August 18, 2019

MAHARASHTRA: Thousands of Peasants take to the Streets

Ajit Nawale

The All India Kisan Sabha AIKS) and the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) had given a nationwide call for demonstrations on August 3, 2019 to press for the adoption of the two Bills for peasant loan waiver and remunerative prices. Both these bills had been placed by AIKS national joint secretary and CPI(M) MP, K K Ragesh in the Rajya Sabha and by Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana MP, Raju Shetti in the Lok Sabha on August 3, 2018, after being introduced in the AIKSCC-organised Kisan Parliament in Delhi in November 2017.

By coincidence, August 3 was also the anniversary of two towering and legendary AIKS leaders in Maharashtra. It was the death anniversary of former AIKS national vice president, Shamrao Parulekar, who along with Godavari Parulekar (who was later to become the only woman AIKS national president so far), was the founder of the Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha and who led the historic ‘adivasi revolt’ in Thane district from 1945. He died in detention under the Congress regime in 1965. It was also the birth anniversary of former AIKS national president, Krantisinh Nana Patil, born in 1900, who became the leader of the three and a half year old Parallel government of Satara from 1943-46 against British rule.

In response to the AIKS call, on August 3, thousands of peasants in districts like Ahmednagar, Kolhapur, Sangli, Solapur, Buldana, Amravati and others marched to the district collectorates or tehsil offices on the two major demands of loan waiver and fair prices, and also on other vital demands like drought relief, crop insurance, temple trust lands and other local issues.

Earlier, on July 22-23, there had been large AIKS rallies in the tribal districts of the state on the issues of the defense of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and against the proposed draconian amendments to the Indian Forest Act (IFA), 1927. These were held in districts like Palghar, Yavatmal, Nanded, Parbhani and Ahmednagar, culminating in the massive 25,000-strong rally at Kalwan in Nashik district.

The largest action in Maharashtra on August 3 took place in Akole tehsil of Ahmednagar district. From August 1, braving incessant rains, hundreds of peasants from the five tehsils of Akole, Sangamner, Rahuri, Parner and Kopargaon laid siege to the tehsil office around the above burning issues and their local demands. The siege continued for three days. On August 3, a massive rally of thousands of peasants from these five tehsils marched to the tehsil office. Under this sustained pressure, the administration was forced to relent.

The sub divisional officer(SDO), Tehsildar, block development officer(BDO) and forest officer had to hold talks for over three hours with the AIKS delegation and had to concede the following demands: (i) Attempts to evict Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers from their forest lands would be stopped forthwith and those declared eligible under the FRA will be vested with their land rights. (ii) Over 750 files of claims for forest rights made many years ago under the leadership of the AIKS have been lost by the administration. It was decided to launch an immediate search to locate these missing files. (iii) A sum of Rs 3 lakh was immediately sanctioned for a water pipeline in the Thakarwadi at Veergaon village, the pipes were purchased and the work of laying the pipeline was actually started on the third day of the stir. (iv) The issue of the Pradhan Mantri Aawaas Yojana (PMAY-housing scheme) was seriously taken up, hundreds of applications for the same were submitted and it was agreed that they would be rapidly processed. (v) Several other local demands of roads to be built or repaired through the MNREGA, giving electricity connections to villages etc., were conceded and work begun on them as a result of this three-day struggle.

This struggle was led by AIKS state general secretary,  Dr Ajit Nawale, district president Yadavrao Nawale, state council members Sadashiv Sable and Namdev Bhangre, Sahebrao Ghode and Eknath Mengal of DYFI, Hareesh Dhongde of SFI and Aradhana Borhade, Jubeda Maniar and Mathurabai Barde of AIDWA.