OVER Thirty thousand farmers and agricultural workers at the call of AIKS and AIAWU from six North Bengal districts flooded the streets of Siliguri in North Bengal , to protest against the anti farmer policies of the Modi-led Union government and the West Bengal state government on December 27. All Siliguri bound trains virtually turned into ‘Kishan Express’ on that day and a day before. Many of them had come from far flung mountainous belt or distant rural areas in the Bengal bordering Assam and Bangladesh.
Residents of Siliguri extended their solidarity to marchers by supplying ‘roti’ and vegetables. Volunteers collected food from houses and finally more than one lakh packets were served.
The march started from a place near Mahananda river and walked 5 km to reach Tinbatti crossing. The march was led by Ashoke Dhawale, AIKS president, AIKS West Bengal state president Nripen Choudhury, state secretary Amal Haldar, AIAWU state secretary Amiyo Patra and president Tushar Ghosh along with Siliguri Mayor and MLA Ashok Bhattacharya and Tapash Sarkar - sabhadhipati of Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad. Marchers went ahead like a flow of red river.
The peasants demanded remunerative price for agricultural produces, irrigation facilities, proper functioning of MNREGA in villages, waiver of loans, guarantee of wages for agricultural workers.
The determined mood of the peasants was gauged by the determination shown by Maya Thapa, an agricultural labourer from Naxalbari. She had started working as agricultural worker when she was only 14 years old. While coming to the venue she suffered from insect bite which badly affected her skin, making it painfully swollen, but brimming with confidence she declared that she would be joining the march. Indeed the array of red flags of AIKS, the high pitched slogans of the participants and outpouring discontent of the peasantry and agricultural labourers brought open startling facts of oppression. In rural Bengal middlemen have taken control of the state government run ‘kisan mandis’ coercing the farmers to sell their produce at peanut prices.
Darjeeling district AIKS president K B Watar alleged that the Tea garden owners are playing with life of the tea workers. Due to non-cooperation of the state government the Orange trees are dying in the state. After the abolition of Hill Milk Growers Cooperative by the TMC government, the hill people are now left at the mercy of the Sikkim government to buy their produce. Nearly 300 AIKS activists from Bijan bari, Sukhipokori and Mirik joined the march in Siliguri.
Ashoke Dhawale speaking in a rally organised after the culmination of the march spoke of Modi and Mamata as the same imprint of a unitary mould whose policies are ruining peasantry. He asserted that the peasant movement in Bengal is on the rise again. He lambasted at the BJP government for its anti farmer policies and said that the farmers wrath consolidated after AIKS led protracted struggles has led to a comprehensive defeat of the BJP in the last held assembly elections in the five states of the country.
The ploy of communal polarization started by BJP and the sangh parivar by holding a dharma mahasammelan at Ayodhya, had no beneficial effect for the BJP in the assembly election results. It got routed. AIKS agitation has brought once again the issues of workers and farmers to the centre stage of politics in the country. Even the ‘march’ from Singur to Kolkata Rajbhawan has been a bright example of pouring farmers discontent against the anti people policies of the union government, he said in the rally.
The rally was presided over by AIKS state president Nripen Choudhury and was addressed by AIKS leader Amal Haldar, AIAWU leader Amiyo Patra and Tushar Ghosh and Siliguri Mayor and MLA Ashok Bhattacharya.
The rally announced determination to observe 8-9 January strike a success.