November 28, 2021

Historic Farmers’ Struggle Wins Over Corporate Communalism

Ashok Dhawale

IT was an epic first victory of the one year long historic struggle of the farmers of India over corporate communalism, as represented by the Modi-Shah-led BJP-RSS central government and its alliance with foreign and domestic corporates, represented by the two ace crony corporates Ambani and Adani. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationally televised address to the country on November 19, 2021 to coincide with the Guru Nanak Jayanti, agreeing to repeal all the three hated farm laws was a stinging defeat for all of them. It was a resounding victory not only for the farmers of India, but for democracy itself. And it will long be remembered in history.

This is only the second time in the last seven years of his rule that PM Modi has been forced to make a humiliating climb-down. The first was in 2015, when he was forced to take back the Land Acquisition Act Amendment Ordinance, again as a result of a countrywide farmers’ struggle.

There was tremendous and spontaneous jubilation not only at the Delhi borders of the farmers’ struggle, but among farmers, workers and the people all over the country, at this great victory. There was a feeling of great confidence that a unique people’s struggle had humbled a tyrannical regime.

This valiant farmers’ struggle under the leadership of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) has braved every kind of repression and defamation from the RSS-BJP regime. It has also surmounted the deadly Covid pandemic. It is completely united, peaceful and democratic. It is also completely secular, its lakhs of peasant participants cutting across religion, caste, region and language. It is concentrated at the Delhi borders, but it has spread all over the country. It is fully supported by the working class and agricultural labourers, and by all other sections like women, youth and students. These are the reasons why it could not be crushed.     


The three farm laws in their very essence were clearly anti-farmer, anti-people and pro-corporate. They were first brought in as ordinances in June 2020 under cover of the Covid pandemic and were rammed through parliament in September 2020 after trampling on all democratic norms. No kisan organisation worth its name had demanded any of these laws, and no kisan organisation was ever consulted about them. Although agriculture is a state subject under the constitution, no state government was ever consulted either. These laws were clearly unconstitutional. The very next week, the central government annulled 29 labour laws that had been won by the working class after bitter struggles for decades, and rammed through four anti-worker labour codes through parliament.

The first farm act aimed to dismantle Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) and hand over the entire trade in agricultural produce to domestic and foreign corporates. This would have destroyed farmers and agriculture, and would also have compromised the food security of the country. As per the direction given by the Shanta Kumar Committee in 2015 under this very Modi government, this Act eventually aimed to do away with MSP and government procurement of food grains altogether and hand over the entire agricultural sector to the corporate lobby for its super profits. If the government procurement of food grains ended, the food stocks in the Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns would also end. With this, the entire public distribution system (PDS) would be dismantled. This would have a disastrous impact on 81 crore of the urban and rural poor in India, who today avail of the PDS.  

The second farm act aimed to encourage and promote contract farming across the country. As the previous experience of contract farming in India and the world shows, unless there is very strict regulation over contract farming, it only helps the powerful corporate companies to loot the farmers, eventually leading them to lose their land. This Act did the opposite of imposing strict regulation. In a travesty of justice, there was no provision for farmers for approaching courts in case of any dispute with the companies who make the contracts. In both the above farm acts, there was deliberately no provision made that companies must buy agricultural produce from farmers at MSP rates. One of the real alternatives to corporate farming is co-operative farming, which the government is not at all willing to consider.

The third farm act was a disastrous amendment to the Essential Commodities Act. The central government removed all restrictions on hoarding stocks of six most essential items, viz. rice, wheat, pulses, cooking oil, onions and potatoes. This would give corporates and big traders a free hand to hoard and black market these essential items, by creating artificial scarcities, and then hiking their prices manifold. This would also endanger food security. In the Global Hunger Index figures declared recently, India already ranks 101 among 116 countries, down from 94 out of 107 last year. This alarming situation would aggravate even further.


Although the PM’s sudden announcement of repealing the laws was surprising, it was clear in the last three months that the central government was being thrown increasingly on the defensive by the farmers’ struggle. This was the result of five major factors.

