The Significance of Muzaffarnagar Rally
THE Muzaffarnagar Mahapanchayat organised by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) on September 5 will go down as a historic landmark in the annuls of the peasant movement of the country. Lakhs of farmers from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab along with contingents from many other states participated in the rally.
The call for the kisan mahapanchayat was given at the national convention held by the SKM at Singhu border on August 26-27. The mahapanchayat was to mark the beginning of the campaign to dislodge the BJP governments of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in the forthcoming assembly elections. The convention also gave a call for a Bharat Bandh on September 25 (later changed to September 27).
The resolutions passed at the national convention showed the broadened horizons of the nine month-old kisan movement. While the demand to scrap the three farm laws, withdraw the Electricity Amendment Act and ensure guarantee of minimum support price at C2+50 per cent remain the central focus, the kisan movement has adopted a more comprehensive outlook which encompasses the demands of other sections of the working people – working class, agricultural workers, rural workers and adivasis. This was reflected in the resolutions demanding the scrapping of the four labor codes, extension of wages under MNREGA, implementation of Forest Rights Act, against atrocities on women and curbing of price rise of diesel, petrol and essential commodities.
The Muzaffarnagar rally was notable not only for its massive participation, but there was another political significance. Eight years ago, in 2013, Muzaffarnagar district was engulfed in communal violence and over 80 people lost their lives, many women were raped and hundreds of houses destroyed. The communal divide this created, particularly between the dominant peasant community of Jats and Muslims, was fully utilised by the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP swept the elections in western Uttar Pradesh and the communal polarisation had its impact in Haryana and parts of Rajasthan.
At that time too, a “mahapanchayat” was held on September 7, 2013 in Sikhara village, near Muzaffarnagar town in which khap leaders like Naresh Tikait and Rakesh Tikait had participated. BJP MLAs Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana and rabble rousers like Sadhvi Prachi had made incendiary speeches against Muslims and this provocative meeting had sparked off a wider conflagration.
The kisan mahapanchayat held now in Muzaffarnagar could not have been more different. Rakesh Tikait, who is a leading figure in the SKM, declared that the people would not fall prey to any communal divide and led with the slogans of ‘Allahu Akbar’ and ‘Har Har Mahadev’.
Every speaker at the rally, that saw a large number of Muslims, emphasized on the unity of the farmers irrespective of religious affiliations and the need to put up a united fight against the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.
This striking demonstration of farmers’ unity and communal amity stands in stark contrast to the rabid communal agenda of the Adityanath government and the BJP-RSS combine, who have been wholly occupied in hate campaigns against the Muslims and devising laws against ‘love jihad’ and targeting Muslims for physical attacks. The Muzaffarnagar rally has challenged this divisive and hate-filled politics.
That the kisan movement still maintains its vitality and will militantly defend its interests is also clear from the events in Haryana. Throughout this nine month period, the BJP state government has been adopting a hostile and repressive approach – from putting up police blockades, lathi-charges and tear-gasing against protestors to filing of cases against over 40,000 farmers. The Khattar government has tried various stratagems to suppress the movement without success. Every act of police repression has been met with spirited protests by the farmers.
The lathi-charge on farmers in Karnal on August 28 set new heights of brutality. A farmer, Sushil Kajal, died of a heart-attack after sustaining injuries in the attack. The exhortation of the SDM, IAS officer Ayush Sinha, to “break the heads” of those who breach the cordon caught on video, caused widespread outrage. Two days after the Muzaffarnagar rally, thousands of farmers assembled to lay siege to the mini-secretariat in Karnal demanding suspension of the IAS officer pending an enquiry and action against those police officers responsible for the brutal lathi-charge.
The demand of the farmers to scrap the three farm laws has become part of the wider opposition platform against the Modi government. The statement issued by nineteen opposition parties has listed the farmers’ demands prominently in the call for protest actions to be held between September 20 to 30. The stage has been set for the widest mobilisation to make the September 27 Bharat Bandh call a success.
(September 8, 2021)