Unstinted public support a vital cog in ryots’ victory

The farmers call off the stir following the repeal of 3 farm laws and acceptance of their key demands including compensation to the kin of martyr farmers and withdrawal of police cases against them. The government has agreed to form a committee to decide the MSP issue. reports Mudit Mathur

The Indian farmers once again relived the spirit of Gandhian legacy inspired by Champaran Satyagraha — the power of peace, truth and non-violence — compelling Prime Minister Narendra Modi to climb down ahead of major assembly polls, for the unconditional revocation of three farm laws and acceptance of all the key demands of the agitating farmers including compensation to the kin of martyr farmers, withdrawal of police cases registered against them during their movement by the Union and state governments.

Farmers unions announced ending year-long of mass protests on the peripheries around Delhi where thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have been camping since November 2020, demanding withdrawal of three “black laws.” However, the Union government did not concede their demand for sacking union minister of state for Home Affairs Ajay Misra Teni, whose convoy, allegedly, mowed down farmers mercilessly killing four farmers and a journalist besides injuring dozens of farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri.

The unions will meet again on January 15 under the aegis of SKM in the capital to monitor and review whether the government has kept its promises to unconditionally withdraw cases filed against farmers’ protests, disbursement of compensation to the kin of farmers who died during the protests and formation of a committee to ensure that all farmers can avail remunerative rates for their produces. Based on feedback on above issues, the farmers would take major decision –– whether to campaign against the BJP in the upcoming UP and Uttarakhand polls or not? This is also a contentious issue on which various factions of farmers’ unions have divergent viewpoints.

Farmers’ leader Rakesh Tikait, who spearheaded nation-wide movement remained noncommittal over his plans to campaign against BJP in upcoming elections. “I will let my decision known to my supporters at the earliest. I will go in different parts of Uttar Pradesh. Nobody can stop me,” he added. “If government does not fulfil our demands we will resume our protests,” Tikait clarified. “Our borders will be cleared by 15th December. People have started going back homes happily over resolution of their demands,” he added. “We have nothing against government in our hearts but only time can tell what will they do for us,” Tikait asserted.

The first non-violent Champaran Satyagraha of farmers’ uprising was against un-remunerative forced cultivation of indigo with barely any payment for it, coincidently, the history repeated itself after more than a century when India faced just identical crisis over last one year when Indian farmers felt their existence threatened once again with enactment of three farm laws allegedly designed to help corporate market forces as a part of majoritarianism policies of the BJP government. The movement emerged as one of the toughest challenges for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Champaran Satyagraha led by Mahatma Gandhi has been considered a unique turning point in the history of freedom struggle as first uprising of the farmers against feudal colonial oppressive rule of Britishers in India. It took place in Champaran district of Bihar in 1917 during the British colonial period. The farmers in Chamaparan were compelled by European planters  to grow indigo on at least 3/20th of their land and sell it at prices fixed by the planters. The success of Champaran Satyagraha furnished a blueprint of inspirations to Indian youths for achieving freedom through non-violent methods, toppling British empire in India.

The farmers fought and won historic battle with the government on the strength of people’s support providing all logistic support maintaining supplies of food and essential commodities in their camps surrounding national capital Delhi. The “Langars” (offering of food to everyone in pilgrimage) organised by the Sikh community was also one of the decisive factors behind the longest and historic protest in free India. Thousands of protesting farmers camped out on the borders of Delhi for 380 days have gone back their homes after celebrating a ‘VijayDiwas’ for their achievements. The farmers’ unions performed Fateh Ardas (victory prayer) and took out a Fateh March (victory march) at Singhu and Tikri protest sites on Delhi’s borders on December 11 before they dispersed for Punjab. Peasant leaders have planned to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple in Amritsar on December 13.

SKM thanked trade unions, women’s organisations, youth/student groups who struggled along with farmers in this agitation, lawyers who extended legal aid and solidarity, doctors who set up medical camps and gave their untiring services, various religious bodies that set up langar and fed the protestors unconditionally and uninterruptedly, various progressive organisations that stood in support including human rights groups, numerous artists who were there constantly with the movement. Numerous organizations continuously and consistently responded to SKM calls for action. Highway dhaba owners and people who gave space for the Kisan Andolan to run its organisational meetings.

They also thanked NRIs and international farmers’ organisations and others who took up solidarity actions in their own locations. The role of hundreds of volunteers who participated by giving their support was also hailed..

The agitation was just called off on a letter of assurance from the government without any bilateral written agreement with them. In a letter issued in the name of the leadership of Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) by the Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, Sanjay Agrawal, the central government agreed to form a committee to decide the MSP issue. The committee will consist of government officials, agriculture experts and representatives from the SKM, the umbrella body of farmer unions that has led this protest.

The Centre has also agreed to drop all police cases against farmers in connection with their agitation and also those filed by Haryana and Uttar Pradesh regarding violent clashes with security forces over the past several months including complaints of stubble burning. It has assured the farmers that all cases against them relating to the protests will be immediately withdrawn and has appealed to all states to do the same.

Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have given in principle agreement to compensation for farmers who lost their lives, and Punjab has already has made an announcement, the Centre’s letter says. This is also being seen as a victory for farm unions as the government had told parliament just a few days back that it had no record of the number of farmers who died during the protests. Farmers ridiculed government saying, “They can count exact number of causalities happened in the darkness when the surgical strike took place in Pakistan, but they can’t see it with farmers in broad daylight.” The Bill on electricity will also be introduced only after consulting all stakeholders, including SKM, regarding the sections that affect farmers.