The first was the massive one million strong SKM-organised Kisan Mazdoor Mahapanchayat at Muzaffarnagar on September 5, 2021. The farmers and workers came in huge numbers mostly from Uttar Pradesh, but large contingents also came from Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Its most distinctive feature was that it succeeded in rebuilding secular unity, which had been seriously disrupted by the RSS-BJP-VHP in the Muzaffarnagar communal riots in 2013.

The second was the unprecedented success of the Bharat Bandh call given by the SKM on September 27. This was the third Bharat Bandh call in the one year long farmers’ struggle, and the most successful of all three. Millions of farmers, workers, agricultural labourers, employees, traders, women, youth and students from all over India, cutting across religion, caste, region and language, came out on the streets to make it a magnificent success.

The third was the increasing tempo of the struggle in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana. In Punjab, the farmers’ struggle has gone down to practically every home in the state. The constant repression by the BJP-JJP state government in Haryana, and the valiant and victorious fightback by the farmers, is a saga in itself. The struggle was also spreading in Uttar Pradesh.

The fourth was the stunning and dastardly Lakhimpur Kheri massacre in Uttar Pradesh of four farmers and a journalist, at the behest of Ajay Mishra Teni, the BJP’s union minister of state for home. Along with this was the protection given by the prime minister and the UP chief minister to the culprits. This created revulsion among the people across the country. On Dussehra Day, October 15, effigies of top BJP leaders were burnt in thousands of places all over the country by lakhs of farmers and workers. On October 18, rail roko stirs were conducted in hundreds of places. The Asthi Kalash Yatras of the Lakhimpur Kheri martyrs travelled all over the country and drew massive response everywhere.

And the fifth factor was, of course, the impending state assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab. There was fear in ruling circles of the deepening alienation of the people in the sensitive border state of Punjab, which had a few decades ago been the victim of violent separatism. The results of the recent by-elections saw a rout of the BJP in Himachal, Haryana and Rajasthan, the frontline states of the farmers’ struggle. The prime minister and the RSS-BJP belatedly realised the grave danger that they faced in the impending elections.

The announcement of the repeal of the farm laws was a cumulative result of these five immediate factors, apart from the year-long epic saga of the united farmers’ struggle itself. However, the government’s announcement of repeal is a classic case of too little, too late. Nearly 700 farmers have been martyred in this struggle over the last one year. At least five of them were murdered at Lakhimpur Kheri by Modi’s lieutenant in the central cabinet Ajay Mishra Teni, and he still roams about scot free! This would be unthinkable in any democracy. Also, repeal was only one of the demands of this struggle. From day one, there were also other key demands which have not at all been addressed by the prime minister or the government.

The first meeting of the SKM after the PM’s announcement was held amidst great enthusiasm on November 21 at the Singhu border. There was jubilation that one part of the battle had been won. But there was also determination to see that the other just demands of this struggle are conceded. On behalf of the AIKS, the SKM meeting was attended by Ashok Dhawale, P Krishnaprasad, Inderjit Singh, Baldev Singh Latala and Sumit. The two major decisions taken were: First, sending an open letter to the PM listing out the major pending demands of the farmers and demanding a resolution of those issues through talks. Second, continuing all the pre-decided programmes of the struggle.       

Accordingly, on November 22, a massive kisan mazdoor mahapanchayat of tens of thousands of peasants was held at Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh. Women came in large numbers. The mood was infectious – of both victory and determination. The rally echoed the resolve of the SKM to continue the struggle until the pending demands were met. It also warned against the communal conspiracies of the RSS-BJP and called for the defeat of the BJP in the coming state assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab. The strength of the AIKS and AIAWU in the Lucknow rally, just as in the earlier Muzaffarnagar rally, was excellent.

On November 26, when the farmers’ struggle completes one year, there will be mobilisation of of farmers at all the Delhi borders, and of farmers and workers all over the country. There will also be rallies and demonstrations by the Indian diaspora worldwide. The coming November 26 is also the first anniversary of the massive all India one day strike by the working class, led by various Central Trade Unions and by independent federations. On November 28, another massive Maharashtra-wide kisan mazdoor mahapanchayat will be held in Mumbai.


