Kamaljit Khanna of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) Ekta (Dacaunda). They talk about the ongoing movement and dispel some of the BJP propaganda.

How did these protests start and who is behind these protests?

The Farm Ordinance came out on 5th June 2020 and AIKSCC reached out to all farmer groups all over Punjab to build up a resistance. They were finally able to create a coordination of 30 organisations of which 10 were already member organisations of AIKSCC. It is, therefore, the 30 Punjab organisation including 10 AIKSCC who have heeded the call of Dilli Chalo given by AIKSCC on 29th Sept. On the Delhi borders other than these 30 organisations there are several other farmer unions and organisations from Uttarakhand, Haryana, and Rajasthan. There are several farmer organisations, youth organisations, student organisations, rural worker organisations, teachers organisations, farmer organisations of CPI, CPIM, ML liberation also there. Many Bhartiya kisan union(BKU) factions are with AIKSCC. The BKU Tikait have off late joined the movement. They are now camping at the Ghazipur border of UP-Delhi.

Thousands of farmers from Bengal will come to Delhi if trains are available. Govt has also made travel harder even in those trains that are plying by not allowing entry into stations.

What are the demands of these protesters?

Farmers want the three farm acts to be repealed and do not raise electricity bill 2020 in the parliament. Farmers want MSP to be a legal right. Farmers want a law that guarantees their income. This has been their demand for 15 years but during covid times they passed the laws creating the image that this will increase farm income. Farmers do not believe this.

These amendments will end the APMC Mandis and farmers will be forced to sell their produce outside the Mandis. This is shown by the government that this will help farmers increase their earnings because now they can sell their produce to anybody. But farmers were free to sell their produce to anybody even before, so We don’t understand why is government using this argument. But ending the APMC Mandis will give market control to traders who will decide the rate for grains. But since the Minimum support price (MSP) is not assured farmers will have to sell their produce to big traders at rates decided by these traders. This will lead to the monopoly of private traders and farmers will be forced to sell their grain at exploitative prices. They want to push farmers out of agriculture and give it to corporates. Even a child in Punjab knows these things.

The government and media are projecting that the protesters mostly from Punjab and Haryana and farmers from other states do not have any problem with the laws. Is that so?

There are two-fold reasons for Haryana and Punjab farmers mainly at the beginning of the protests. The beneficial impact of getting MSP for crops has been mostly felt in Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Western Orissa, and Telangana. This is where the majority of govt purchases happen that is why the consciousness of MSP is highest here while it is lowest in other parts of India. MSP is a big issue in these states. In other states, either the crops are grown there do not get MSP or they have already closed the APMC Mandis and we can see how it has destroyed farm income in Bihar. Where there is more impact so there will be resistance.

There are two kinds of MSP purchases one is by Food corporation of India (FCI) directly or through state agencies other is state themselves have food security programs and they purchase themselves at MSP and farmers haven’t felt any problem like in Chhattisgarh.

However the second reason is because of travel ban and restrictions and many farmers are not aware of the laws and its harmful impact. Though we can see farmers across the country are sensing the injustice happening to them. Thousands of farmers from Bengal will come to Delhi if trains are available. Govt has also made travel harder even in those trains that are plying  by not allowing entry into stations. These farmers who used to come to Delhi would travel in general compartment without ticket. So the government is stopping everything to stop the imagery of large gatherings of farmers protests. The movement has gathered steam because govt in its stupidity decided to use various underhanded tactics to stop farmers from gathering.

Protests have been going on in Punjab for almost two months now. How is the support from people there?

On 25th sept there was total Punjab bandh, everything was closed, not even rickshaw was plying. People spontaneously started with Rasta jam, rail Roko, large gatherings of thousands at around 100 places.

After that from 1st oct. till now around gatherings have happened at 125 places including railway station, toll plaza, reliance mall, BJP leaders residences. Even though on 25th Nov farmers went in large numbers to Dilli Chalo still sit ins in Punjab are going in.

Farmers from other parts of country are also joining us. UP, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, WB, Telangana Andhra Pradesh in large numbers have reached Delhi border. Around 2-3 lakh farmers, 10-11 states farmers are there. Delhi borders were sealed from all sides. People have gone on tractors trolleys for such large distances.

20000 tractor trolleys are at Delhi border as of today. Everyday from every village especially youth are going to Delhi. Farmers have come with ration, clothes, medicines for 3-4 months. They will not budge until these bills are taken away.

How do you feel is the government attitude?

talks
PC-ANI

The government has long been projecting that this is a very local small movement of Punjab farmers, funded and spearheaded by traders or opposition political parties. They stop farmers from entering Delhi but it is the same government that participated in mass elections in Bihar despite of COVID19. This has just exposed government double standards.

It is not a Punjab-Haryana movement, it is an all India movement. There have been spontaneous protests in different parts of the country, especially in Karnataka. The govt knows that because of COVID-19 and travel restrictions the farmers are not able to gather so they are using this narrative. If travel restrictions are removed you will see how many farmers will join from far off states.

Govt is labelling Punjabi farmers as Khalistani then what it will call farmers from Haryana or western UP? The Government has not been able to convince its own NDA partner, its own cabinet minister, its own general secretary in Punjab. All of them have quit. Where is the opposition parties? The opposition parties do not have the ground support that you see on the ground.

Karnataka historically had strong farmer and social movements organisations. BJP govt in Karnataka continues to bow down to central BJP leadership. They are in for a rude awakening.

The success of this historic farmer movement is that after 237 years Delhi has been brought to its knees. This movement has also exposed the opportunist capitalist parties.

Related Read: World Federation of Trade Unions express solidarity with the farmers’ struggle in India

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