A LARGE public meeting and rally in Sarbhog in Assam on May 12 marked the commencement of an extended state council meeting of the Assam State Kisan Sabha. The meeting, attended by several thousand peasants as well as other sections of the people, called for intensifying struggles against anti-people and anti-peasant policies of the BJP governments at the centre and in the state. It also raised the demand for immediate withdrawal of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, through which the Modi government is trying to communalise the whole issue of infiltration of illegal migrants that has rocked the state for the past four decades. The meeting was presided over by Monoranjan Talukder and addressed by Ashok Dhawale and Jiten Chowdhury, president and joint secretary the All India Kisan Sabha.
Dhawale, addressing the massive gathering, lambasted the BJP governments for their anti-peasant and anti-people policies. He said that the Modi government went back on all the promises it had given to the peasantry and the common people. On the contrary, it heaped enormous burdens on the already battered shoulders of the working masses while providing concessions to the big corporates, both domestic and foreign. The Modi government waived more than two-and-half lakh crores of rupees of bad debt of the big corporates but refused to waive a single rupee debt of the peasantry. It blatantly refused to honour its commitment given at the time of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to ensure remunerative prices of the agricultural produce as per the Swaminathan Committee’s recommendation, he said.
Today, due to the policies of the government, the rural distress has assumed an alarming dimension. He said that during the last four years of the Modi regime, incidents of peasant suicide increased by 42 per cent. Peasants are, therefore, restive today, he said, citing the heroic struggles of the peasantry in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and other BJP-ruled states. He said that Assam is also no exception in view of the raw deal provided by the BJP-led state government to the peasantry and other sections of the working people. People are getting increasingly disillusioned. The BJP government has been pursuing the politics of communal divide to divert the growing discontent of the masses into fratricidal channels and distract their attention from the basic issues of lives and livelihood. Dhawale called upon the huge assembly to build up united and powerful struggles to reverse the anti-people and anti-peasant policies of the present government and for a pro-people alternative policy framework. He also called for unity of all democratic and secular forces against the politics of communal divide pursued by the present government.
Jiten Chowdhury also sharply criticised the anti-peasant policies of the BJP government and dangerous politics of the communal divide it has been pursuing. He said that the BJP government is being remote-controlled by the RSS which is a communal organisation with a totalitarian outlook and which had no role in the freedom movement of our country. He also vehemently criticised the Modi government for attempting to legislate the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 with a sinister motive to communalise the issue of illegal migrants and deepen the process of communal polarisation. He called for building up powerful united struggles of the toiling masses to defeat the anti-people policies of the government and also the communal forces. Following the meeting, a large rally was taken out that paraded the main thoroughfares of Sarbhog town.
The extended STATE COUNCIL of the Assam State Kisan Sabha met on May 12 and 13 at Gandhi Bhavan, Sarbhog. The council meeting was attended by 101 delegates and was presided over by Assam State Kisan Sabha president Fazlur Rahman. Assam State Kisan Sabha secretary Tiken Das placed the report before the meeting. The report dealt with the burning problems faced by the peasantry in the state. The report called out the bluff of the BJP government in the state that the income of peasantry would be doubled by 2022. It said that the state government as well as the centre in their last budgets drastically reduced the expenditure related to agriculture and rural development. The report underlined that in Assam 41.90 per cent of the peasants were landless. A large section of the peasantry is being deprived of land pattas and consequently they are deprived of whatever institutional credit is still available. The state government, instead of providing pattas, has resorted to large scale eviction of peasants, particularly belonging to the religious minority group. Due to such eviction, 5,325 families were uprooted in the last two years. The report also mentioned that flood and erosion continue to severely affect the agriculture and peasantry. Forty per cent of the state’s land is flood-prone and seven per cent of land mass of the state by now has gone into the rivers due to erosion in the last two years. A whopping 11,211 peasant families in the Brahmaputra valley and more than 5,000 families in Barak valley lost their everything in erosion. The BJP government, instead of taking urgent measures to mitigate the problem, refused to declare the problem of flood and erosion in Assam as national problem and take steps to solve it on a permanent basis. The peasantry in Assam, the report pointed out, had been a victim of severe erosion of prices of their produce in the last two years of the BJP rule. Potatoes were sold at Rs 2-3 per kilo, garlic at Rs 5-12 per kilo and milk at Rs 20 per litre in some districts. Similarly, the peasants were forced to sell paddy at Rs 800-1,000 per quintal. The state government did nothing to mitigate the problem and ensure remunerative prices. Even MSP for paddy fixed by the government at Rs 1,470 per quintal proved meaningless as the government machinery failed to procure paddy from the peasants in time. The implementation of rural job scheme MGNREGA in the state has been dismal. In 2017-18, only 1.29 per cent of the approved projects under this scheme could be completed. As a result, unemployment in the rural areas has assumed an explosive dimension. Besides, the state government by a notification declared a large area of the state as industrial corridor. This will lead to large scale eviction of the peasantry and reduction of the cultivable land.
The state government took no initiative to implement the Forest Right Act. The report underlined the need for an expert team to study the Hari Shankar Brahma Committee Report on land rights for indigenous people. Finally, the report reviewed the activities of the Assam State Kisan Sabha and the struggles it carried out. The report called for strengthening the organisation further both qualitatively and quantitatively. It chalked out future programmes of action that include, inter alia, maximum mobilisation in the programme of ‘Jan Ekta Jan Adhikar Andolan’, building up of sustained movement on the issues of flood and erosion, land pattas, remunerative prices, irrigation and other local problems, holding of education camp in June/July, campaign for collecting 5 lakh signatures as per the call of the AIKS, maximum mobilisation in the demonstration and meeting on August 9 and protest rally in New Delhi on September 5.
Twenty-one delegates took part in the discussion on the report and enriched it with their live experiences at the grass-root level. The report was later adopted unanimously. The state council meet of Assam State Kinas Sabha ended on May 13 with a clarion call to strengthen the Assam State Kisan Sabha and intensify the struggle of the peasantry in the state on the concrete demands of the peasants as well as in defence of secularism and democracy.
MEETINGS IN TIHU AND RANGIA
In the afternoon of May 13, a massive rally and meeting took place in Tihu in Nalbari, an adjacent district, at the call of Kisan Sabha. Ashok Dhawale addressed the meeting. Similarly, a meeting of the activists and leaders of Kamrup (rural) district Kisan Sabha took place at Haradutta-Biradatta Bhavan, Rangia on May 14. More than two hundred activists of the Kisan Sabha attended the meeting which was addressed by Ashok Dhawale, Uddhab Barman and Tiken Das. A big rally was taken out that went through the main thoroughfares of the town.