A central law to guarantee minimum support price (MSP) and procurement at one and a half times the comprehensive cost of production (C2 + 50 per cent) is the second key demand of this farmers’ struggle from day one. This was a seminal recommendation of the National Commission on Farmers, headed by Dr M S Swaminathan, made in the year 2006, but never implemented since then.

It is now well known that over four lakh farmers in India have been forced to commit suicide due to indebtedness in the last 25 years of the neoliberal policies from 1995 to 2020. Of these around one lakh farmers have committed suicide in the last seven years of the Modi regime alone. This is a major manifestation of the agrarian crisis that has been swamping India.

The Modi regime is telling a white lie when it claims that it has already implemented MSP at the above rate. It has applied the formula A2 + FL, which is much lower than C2 + 50 per cent, and has thus tried to deceive farmers. As against the government’s bombastic announcement seven years ago of doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022, an year that is now already upon us, the fact is that the latest NSSO survey has shown that farmers’ incomes have in fact declined for the first time.

In most parts of our country, the MSP declared by the central government for 23 different kharif and rabi crops has no meaning, simply because there is no government procurement in most of the states. Hence traders routinely buy agricultural produce from farmers at much less than the MSP. Even in Punjab and Haryana, government procurement is restricted mainly to only paddy and wheat. Hence this is a key demand of farmers from all over the country.

Successive central governments implementing neoliberal policies have increased the cost of production in agriculture manifold over the last three decades, by slashing subsidies on agricultural inputs like fertilizers; by encouraging rapacious corporates in the manufacture of seeds, fertilisers and insecticides and, by greatly increasing the price of diesel, petrol, power and irrigation. However, the price that the farmer gets for his crop has never increased in the same proportion. This is one of the roots of the agrarian crisis and peasant indebtedness, leading to farmer suicides on the one hand and distress sales of farm land on the other.  

This is further aggravated by natural calamities like severe droughts, floods, hailstorms and unseasonal rains, with no proper crop insurance cover. The PM Fasal Bima Yojana has proved to be a farce, enriching corporate insurance companies at the expense of farmers. With huge amounts of credit being channelised to the corporates, there is a credit crunch in the farm sector, especially for small and middle farmers. The agricultural import-export policies adopted under WTO dictates and Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) have also hit farmers very hard.

It is for all these reasons that the farmers struggle has demanded a law to guarantee MSP and procurement at one and a half times the cost of production. Another related demand of the peasant movement has been a complete loan waiver to the peasantry by the central government, which has no compunctions in granting loan waivers and tax waivers of lakhs of crores of rupees per year to its handful of favourite crony corporates.

Other pending demands of this farmers’ struggle are: Withdrawal of the Electricity Amendment Bill, which opens the way for privatisation and massive hikes in power tariffs for farmers and the people; removal of the penal provisions on farmers in the ‘Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Act 2021’; removal from the central cabinet and arrest on charges of murder and conspiracy of the criminal mastermind of the Lakhimpur Kheri farmers’ massacre, Ajay Mishra Teni; withdrawal of hundreds of false police cases against thousands of farmers who took part in the struggle in several states; adequate compensation to and rehabilitation of the families of 700 farmer martyrs of this struggle, and land at the Singhu Border to build a Martyrs’ Memorial to their memory. The SKM has written an open letter to the prime minister to hold talks to settle these demands.

Apart from these demands of the farmers’ struggle, there are other vital demands of the working people of this country. They include: repeal of the four labour codes; halving the astronomical prices of diesel, petrol, cooking gas and other essential commodities; doubling the days of work and wages for agricultural workers under the MGNREGA and extending the scheme to the urban areas; withdrawal of the New Education Policy; and most important, a halt to the selling off of the country for a pittance through the central government’s privatisation drive of the public sector and the so-called National Monetisation Pipeline.

With the inspiring impetus gained by this victory, the people’s struggle for all these demands, for a change in policies, and also for a change in regime, will go forth with even greater strength and determination in the days ahead!