March 26, 2023

Second Phase of Kisan Movement to Build Up

Hannan Mollah

AGAINST the anti-peasant policies of the Narendra Modi government, farmers in the country, unitedly under the leadership of Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), organised the longest, most united, and most historical struggle in 2020 and 2021. They faced unprecedented attacks and oppression by the government. They became victims of widespread false government propaganda and RSS propaganda. 750 of our comrades became martyrs in the struggle; thousands of false cases were registered against the farmers. Central minister Ajay Mishra Teni, his son, and RSS goons killed four farmers and one journalist in Lakhimpur Kheri. Despite all these conspiracies, the government was forced to accept defeat, and Narendra Modi withdrew those three draconian anti-farmer laws. It was a great and historical victory for the farmers of our country. But our other demands were not fulfilled. SKM continued the movement. Then, on December 9, 2021, the government gave an assurance in writing that other demands of the SKM would be considered. Based on that letter, the SKM postponed the movement on December 11, warning that if those demands were not fulfilled, the SKM would go on to further struggle.

But there was no action by the government. They formed a committee with anti-farmer agents of the government for MSP, but the SKM boycotted the committees as there were no terms of reference for a legal guarantee for MSP for all crops. To raise kisan’s voice against it, SKM organised a tractor rally in 600 districts and submitted a memorandum to the president against government inaction. The memorandum was then sent to the government through governors after state-level protest rallies were organised. But still, there has been no response from the government. The SKM held a huge mahapanchayat at Jind, raised the demands, and called for ‘Delhi Challo’ on March 20, 2023, to resume the struggle. A large number of farmers from different states marched to Delhi Ramlila Maidan, and a massive kisan mahapanchayat was organised on March 20, 2023. This was a huge meeting of farmers, and more than fifty kisan leaders from different kisan organisations spoke at the rally.

The speakers explained the inaction and betrayal of the government, as it did nothing even after 14 months passed after the written assurance. There was massive anger among farmers as they were not getting proper prices for their products. The Fasal Bhima Yojana proved to be a fraud as it helped the insurance companies, not farmers. Rural unemployment intensified due to lack of work under the MNREGA. The eviction of farmers from land was happening in different states due to widespread land grabbing by corporate houses. Tribal lands were also snatched, and the Forest Rights Act was not implemented. Women farmers and agricultural workers were not getting equal wages, and huge amounts of dues were not paid to them. There was a massive price crash for potatoes, onions, soybeans, mustard, etc., and farmers lost crores of rupees. Suicide rate among farmers rose. There was no proper procurement and no government intervention to protect farmers. A vivid explanation of farmers' difficulties was given by speakers in the meeting, and they demanded a strong, wider struggle against government betrayal.

Vijoo Krishnan, general secretary, AIKS, spoke at the gathering and explained AIKS's understanding of the current crisis and our planning for a bigger struggle.A 15-member delegation, including Hannan Mollah, Avik Saha, etc., met the agriculture minister, Narendra Tomar at Krishi Bhawan. We criticised the government for its long inaction, forcing the farmers to return to the streets. We condemned the government's action to form a committee, which was an eyewash to hoodwink the people, in which no SKM representative was there and it was full of anti-farmer government agents and demanded to constitute a fresh, effective representative committee to consider MSP for all crops and legal guarantee of procurement.

The government was non-committal. When we asked the government why they brought the Electricity Bill to parliament without consultation with the SKM, he said the government improved the bill as per our demand and removed the clause about abandoning subsidies for farmers in electricity charges. He repeated that the government exempted farmers from arrest and fines for stubble burning. He assured  that he would take the initiative to withdraw cases and arrange financial assistance for the martyr’s family if we gave him the list of affected people from the above two categories. They would take up with state governments the recent price crash of some crops like potatoes and onions and look into the CBI/ED attack against some kisan leaders. There has been no commitment on the loan waiver or in Ajay Mishra Teni's case. The delegation warned that kisans would go for a bigger movement if the government failed to come up with a concrete plan for our 14-point demands and 5-point current issues as additional demands.

The delegation reported this matter to the rally and called to continue the preparation for a long struggle shortly. Now a strong movement has to be built in the states. All state-level SKMs should hold state conventions, identify local demands, and plan strong militant movements in their states. The next general body meeting of SKM will be held on April 30, 2023, to plan the next course of action. We appealed to all farmers to go with confidence and plan a strong movement against the Modi government’s anti-farmer and pro-corporate policies.