By Abdul Bari Masoud
New Delhi: It was a huge show of strength and unity in Muzaffarnagar in the poll-bound Uttar Pradesh on Sunday as farmers from across the country gathered for a ‘Kisan Mahapanchayat’ and pledged to punish and defeat the “communal and casteist” politics of BJP in the upcoming assembly elections. Kisan leaders also gave a clarion call to strengthen Hindu- Muslim unity and raised religious slogan of Hindus, Muslim and Sikh from the stage.
The mega Mahapanchayat was organised by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the umbrella organisation of unions protesting against the Narendra Modi government’s three pro-corporate farm laws.
Addressing the gathering, Kisan leaders said the Kisan-Mazdoor agenda will triumph over the “communal and casteist” politics of the BJP-RSS. BKU leader Rakesh Tikait slammed the BJP’s politics of polarization and he warned that they can engineer communal violence to divert the attention of people from peoples’ and farmer’s issues. Referring to PM Narendra Modi, Uttar Pradesh CM Adityanath and Home Minister Amit Shah as “outsiders”, Tikait said he had no objection if they become PM after winning from Uttarakhand or Gujarat but on the soil of UP “they will not be tolerated”.
Adding that the “government needs ‘vote ki chhott’ (defeat through votes)”, Tikait said the slogan of ‘fasalon ke daam nahi to vote nahi’ will have to be raised.
Speaking at the event, SKM leaders said the Muzaffarnagar ‘mahapanchayat’ has made BJP governments at the Centre and in UP realise the power of farmers, farm labourers, and supporters of the movement. The Mahapanchayat declared that the farmers would l never allow communal riots to happen in the future. Kisan Andolan will always give slogan to strengthen Hindu-Muslim unity.
They also slammed the Yogi government of Uttar Pradesh alleging it is ruling on the policy of ‘divide and rule’ and communal policy of caste and religion’ of the British government.
Farmer leaders have made it clear that they will campaign against the ruling BJP in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand if the governments did not accept their demands. They have also threatened to continue the agitation till 2024 Lok Sabha elections. “They (the Centre) said only a handful of farmers are protesting. Let them see what a handful this is today. Let us raise our voices so it reaches the ears of those sitting in Parliament,” speakers said.
The event saw huge enthusiasm among the supporters to carry the movement further as the entire Muzaffarnagar city was turned into a rally ground. SKM claims more than one million farmers across the nation participated in the people’s assembly (Mahapanchayat). According to ground reports, more than 300 farmer unions from 15 states and several ‘khaps’ from the region participated in the event organised on the home turf of BKU (Tikait) leader Rakesh Tikait, who belongs to the Baliyan ‘khap’ headed by elder brother Naresh Tikait.
Farmers in massive numbers started coming yesterday evening itself. The huge GIC ground started overflowing with lakhs of enthusiastic and determined farmers from today early this morning. All arterial roads leading to the rally ground were filled with thousands of kisans. There was an unending flow of people, tractors, cars, buses still coming into Muzaffarnagar. The event saw a large presence of farmers from Punjab and Haryana “making up more than 50 per cent of the gathering” there.
A sea of people cutting across States, religions, castes, regions and languages came together to send a loud and clear message to the BJP governments at the Centre and State. The Kisan Mazdoor Mahapanchayat got unprecedented support from all sections of society. Lakhs of farmers had to wait and listen to the speeches from outside the ground, where a public address system had been set up for several kilometers.
Thousands of farmers had come from Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and several other states from all over the country. They included West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and other states. Women and youth farmers had come in massive numbers. It was perhaps the largest farmers’ rally in India so far. The farmers were carrying thousands of national flags, and also flags of their farmers’ organizations and “India for sale” boards have been put up all over the place. It was a very colorful spectacle.
Resounding slogans of Kisan-Mazdoor Unity and calling for the defeat of the anti-farmer BJP government were raised numerous times during the rally. Hundreds of langars, medical camps and mobile clinics had been set up to help the farmers who had come from all over.
The Mahapanchayat inaugurated the SKM’s Mission Uttar Pradesh-Uttarakhand, which will strengthen the farmers’ struggle in both states for the repeal of the 3 Farm Laws and for a central law to ensure MSP at C2 + 50%, and will leave no stone unturned to ensure the resounding defeat of the BJP in the coming state assembly elections.
SKM said that this Mahapanchayat is to send a warning to the Union and the State governments. Despite the rally of lakhs of farmers with the support of all caste, religion and class, if the government does not repeal all three agricultural laws and does not give legal guarantee for the purchase of agricultural products, then the movement will be intensified. The speakers also hinted that a plan for the struggle on the issue of unemployment would soon be made.
SKM said that the promises made by the Yogi government to the farmers have not been fulfilled. Even 20% of the promised procurement has not been done. The UP government had promised loan waiver for 86 lakh farmers, while only 45 lakh farmers have received the loan waiver. Union Government agency CACP has found that in the year 2017, the cost of sugarcane was ₹ 383 per quintal, but farmers were paid ₹ 325 per quintal, and sugarcane mills owe farmers ₹ 8,700 crore. In Uttar Pradesh, crop insurance was paid to 72 lakh farmers in the year 2016-17, while in 2019-20, only 47 lakh farmers were paid, where crop insurance companies earned a profit of Rs 2,508 crore. The Mahapanchayat decided to announce an agitation in the upcoming meeting of the SKM demanding a rate of ₹ 450 per quintal for sugarcane as promised by the Uttar Pradesh government.
It also gave a clarion call to make the Bharat Bandh on Monday, 27th September a massive success all over the country. The earlier date of the Bharat Bandh has been changed due to unavoidable circumstances.
The event was addressed by all the main SKM leaders.. The prominent among them were Naresh Tikait, Dharmendra Malik, Rajesh Singh Chauhan, Rajveer Singh Jadaun, Amrita Kundu, Balbir Singh Rajewal, Jagjit Singh Dallewal, Dr Darshan Pal, Joginder Singh Ugrahan, Shivkumar Sharma ’Kakkaji’, Hannan Mollah, Yogendra Yadav, Yudhveer Singh, Gurnam Singh Charuni, Medha Patkar, Baldev Singh Nihalgarh, Ruldu Singh Mansa, Kulwant Singh Sandhu, Manjit Singh Dhaner, Harmeet Singh Kadian, Manjit Rai, Suresh Koth, Ranjeet Raju, Tejinder Singh Virk, Satyavan, Sunilam, Ashish Mittal, Dr. Satnam Singh Ajnala, Sonia Maan, Jasbir Kaur, Jagmati Sangwan, and several Khap leaders.
The SKM congratulated and thanked the lakhs of farmers who braved all the obstructions placed by the BJP’s Yogi Government, and called upon them to take the torch of the farmers’ movement to every corner of India until victory is achieved.
Barring some minor glitches, observers termed the event “successful and politically relevant”. Congress voices support for ‘kisan mahapanchayat’, Rahul Gandhi said ‘unjust govt’ will have to listen.
However, BJP termed ‘Kisan Mahapanchayat’ in Muzaffarnagar as ‘election meeting’. But party MPs Varun Gandhi and Sanjiv Balyan have advocated for resumption of talks between the government and farmers unions.