The sudden announcement of repealing the three farm laws on “Guru Purab” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in coming winter session of parliament failed to break deadlock. Having repealed the three controversial farm laws, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah initiated to break the impasse reaching out to the farmers by making just a phone call to discuss outstanding issues after their protests continued despite the repeal of  the farm laws in Parliament. “We will hold a review meeting on 15 January. If the government doesn’t fulfil its promises, we may resume the protest,” farmers’ leader Gurnam Singh Charuni warned government when media persons asked supposing if government did not follow the understanding later?

Dedicating the fabulous and historic victory to about 715 martyrs during the year-long struggle including those in Lakhimpur Kheri carnage. SKM congratulated, “all the protesting farmers, their supporters and citizens for whole-heartedly waging an unprecedented struggle and for the magnificent victory.” “Farmers’ unity, peace and patience has been the key to the victory, and this will not be allowed to contravene in any circumstance,” vowed the farmers’ leaders.

In joint a communique of the SKM leaders –– Balbir Singh Rajewal, Dr Darshan Pal, Gurnam Singh Charuni, Hannan Mollah, Jagjit Singh Dallewal, Joginder Singh Ugrahan, Shiv Kumar Sharma ‘Kakkaji’, Yudhvir Singh, Yogendra Yadav –– formally announced suspension of current agitation with the lifting of the Morchas surrounding Delhi borders on national highways and various other locations. “Battle has been won and the war to ensure farmers’ rights, especially to secure MSP as a legal entitlement for all farmers, will continue,” it added.

“This is a historic victory for Indian farmers after a historic movement both in terms of size as well as unity and peaceful nature of the protest,” said All India Kisan Sabha leader Hannan Mollah. “After today’s proposal from the government, I feel we have achieved 95% of the SKM’s demands,” added Krantikari Kisan Union leader Darshan Pal.

Surprised over the unexpected retreat from the PM Modi, many leaders left with the notes of caution as well. “Farmers have decided to suspend this agitation for now, but the movement will not end. The fight for farmers’ rights will continue,” said senior Punjab leader Balbir Singh Rajewal, who heads his own faction of the Bharatiya Kisan Union. Gurnam Singh Chaduni, another leader of Haryana-based BKU faction, warned, “We will resume our protests if the government does not keep its promises”. Farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chadhuni said, “The Samyukta Kisan Morcha-led farmers’ agitation is being suspended because the Centre has agreed to our demands.” However, he warned that the agitation could be resumed if the Centre “backtracks from its promises.”

The demands include law guaranteeing Minimum Support Price (MSP), withdrawal of proposed Electricity Reforms and Seed Bills and sacking of union minister of state for Home Affairs Ajay Misra Teni whose convoy mowed down farmers killing four farmers and a journalist besides injuring dozens of farmers. They also demanded withdraw of jail term for stubble burning, 50% subsidy on diesel and withdrawal of filed against farmers.  In an open letter to the Prime Minister, Samyukt Kisan Morcha sought immediate withdrawal of action against farm protesters who “have been implicated in hundreds of cases during this movement (June 2020 till date) in Delhi, Haryana, Chandigarh, Uttar Pradesh and several other states.”

Raising their key demand on MSP, the SKM letter said: “Minimum Support Price based on the comprehensive cost of production (C2+50%) should be made a legal entitlement of all farmers for all agricultural produce, so that every farmer of the country can be guaranteed at least the MSP announced by the government for their entire crop.”

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi in the winter session of parliament asked the Union Government to provide compensation and jobs for the next of kin of farmers who died during the year-long agitation against the three farm laws on the borders of the national capital.

Moving an adjournment motion on the farmers’ issue, Rahul Gandhi tabled a list in Lok Sabha of deceased farmers whose families were given compensation and employment by the Punjab government. “We found out that Punjab government has paid compensation of Rs. 5 lakh each to the kin of more than 400 farmers. Of these 400 farmers’ families, 152 have also been given jobs also. I have one more list of 70 farmers from Haryana,” he added.

Demanding a statement from the government on the issue, Congress members along with DMK and NCP colleagues walked out of the House raising slogans against the government when their adjournment motion was disallowed by the chair.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement two weeks ago announcing the repeal of the legislation was hollow as the Bill withdrawing the laws was cleared without a discussion on farmers’ demands regarding MSP and the Lakhimpur Kheri “massacre”.

Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge too followed the party lines while congratulating the farmers who fought for their rights and attained victory. He reiterated the support for the demand of compensation to the bereaved families of over 700 people who lost their lives during the year-long protest.“We will continue to fight for farmers’ issues,” he added.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said if his party forms the next government in the state after the upcoming assembly polls it would give Rs 25 lakh to the families of each of the 700 farmers who died during the protests.“There should have been a discussion on the farm laws, which have been repealed. While the BJP should have informed how the repeal has benefited the farmers, the Opposition could have a chance to raise the issue,” Akhilesh remarked.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president Mayawati urged for a proper law to define the Minimum Support Price for crops. She hailed the repeal of the laws as the victory of democracy but pointed out that the Centre was silent on the demands of farmers on a guaranteed MSP. She called for a discussion in Parliament about taking “solid steps” for the upliftment of farmers.

Shiromani Akali Dal MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal commented, “I congratulate the farmers on their victory today. But 700 farmers lost their lives during their year-long protest against farm laws. We will always stand with and for the farmers.”

The future course of farmers’ agitation would depend on the wisdom of the government, particularly, of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is positioning himself to regain reins of power in the general elections of 2024. But he has to overcome full blown anti-incumbency factors already boggling the minds of his committed electorate. People have started questioning his performance results over his tall promises doubling farmers income and promises of employment to the youth.  So, the time has come to heal the wounds of farmers who were attempted to be isolated with all sorts of tarnishing jibe trolls — Khalistani, Terrorist, Maoist, Tukde-tukde gang — to discredit their non-violent and peaceful non-cooperation movement for safeguarding their rights to have remunerative support price for all the agriculture produce.