AUGUST 26, 2021 marked the completion of nine months of the historic farmers' movement, with peaceful protests that involved lakhs of farmers and their supporters at Delhi's borders, and throughout the country. This unparalleled movement has brought to the forefront of public debate in India the issues of farmers and their future squarely. It has helped farmers regain an identity of dignity in the nation's polity. It has helped forge bonds of unity and collective spirit amongst the farming communities in India, and amongst their organisations, transcending caste, religion, language, region, state and other diversities.
This movement has also unified and activated opposition political parties in the country, to work together in support of farmers and other ordinary citizens. It has galvanised action by the youth in rural India, and has energised women farmers of the country. It has ensured that big corporations go on the defensive under citizens' pressure. This movement has re-established the citizens' basic right to peaceful protest in a democracy. While the movement is expanding and unfolding, it has also been able to provide energy and support to numerous local struggles of farmers in the country and has taken several of them towards successful resolution.
It was on this day that the first-ever National Convention of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) began at the Singhu Border near Delhi amidst great enthusiasm, and it concluded on August 27. Over 2000 delegates from hundreds of organisations from 22 states attended this convention. They included not only delegates from hundreds of kisan organisations, but also leaders of various trade unions, and organisations of agricultural workers, women, students, youth, dalits, adivasis and other marginalised sections. It was a microcosm of India that attended this meet.
The convention began by paying homage to the 600 martyrs of this farmers' struggle. It was inaugurated by Rakesh Tikait, who reaffirmed the resolve of farmers to continue the peaceful protest till all the demands are met. Ashish Mittal, convenor of the organising committee, placed the main draft resolution calling for intensification and expansion of the struggle until the three farm laws are repealed, the Electricity Amendment Bill is withdrawn, and legal guarantee to an MSP @ C2 + 50 per cent is given.
The inaugural session on the above farmers' issues was addressed by prominent leaders like AIKS general secretary Hannan Mollah, Atul Kumar Anjaan, Rajaram Singh, Joginder Singh Ugrahan, Darshan Pal, Yogendra Yadav, Jagjit Singh Dallewal, Gurnam Singh Charuni, Medha Patkar, Shivkumar Sharma, Vadde Sobhanadreswara Rao and others. AIKS president Ashok Dhawale was among those in the presidium of the inaugural session.
Hannan Mollah underlined the truly historic nature of this united SKM-led farmers’ struggle, the like of which has never been seen since independence. It is directed against the alliance of the BJP-RSS central government and the corporate lobby, which is now bent on selling off the country, and attacking democracy, secularism and the constitution itself. The peasantry taking part in this struggle hails from all religions, castes and regions. The struggle over the last nine months has strongly countered both repression and defamation from the RSS-BJP. The farmers are fighting not only for themselves, but also for the people of the entire country, since the farm laws will destroy everyone. The working class and other sections have been supporting the SKM-led struggle, and the SKM in turn is also supporting their struggles, because the Modi regime is leading an all-round attack on all sections of the working people. In the end, he called for a massive campaign to ensure the political defeat of the BJP, in which the Muzaffarnagar rally on September 5 and the Bharat Bandh on September 25 will play a crucial role.
This session on farmers' issues was followed by separate sessions which were addressed by leaders of the working class; agricultural workers, dalits and adivasis; women, student and youth organisations. The distinguishing feature of this convention was that it was a manifestation of worker-peasant unity and the unity of all exploited and oppressed sections.
Among those from various organisations who addressed these sessions were CITU president K Hemalata, AIAWU general secretary B Venkat, AIDWA general secretary Mariam Dhawale and SFI joint secretary Dipsita Dhar. AIKS Haryana vice president Inderjit Singh was in the presidium of one of these sessions. More than 100 delegates of the AIKS, AIAWU, CITU, AIDWA, DYFI and SFI from various states participated in this national convention.
Resolutions were unanimously adopted expressing solidarity and support to their struggles on burning issues like the four labour codes, alarming unemployment and hunger, expansion of days and wages under MGNREGA, implementation of the Forest Rights Act, against displacement of tribals by corporates, massive price rise of diesel, petrol, gas and other essential commodities, efforts to dismantle the PDS, atrocities on women, and privatisation of education and the health system.
Two more important resolutions – one against the divisive communalism of the RSS-BJP combine, and the other against privatisation and sale of the country to the corporates by the Modi regime – were unanimously adopted by the convention.
The last session of the convention was devoted to expansion and intensification of this historic farmers' struggle. Several farmer leaders from all over the country placed their views.
CLARION CALL TO ACTION
The SKM national convention unanimously adopted the main resolution which gave the following three-point clarion call to action:
1. Make the Bharat Bandh on September 25 a historic success,
2. Make the Muzaffarnagar Kisan Mahapanchayat of lakhs of farmers on September 5 a massive success. This will inaugurate 'Mission Uttar Pradesh-Uttarakhand' which will be taken down to the grassroots to ensure the defeat of the BJP regimes in both the states.
3. Form joint committees of the SKM in all states and districts in India, to ensure a pan-India expansion and intensification of the farmers' struggle.
The convention concluded with resounding slogans of unity around farmers' demands, and calling for the defeat of the corrupt, communal and corporate nexus between the RSS-BJP regime led by Modi and Shah, and the rapacious corporate lobby led by Ambani and Adani.
