IN a historic protest action, thousands of farmers representing more than 184 organisations came to Delhi for the Kisan Sansad/Kisan Parliament held on November 20-21, 2017. On November 20 they marched in a colourful procession from the Ramlila Maidan with tens of thousands holding red flags and banners with an accompaniment of green, blue, yellow and pink flags winding their way to the Parliament Street. The most distinguishing feature of this rally and Kisan Sansad was its truly pan-Indian character, and almost every state in the country was well-represented.
The enthusiastic march was led among others by AIKS president Dr Ashok Dhawale, AIKS vice president Amra Ram, joint secretaries Vijoo Krishnan, KK Ragesh, Badal Saroj and finance secretary P Krishnaprasad and leaders of state Kisan Sabhas along with VM Singh, convenor, AIKSCC, Yogendra Yadav and Avik Saha, Jai Kisan Andolan, Rajaram Singh, general secretary, AIKMS, Prem Singh and Kartik Rai, AIKMS, Ashish Mittal and Chandrashekhar, AIKKMS, Raju Shetty, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana and others. Since morning, thousands of farmers started marching with flags and sloganeering also from Ambedkar Bhavan, Gurudwara Rakabganj and different railway stations to reach the Kisan Mukti Sansad at Parliament Street. The contingent of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) in this rally and Kisan Sansad was the largest, but many other Kisan organisations had also mobilised in strength.
On November 20, the Kisan Mukti Sansad started after completing Kisan Mukti Yatra of more than 10 thousand kilometres by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee in 19 states. The Sansad started with tributes to the farmers martyred in Mandsaur and other police firings, to farmers who committed suicide, and to farmers of Yavatmal, who died due to pesticide poisoning.
A special feature of this programme was the Mahila Kisan Sansad with 543 women representatives. Medha Patkar was the speaker. Kavitha Kurganthi introduced the objectives of the Mahila Kisan Sansad. It discussed the grim situation of farmers, and especially women farmers, in the country. There were several widows, mothers, sisters and daughters of farmers who had been forced to commit suicide due to indebtedness. Some of them spoke about their plight, but at the same time they courageously declared their resolve to combat the disastrous policies of the government that had led to the suicide of their husbands. Women activists from all over the country also spoke. They included Sudha Sudararaman and Annie Raja. The Mahila Kisan Sansad gave its consent to table two crucial bills before the Kisan Sansad that followed.
Hannan Mollah, AIKS general secretary presented the ‘Farmers’ Freedom from Debt Bill, 2017’ and Raju Shetty, MP presented the ‘Farmers’ Right to Assured Remunerative Prices for Agricultural Produce Bill, 2017’. The bills will be discussed at every state level with a drafting committee visiting states and will be tabled in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha after incorporating necessary amendments. After getting the amendments from across the country, both these Bills will be finalised by two standing committees headed by Hannan Mollah and Raju Shetty.
The Kisan Sansad also felicitated the AIKS vice president Amra Ram for the historic victory of the Kisan Sabha struggle in Rajasthan as well as Raju Shetty, MP for quitting the NDA and coming out against the Narendra Modi-led BJP government’s betrayal of promises made to farmers.
Hannan Mollah while placing the bill, said that the BJP government and traders have looted the farmers by continuously paying them less and forced them into debt. This in turn caused the suicide of more than four lakh farmers in the country. Farmers have united to fight the exploitation now and will not allow the government or traders to loot the farmers any more. He also said that farmers’ organisations from all over the country have consistently demanded loan waiver but it is unique that now they are also presenting the bill for the parliament to discuss and approve. Comprehensive legislations to ensure freedom from debt cycle for farmers as well as assured remunerative prices will have to be passed by the parliament, he said. The nationwide united farmers’ struggle for these demands will continue relentlessly.
Dr Ashok Dhawale, AIKS president attacked the Narendra Modi-led BJP government for betraying farmers and called it the most anti-farmer government in independent India. He condemned the BJP regime for giving loan waivers of lakhs of crores of rupees to a handful of corporates, while denying it to crores of farmers in distress. He also said that neither the Congress nor the BJP governments at the centre had implemented the recommendation of MSP at one and a half times the cost of production, made by the National Commission of Farmers that was headed by Dr MS Swaminathan. Narendra Modi and the BJP had, in fact, betrayed their election promise to do so. He said that the fighting unity of the farmers will defeat both the repressive tactics of the anti-people government and its diabolical conspiracy to divide the people on communal lines.
Amra Ram, vice president, AIKS and Dr Ajit Nawale, general secretary, Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha drew attention to the victory of the peasant struggles in Rajasthan and Maharashtra respectively and expressed confidence that this historic movement will also emerge victorious.
VM Singh, Yogendra Yadav, Atul Anjaan, Medha Patkar, Sunilam, Pratibha Shinde, Rajaram Singh, Kodihalli Chandrashekhar, Ashish Mittal, Satyawan, Avik Saha, Kiran Bassa and many other kisan leaders and activists also addressed the Kisan Sansad. Leaders of different class and mass organisations were also present in solidarity. The insensitive BJP government, the prime minister and the agriculture minister refused to meet a delegation of the AIKSCC.
The Kisan Sansad also decided to have a two month campaign from November 26, 2017 to January 26, 2018 on the two bills and against the anti-farmer policies of the BJP government. The first public hearing (jansunwai) on the two bills will be held in Gujarat in November-end. This campaign will be followed by intensified nation-wide action in a coordinated manner by bringing in more organisations and holding state level conventions. Resistance will be organised unitedly at the local level to ensure that MSP is given to all crops and also to ensure that debt-ridden farmers are not harassed by the banks or private money-lenders. The farmers returned back with a firm resolve to fight against the insensitive BJP government and carry on the struggle until victory. The Kisan Sansad concluded amidst great enthusiasm with the singing of the National Anthem.