Vol. XLI No. 28 July 09, 2017

Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan’s Third Conference

Intensify United Peasant Movement to Fight Agrarian Crisis

THE agrarian crisis will worsen in the near future if the Modi government does not change its policies, is the warning given by the third all India conference of Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan held in Ranchi on June 29-30, 2017. The resolution adopted by the delegates has observed that in the third year of the Modi government, the political situation in the country is akin to that of anti-emergency upsurge of peasants and workers that had positively influenced the defeat of Indira Gandhi Government in 1977. The unity of the people through mass struggles will help to bring the Left and Democratic political alternative at the all India level. Hence the resolution has called upon the peasants and workers to be prepared for protracted struggles to reverse the erroneous policies of the central government.

The conference was attended by 21 peasant and social organisations from Jharkhand and 10 all India organisations. 341 delegates attended the conference and around 2000 activists attended the public rally. The media in Jharkhand gave wide coverage to the conference.

The resolution strongly condemned brutal repression on farmers and series of police firings as happened in Mandsaur of Madhya Pradesh in which six farmers were killed and in different parts of Jharkhand where seven adivasi farmers were killed for resisting amendments to the Santhal Paragana Tenancy Act and Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act. 

The conference has strongly condemned the anti-farmer ‘Modani model of economic development’ being pursued by the NDA government that facilitates loot of land and public resources. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been surrendering the agriculture, industry, market and natural resources for corporate loot and super profits. The policies of 100 per cent FDI in agriculture and retailing,   e-platform to link all agriculture produce markets, contract farming and free trade agreements are detrimental to the peasantry and agriculture and needs to be defeated. Colossal crash in the prices of agriculture produce has become the main form of looting the peasantry by market forces. 

The demonetisation and the resultant crash of market price of all crops and the recent surgical strike on farmers by banning cattle trade that has deeply affected the small and poor peasants who own 50 per cent of the cattle wealth have adversely hit the peasant economy. The unrest is widening among all sections including peasants, workers, dalits, adivasis, minorities, women and the youth.

The conference resolved to convene meeting of all platforms and organisations of the peasantry in New Delhi based on five demands. After the meeting, a delegation along with a team of members of parliament will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and submit a memorandum. The date will be decided through mutual consultation. The demands are as follows-

1.  The central government must enact a law ensuring remunerative price of 50 per cent above cost of production to all crops and guarantee purchase centres as recommended by National Farmers Commission chaired by MS Swaminathan and to promote development of modern agro-processing and marketing networks under social cooperatives of the peasants.

2. Comprehensive loan waiver to the peasantry and interest free credit for agriculture

3. Immediately withdraw the anti-farmer notification of the central government banning cattle trade in the cattle market.

4.  Comprehensive implementation of MGNREGA linking it with agriculture.

5. Ensure monthly pension of Rs 5000 at the age of 60 to all agriculture workers and small and marginal peasants holding up to 2 hectares of land.

The conference decided to carry forward the ongoing struggles of farmers by expanding the unity of all the Left and democratic organisations of the peasants, agriculture workers, rural poor and other marginalised sections of the society including dalits, adivasis, minorities, women and rural youth. In order to equip the united peasant movement, the BAA will organise joint conventions in all states and form state level coordination committees within the coming three months.  Thereafter, an extended meeting with representatives of all state level platforms will be organised to take stock of the progress and to decide a future plan of countrywide massive struggles.

The BAA will organise a protest march at Jantar Mantar on July 18, in coordination with other platforms. Series of public meetings, jathas, household visits and distribution of leaflets will be conducted. Peasant rallies will be organised in all districts across the country on August 9, 2017. Future struggles will be decided after August 9. Struggles at the state level are taking place and the same will be continued as decided by the state leadership of the united movement depending upon the response by the respective state governments.

The resolution observed that the decision of the Jharkhand governor to send back the bills to amend CNTA and SPTA to the state government is the victory of the struggle and supreme sacrifice of seven adivasi farmers who were killed by BJP led state government in October 2016. The Jharkhand platform of the BAA has decided to organise protracted struggles if the state government goes ahead to amend CNTA and SPTA to allow corporate takeover of the tribal land. The conference also decided that the BAA will start sit-in strike from July 12 onwards at Ranchi when the assembly session starts. The struggle will be extended all over the country by joining hands with the tribal organisations and a march to parliament will be organised.

However, pressure built by the ongoing struggles and the impact of the Ranchi conference of BAA has forced the BJP led state government to decide on July 3, to declare that it will give up the proposal of conversion of the agriculture land for non-agriculture purposes and also to suspend the move to amend the SPTA and CNTA for the time being. This is a victory for the peasantry and the adivasi people all over the country.   

The BAA resolution resolved to coordinate with various dalit organisations to ensure land and housing rights for all dalit households. A delegation of senior leaders of BAA along with a team of members of parliament will visit Saharanpur to meet the victims of atrocities against dalits and meet the chief minister of UP to ensure their protection and social and economic welfare. The date will be decided after due consultation.

The conference strongly deplored the series of lynching incidents, a deliberate strategy to divide and rule as practiced for years by colonial regimes as well as communal forces. The RSS is behind the lynching and so far 23 persons are killed under the Modi government. The conference decided to organise a protest day at panchayat/block level against lynching of people by unleashing mob violence.

The real culprits of the murder of a dairy farmer Pehlu Khan named in the FIR have not been arrested even after two months and not a single rupee had been given as compensation to the family by the BJP led state government of Rajasthan. Instead, the peasant movement has provided Rs 15 lakhs to the families of the Alwar victims including Pehlu Khan. Incidents of women, dalits, adivasis and minorities being subjected to violence and atrocities by anti-social elements and upper caste gangs have become the custom of the day under the rule of the BJP.

BAA will organise the rural cross sections of the people against mob lynching and communal polarisation in the context of inaction by the administration and the police under the BJP ruled states. The BAA will ensure with all other progressive mass and class organisations that India and its people will remain united against the neo-liberal and communal alliance of the RSS-BJP combine at this critical juncture of history. BAA demands the Supreme Court to institute a high level enquiry to unearth the conspiracy and the role of RSS in perpetuating the series of attacks against Muslims in order to communally polarise the people and the role of administration in protecting and aiding such criminal gangs in all the related incidents of crime. BAA demands Rs One crore be given as compensation to the families of all the victims of communal attacks in the name of cow protection. 

The conference also decided to organise a convention, in cooperation with the Narmada Bachao Andolan, of activists from Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat against the illegal and forceful eviction of 40,000 families in Narmada Valley without compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement, to plan immediate action.

The conference decided to coordinate with all the central trade unions and other mass and class organisations and take their support to widen the peasant struggle. The trade unions  have included the demand of withdrawing the Land Acquisition Ordinance in the common demand charter in 2015 and the peasantry under the leadership of the BAA had joined the September 2 all India strikes of the working class in the years 2015 and 2016. Now the peasant struggle is getting intensified across the country and larger unity of the peasantry and the working class is essential to meet the genuine demands of the toiling sections of the country.

The direction of the resolution of this conference will help to orchestrate the ongoing struggles of various social sections against the neo-liberal policies and the communal forces and pave way to consolidate the Left and democratic forces all over the country. This movement will fortify the worker-peasant alliance which is the axis of the agrarian revolution.  The role of BAA will be decisive in advancing the class struggle and instilling confidence among the working class, peasantry and all other sections of the toiling people of India.