September 17, 2023

Maha: SKM Formation Convention Held in Mumbai

Ajit Nawale

THE formation convention of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) in Maharashtra was enthusiastically held on September 5, 2023 at the Yashwantrao Chavan Centre near Mantralaya (secretariat) in the heart of South Mumbai. It mobilised over 1,000 selected peasant activists from all over the state. They belonged to several different organisations, of which 13 were the main ones. They included a large number of women and adivasi peasants.

Seven central leaders of the SKM addressed the convention. They included Ashok Dhawale (president, AIKS), Rajaram Singh (general secretary, AIKM), Darshan Pal (president, Krantikari Kisan Union), Atul Kumar Anjan (general secretary, AIKS), Sunilam (president, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti), Medha Patkar (national leader, NAPM), and Pratibha Shinde (president, Lok Sangharsh Morcha).

Many of the peasant organisations that participated in this convention were members of the coordination committee of the historic and united Maharashtra-wide farmers’ strike from June 1-11, 2017. The AIKS was the convenor of the coordination committee that led the farmers’ strike. This strike, the AIKS-led iconic and independent kisan long march from Nashik to Mumbai a year later in March 2018, and other subsequent struggles forced two successive state governments to formulate and implement two large loan waiver schemes.

The BJP-led Devendra Fadnavis state government was forced to actually implement a loan waiver worth Rs 19,843 crore to 44.23 lakh farmers under the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana 2017, and the MVA-led Uddhav Thackeray state government actually implementeda loan waiver worth Rs 20,243 crore to 31.71 lakh farmers under the Mahatma Jotirao Phule Shetkari Karjmukti Yojana 2019. Thus, peasant struggles in Maharashtra in which the AIKS played a leading role, succeeded in wresting a total loan waiver worth Rs 40,086 crore to 75.94 lakh farmers in Maharashtra.

When the Maharashtra farmers’ strike was on, the BJP state government of Madhya Pradesh unleashed police firing on farmers fighting for loan waiver and MSP guarantee at Mandsaur on June 6, 2017, killing six farmers. There were nationwide protests to condemn this firing. Several farmers’ organisations in the country came together to form the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), which led several nationwide actions including Delhi Marches from 2017 to 2020. Many of the organisations in Maharashtra including the AIKS were part of the AIKSCC, and they held several joint actions in the state.
The unprecedented SKM-led Delhi struggle of farmers against the three hated farm laws imposed by the Modi-led BJP regime began on November 26, 2020. Several farmer organisations from Maharashtra, beginning with the AIKS, sent hundreds of farmers to take part in the Delhi struggle for a few days. To support the Delhi struggle, and to take up state-level issues, two massive statewide kisan mazdoor mahapanchayats of 40 to 50 thousand people each took place at the Azad Maidan in Mumbai despite the Covid pandemic – one on January 25, 2021, and the other on November 28, 2021. A month-long joint Asthi Kalash Yatra to pay homage to the Lakhimpur Kheri martyrs traversed 30 districts of Maharashtra from October 27 to November 27, and the ashes were submerged in the Arabian Sea after the mahapanchayat on November 28, the death anniversary of Mahatma Jotirao Phule.
Most of the organisations that came together in the Mumbai Convention on September 5, 2023, were part of all the above joint struggles. The preliminary meeting to hold this SKM formation convention was convened by the AIKS in Mumbai on July 24, 2023.
After the welcome address by Shetkari Sabha leader Raju Korde, an 11-member presidium was elected. Poonam Kanojiya of NAPM placed the condolence resolution. Pratibha Shinde made the introductory speech.

A detailed resolution that outlined the agrarian challenges in the country, with special reference to Maharashtra, along with the demand charter and the plan of action was placed before the convention by Ajit Nawale of AIKS. The resolution comprised the following main sections: glorious tradition of the peasant movement in Maharashtra, political challenges in the country and the state, agrarian crisis and peasant suicides, MSP guarantee issue, freedom from debt, irrigation and just distribution of water, electricity, crop insurance, natural calamities, land rights, land acquisition, marketing, women farmers, adivasi peasants, Forest Rights Act, food security, ration and malnutrition, housing, employment and MGNREGA, education and health, co-operation, science and technology, environment and climate change, animal husbandry, oilseeds, sugarcane, dairy, fisheries, horticulture, and Swaminathan Commission. It ends with a 31-point demand charter, and the action call, which is given below. 

The convention decided to hold large protest demonstrations at all district and tehsil centres in Maharashtra on October 3, to demand the dismissal from the union cabinet and arrest on charges of murder of the union minister of state for home affairs Ajay Mishra Teni, who was responsible for the gruesome murder of four farmers and a journalist by crushing them under his cars in 2021.

It also decided to mobilise in tens of thousands for the huge protest action in the state capital Mumbai from November 26 to 28. The exact form of action will be decided jointly by the SKM and the CTU in a joint meeting in Mumbai in October. 

The resolution, while calling for the resounding defeat of the anti-farmer, pro-corporate, communal and fascistic Modi-led BJP-RSS regime, also denounced the BJP-led Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis-Ajit Pawar state government for its recent gruesome police attack in Jalna district on hundreds of farmers from the Maratha agrarian community, in which several women and men were severely injured.

The convention unanimously adopted a resolution placed by Ashok Dhawale setting up a 13-organisation SKM coordination committee in Maharashtra. All the main organisations are in the 13-member committee. Smaller organisations would be invitees.

The latest 100-page special issue of Kisan Sangharsh, the Marathi journal of the AIKS Maharashtra state committee, a booklet of revolutionary songs called Woh Subah Kabhi Toh Aayegi published by the AIKS Maharashtra state committee, and the Marathi edition of Ashok Dhawale’s book on the Delhi farmers’ struggle, When Farmers Stood Up, published by Janashakti Prakashan, sold well during this state convention.