J&K: AIKS State Conference at Srinagar
Ghulam Nabi Malik
JAMMU & Kashmir Kisan Tehreek, an affiliate of the All India Kisan Sabha, held its day-long seventh Kashmir regional conference at Srinagar, Kashmir, on November 3, 2022. It was attended by 130 delegates from all the ten districts of the region. The J&K membership this year is 25,000, which is commendable considering the grave political challenges in Kashmir. The conference was attended by AIKS president Ashok Dhawale.
The conference began with a flag hoisting ceremony by Zahoor Ahmad. The condolence resolution was placed by Ghulam Mohiudin Lone. The proceedings were conducted by a presidium consisting of Zahoor Ahmad, Gh Rasool and Gh Qadir Hafroo.
The conference was inaugurated by Mohd Yusuf Tarigami, ex-MLA. He said that the real issue which farmers are facing and demanding for a long time is fair price for their produce by ensuring a minimum support price for all crops at 50 per cent above the cost of production. This legitimate demand despite repeated assurances has not been conceded till date.
He said that apple provides income and life to around 9 lakh households in India, mainly in Kashmir. Around 24 lakh metric tons of apples are produced by India, which is the sixth largest producer in the world. In that, Kashmir contributes 77 per cent of the production; 8 per cent of GDP of Jammu and Kashmir is from apple production. 95 per cent of the produced apples are consumed as fruit. Currently, there is an insignificant share of processing and value addition to the growers. He called for strengthening Kisan Tehreek to deal with the challenges confronting the kisans and growers in the region.
While presenting the state general secretary’s report, Ghulam Nabi Malik underlined the challenges before the peasant community in the region. He alleged that solutions and remedies proposed by the government for the problems facing the peasants are in practice proving counterproductive and against the interests of the poor and marginal peasants. He underlined the importance of the kisan movement in Jammu and Kashmir and highlighted the role of small and marginal peasants in the overall transformation of society. He said due to militant struggle launched by the peasants, the BJP central government was compelled to repeal three controversial farm laws. This is a great victory of peasants. The land laws amended after August 5, 2019 in J&K, snatched our achieved land and property rights. They are unacceptable and must be withdrawn. He stressed upon the strengthening of the kisan organisation with the slogan “our right on our land”.
Despite the undemocratic atmosphere due to militancy and the restrictions imposed by the administrative authorities, J&K Kisan Tehreek always tried its best to stand with the suffering kisans who were continuously deprived of their basic rights because of the neoliberal policies adopted by the government. Along with implementing the calls given by the All India Kisan Sabha and AIKSCC, later SKM, all the opportunities were used to fight for the issues faced by the kisans both in Jammu region and Kashmir region viz. irrigation, electric supply, MGNREGA, MSP for horticulture produce, availability of advanced technology at less prices and sufficient fund allocation for agriculture and R&D.
After unfortunate and unconstitutional abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A and degrading the state into two union territories, ruining all the democratic rights by handing both the territories to the army, arresting all the prevailing leadership, curbing press freedom, internet and telephone services, the whole of the population was forced to be indoors. It was a situation which few would have witnessed in the world so far. The tragedy is that this all was done in the name of democracy which continued for more than a year. Curbs on democratic rights continue till now. The reality is that Kashmir is not much less than Tihar Jail.
Under these circumstances, along with abrogating state constitution the land rights also were attacked.The historic Land Reforms Act of 1950 was amended. Outsiders are now allowed to purchase even agricultural land in J&K. In December 2020, the CPI(M) filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging the new land laws. Farmers from thousands of acres of land, mostly cultivable, are being evicted in the name of creating a land bank to sell it. Thousands of fruit trees from forest land are cut without any compensation. Despite the Supreme Court order for implementation of Forest Rights Act in J&K, some 99.9 per cent such people are yet to get the property rights authority.
Despite such a suffocating situation Kisan Tehreek remained active. In November 2019 when there was an early heavy snowfall an AIKSCC delegation with AIKS visited Kashmir. Their visit was organised to many affected orchards and farmers’ meetings were held. A memorandum was handed over to the union agriculture minister and a press conference was conducted at Delhi along with Hannan Mollah, AIKS general secretary. A demonstration was held for providing compensation to the affected growers.
The J & K Tehreek campaigned and held demonstrations at Jammu and Srinagar against the three anti-kisan farm laws which were finally repealed by the Modi government. Demonstrations were held both at Jammu and Srinagar against price rise and the electricity amendment bill. This year when Modi's promise was to double the income of kisans, despite a bumper crop of apples, the growers suffered heavy losses because of the faulty policies of the government. The fruit trucks were deliberately withheld on the National Highway for weeks together, causing heavy loss for growers. During this period big business purchased the apples at throwaway prices and stored them in CA stores for selling later at super profits. In this period we protested at the district headquarters and handed over memoranda to concerned deputy commissioners.
After ten comrades taking part in the discussion, the report was unanimously adopted. The conference elected a new committee with Ghulam Mohamad Shah as president, Zahoor Ahmad Rather as general secretary and Gh Hassan Ganie as treasurer. It elected six delegates to the all India conference.
AIKS president Ashok Dhawale severely criticised the neoliberal economic policies of the BJP central government, saying that these policies are meant to favour the corporate sector and big business at the cost of the common peasants and other toiling masses. He further stressed that small and marginal peasants cannot hope to gain anything from the policies of the present government. He also attacked the savage, authoritarian and communal political assault on J&K by the BJP central government, and declared that the AIKS would always stand strong in solidarity with the peasants and people of Jammu and Kashmir.
In his concluding address, M Y Tarigami emphasised the importance of building a strong kisan movement in J&K. He stressed that a vigorous kisan movement would create a favourable atmosphere for the genuine democratic movement in the region.
A well-attended press conference was held at the conclusion of the conference. It was addressed by Mohd Yousuf Tarigami and Ashok Dhawale. On this occasion, a book in English, Apple is our Livelihood published by the P Sundarayya Memorial Trust, was released.