BRUTAL REPRESSION AT KARNAL
On August 28, the very next day after the successful conclusion of the convention, brutal repression was unleashed by the BJP-JJP government, its administration and its police in Haryana, on peaceful farmer protestors in Karnal. They had gathered to peacefully give slogans and show black flags to BJP chief minister Manoharlal Khattar, who had come to attend a programme in Karnal. Scores of farmers were seriously injured and were bleeding profusely in the violence unleashed by the police.
The worst aspect was the disgraceful orders of the SDM Ayush Sinha to the police force deployed in Karnal to "break the heads" of the protestors. The video of him giving these orders has gone viral. It is evident that the SDM could not have given such draconian orders without political instigation from the top. The next day, police cases were lodged against 100 farmers.
On the same night of August 28, Sushil Kajal, a 55 year old farmer of village Raipur Jatan, district Karnal, who received severe blows in the police lathi charge, died of heart attack. He was cremated at 11 am on the morning of August 29, without any post mortem being conducted. He was a regular participant in this farmers' struggle right from the beginning.
Sushil Kajal became a martyr of the bloodthirsty BJP-JJP state government of Haryana, which has waged a war on its own people by lodging false police cases on nearly 40,000 farmers, including two cases of sedition, in the last nine months of this historic farmers' struggle.
The SKM gave a call to block roads everywhere to condemn this repression and the death of Sushil Kajal. Farmers from all over Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and other states responded to this call. In several places effigies of the Haryana chief minister were burnt.
Haryana CM Manoharlal Khattar brushed aside the barbaric and illegal instructions of Ayush Sinha as only a wrong choice of words! This clearly points the needle of suspicion of political direction of this brutal attack to the CM himself. On the other hand, BJP leader and Meghalaya governor Satya Pal Malik hinted that if the Khattar government does not dismiss the official immediately, it can only be assumed that the official was acting on instructions from elsewhere.
A massive SKM kisan panchayat organised in the Gharonda grain market in Karnal issued an ultimatum to the Haryana government and gave the deadline of September 6, by which the farmers want the BJP-JJP government to take strong action against SDM Ayush Sinha by filing a case with murder charges on him, and by dismissing him immediately. SKM also demanded the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all police cases by the Haryana government.
The AIKS, in two press releases issued on consecutive days, denounced the repression by the Haryana government and its police, mourned the death of martyr Sushil Kajal, and demanded the immediate dismissal of the SDM Ayush Sinha; the institution of a case under IPC 302 against him; a judicial enquiry into the police atrocities, with specific terms of reference to also expose the political masters behind such disgraceful orders, which are a reminder of the orders of the hated British General Dyer and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre; and the Supreme Court taking suo moto cognisance of the above shocking video of SDM Ayush Sinha and immediately punish all those guilty, including the political leaders who were responsible for this brutal repression.
The AIKS warned the BJP-JJP state government that the current unprecedented farmers' struggle can never be suppressed by such inhuman acts of the anti-people government. These efforts at repression will only strengthen the farmers' resolve and determination. The AIKS called upon all its units across the country to condemn this barbaric repression in Haryana and the killing of Sushil Kajal by organising immediate nationwide protest demonstrations.
SKM also condemned the latest move by the Haryana government to amend the Land Acquisition Act (LARR 2013) in a way that opens the floodgates of compulsory acquisition under the garb of PPP without farmers' consent. This amendment seeks to bring, from the backdoor, the anti-farmer amendments that the Modi government failed to carry out in 2015. It undermines the significant law that was unanimously passed by parliament in 2013.
There was a lathi-charge on farmers in Amritsar, where they were protesting against the PM's virtual speech in an inauguration of a modernisation of Jallianwala Bagh. Thousands of youth had assembled, wanting to go to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre site. But they were stopped by the police. The youth challenged Narendra Modi's moral right to get involved in this event.
In a welcome development, the Tamil Nadu state legislature last week passed a resolution against the three anti-farmer, pro-corporate black laws of the Modi government. Several state governments have expressed their resistance to these laws, and have supported the farmers' struggle in diverse ways.
SKM expressed its sincere condolences at the passing away of the renowned scholar-activist Gail Omvedt. It said that her writings and activism contributed immensely to the vision of well-being of the last person and to all the peoples' movements, especially the movements for dalits, bahujans, women and landless farmers.
Preparations for the SKM kisan mahapanchayat at Muzaffarnagar on September 5 are in full swing not only in Uttar Pradesh, but also in all adjoining states. All SKM constituent organisations are making all their efforts. It will be an unprecedented rally of lakhs of farmers.
The AIKS is also making full preparations to mobilise thousands of farmers from Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. AIKS leaders Hannan Mollah, Ashok Dhawale, Amra Ram, N K Shukla, Vijoo Krishnan, P Krishnaprasad, Badal Saroj, D P Singh, Chandrapal Singh, Mukut Singh, Inderjit Singh, Major Singh Punnewal, Gangadhar Nautiyal and many others have attended several physical or virtual meetings in the above states to mobilise the AIKS in large numbers for this kisan mahapanchayat, which will inaugurate the politically significant Mission Uttar Pradesh-Uttarakhand to oust the BJP from power in both these states.