Vol. XLI No. 09 February 26, 2017

Peasantry Will Resist State & Corporate Attack on Land, Agriculture and Livelihood

Hannan Mollah

THE Central Kisan Committee of AIKS met in Delhi on February 15-16 to discuss the prevailing agrarian situation in the country. It has decided to join hands with all like-minded left and progressive organisations of peasants, agricultural workers, dalits and tribals to resist the attack unleased by the Centre and various state governments on land, agriculture and the livelihood of the peasantry. AIKS will intensify the struggle against corporate land grab and the attack on the peasantry and the tribal population.

Land Issue Emerging as Focus of Struggle

The CKC noted with serious concern reports from various states about eviction of farmers and land-grabbing by governments, bypassing the land acquisition legislation of 2013. After a countrywide movement against the Modi government’s land-grab conspiracy, the NDA dispensation was forced to retreat from passing its land acquisition amendment bill after three abortive attempts. For the first time, the central government was defeated by farmers’ struggle. But, the theatre of attack was then shifted from the Centre to states. State governments led by the BJP and its allies started forcibly acquiring farmers’ land. The BJP governments in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand were in the forefront of such new attacks, followed by its friendly dispensations in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha.

The people in these states started resisting such moves. Subsequently, a series of police firings and murder of farmers in various parts of the country took place in recent months. The Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal killed two persons -- Sk Alamgir and Mofiazul Khan -- in Bhangar by unleashing police firing on peaceful agitators who were protesting forcible land acquisition for construction of a power grid. In Assam, two persons including a woman were killed in police firing as the government tried to evict farmers from their land in Kaziranga region. In Jharkhand, the BJP government launched the worst attack on tribal farmers, killing Abraham Munda in Cyco village; Dasrath Nayak and Ram Ratan Mahato in Tonga Ratu village; Ranjan Das, Avhikhek Rai, Matlub Alam and Pawan Sau in Barkagaon. All these murders in Jharkhand were over land and land-related issues orchestrated by the corporate-driven move of the government to snatch mineral-rich tribal land.

In its bid to deny the tribal population their right over land, the Raghubar Das government in Jharkhand also tried to amend the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 and the Santhal Parganas Tenancy Act, 1949. These Acts were brought in after long battle of the tribal population under the leadership of Sidhu and Kanhu in Santhal Parganas and Birsa Munda in Chotanagpur. These Acts are listed in the 5TH Scheduled of the Constitution and cannot be changed. The Modi government has no respect for the Constitution and the rights of tribal people, and is hell bent on hunting innocent tribal peasants to serve the interests of its corporate masters.

The CKC, in a resolution, has urged Parliament to take bold decision to resist the attack on the Constitution by the BJP-led state government of Jharkhand and protect the rights of the tribal people. A massive convention and a rally will be held in Ranchi and the struggle will be continued by forming broad, united platform of farmers, agricultural workers and social organisations.

The CKC also took note of land struggles in other states. In Maharashtra, AIKS took up the issues of suicide by farmers, agricultural loan waiver and compensation for losses due to drought. About one lakh peasants and agriculture workers took part in a rally in Nasik and gheraoed the commissioner’s office for 48 hours and forced the government to accede to some of their demands. Another rally in Wada of around 50,000 tribals reflected the growing anger among farmers against the government’s policy. In Karnataka, the AIKS took up fight against acquisition of land. In Tamil Nadu, massive rallies were held demanding relief for the drought-affected people and compensation to families of farmers who have committed suicide due to debt burden.

Large-scale struggle against land grab is going on in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. In the garb of land pooling, lakh of acres of land has been acquired by the Chandrababu Naidu government for the new capital in Amaravati and ports and airports. Farmers were mobilised to fight against this attack against the peasantry. Brutal police atrocities and arrest of cadres and implicating them in false cases are regular affairs in the state. In Telangana, the TRS government forcibly acquired four lakh acres of land, bypassing the 2013 land acquisition act. The AIKS organised massive struggle against the move.

In Rajasthan, the BJP government increased by 3-4 times the electricity charge for farmers. The AIKS organised massive protest in Shekhawati belt and has been campaigning for boycotting payment of power bills. There is a massive response and thousands of people joined the first phase of the struggle. A march to the Assembly had been planned for March 2 when two lakh farmers were to gherao the Assembly indefinitely. After the announcement of this struggle, the government retreated and withdrew the increased charges unilaterally. The AIKS has now decided to hold a victory rally for this great achievement. In West Bengal, the AIKS organised a huge protest rally against the police firing in Bhangar.

Anti-farmer Policies of Modi Govt

The prevailing agrarian crisis was aggravated by the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. In most states, farmers did not get remunerative price for their produce and there was not procurement of food grains by the government. The peasantry was forced to go for distress sale. But the Modi government is going for import of wheat and pulses with higher price. This is against our farmers’ interest. The crop insurance scheme has proved to be a fraud with the farmers and is only helping corporate insurance companies. There has been no relief for farmers from debt which is forcing many of them to commit suicide. On an average, 52 farmers commit suicide every day in the country, and the highest number of suicides occurred in Maharashtra. The Vidarbha region, the home of the BJP Chief Minister, is the worst hit. A few days ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced at an election meeting in Uttar Pradesh that if his party came to power in Uttar Pradesh, it will waive farmers’ loan. Nothing can be further from the truth. If BJP wanted to waive loans of farmers, it could have done so in Maharashtra where the party has been in power for two-and-a-half years. If he is an honest man, he can do it as Prime minister. In the reality, Modi has proved himself as an enemy of farmers. He promised farmers to pay remunerative price but after coming to power, he refused to do that. The AIKS has decided to take up all these issues and organise struggle in different states in the next two months.

As per reports from many states, vast areas are under the grip of severe drought and famine, but the government’s response to the crisis was that of a mute spectator. Several districts of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra are facing unprecedented drought but the central government is not ready to undertake any protective measure to bring relief to the millions of affected people. AIKS units in these states have decided to launch movement seeking relief measures.

Expanding Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan to States

The CKC has decided to build broader and united struggles in these issues, besides carrying forward independent movements. It will join hands with all left and democratic farmers and agricultural workers’ unions. The CKC also noted that the Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan -- a broader platform of peasant movement -- should be strengthened. It is active at national level but it should be extended to state level. BAA state-level platform has already been formed in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Karnataka. Now, such a platform must be built in other states.

The AIKS will undertake massive campaign to forge unity of secular and progressive forces in rural India to counter the divisive efforts of RSS and Sangh Parivar organisations to divide the peasantry on caste and communal lines. Village-level campaign will be undertaken in the coming months to expose the venomous activities to break the unity of Indian people and attempts to weaken the country and its people.

The CKC also decided to expose the anti-people Union Budget for 2017-18. This is an anti-farmer budget. There is no provision for paying remunerative price to the farmers for their produce or ensuring agricultural inputs to the peasants at a lower cost. Without these measure, the talk of doubling farmers’ income by 2022 is a fraud on the peasantry.

All India Conference of AIKS

The CKC discussed the organisational matter and decided to hold 34th all-India conference of AIKS in Hisar in Haryana in the first week of October, 2017. A total of 731 delegates will attend the conference from 25 state units. Before that conferences at unit, anchal, tehsil, district and state levels will be completed and delegates for the all-India conference will be elected. The CKS laid stress on electing adequate number of women delegates to the conference.