THEY came. They marched. And they captured the hearts and minds of millions of their countrymen all over India.
They comprised tens of thousands of farmers and agricultural workers – women, men and children – from almost every state in the north, south, east and west.
They came with a rainbow of thousands of flags and banners that mingled in unity – red, green, yellow, blue, white – all except saffron.
They hailed from every caste, creed, language and religion – surmounting all these barriers. They truly symbolised the unity in diversity that is the idea of India.
They mobilised the economically exploited and the socially oppressed peasantry, the working class and the middle class, and most important, the young, to their cause.
They came with a proud legacy of struggles – for liberation from debt, for remunerative prices, for land, for irrigation, for wages, pension and rations. They came for justice.
They demanded a special session of parliament not only to pass the two key bills that they had prepared, but also to discuss the grave agrarian crisis and its related aspects.
They brought farmers’ issues to the centre stage of the national agenda, forced the media to focus on their struggle and united the Left and secular opposition to support their cause.
Finally, they constantly intensified their resistance, in huge numbers, and now called for the resounding defeat of the most anti-farmer, pro-corporate and communal BJP regime.
KISAN MUKTI MARCH
These were the nine major achievements of the Kisan Mukti March to Delhi on November 29-30. It was held under the banner of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), an umbrella platform of over 200 Kisan organisations in India.
Parallel to this Kisan Mukti March in Delhi, another 10,000-strong march led jointly by the AIKS and AIAWU from Singur to Kolkata in West Bengal began on November 28 and culminated on November 29 in a massive 50,000-strong public meeting.
The Kisan Mukti March began from five points near Delhi on November 29. Around 10,000 farmer volunteers walked a distance of 15-20 km to the Ramlila Maidan from these points. In the evening they enjoyed an impressive cultural nite – ‘Ek Sham Kisanon Ke Naam’.
The police had refused permission for the main march on November 30 from Ramlila Maidan to Parliament Street. AIKSCC leaders argued with the police for three hours around midnight on November 29 and finally declared that the march would proceed, come what may. The police were forced to relent.
On November 30, around 50,000 farmers began a massive march from Ramlila Maidan. It reached parliament at noon. It was a microcosm of rural India. It was a heart-rending sight to see widows and daughters of farmers from Telangana who had committed suicide due to indebtedness, walking in the rally with framed photographs of their husbands and fathers. Farmers from Tamil Nadu had come with the skulls and bones of farmers who had been forced to commit distress suicides.
Poor and middle farmers, tenant farmers, agricultural workers, fisherfolk and even some rich farmers were part of this rally. Women farmers, adivasi farmers, dalit farmers, minority farmers were also present in large numbers. Every single participant had his/her story of hardship – and resistance – to tell. These anecdotes were well captured by many sections of the print, electronic and social media.
The entire route of the march was decorated with AIKS flags and Parliament Street was full of AIKS/AIAWU buntings, along with flags of all the other AIKSCC organisations. The massive rally culminated in a huge public meeting at Parliament Street.
The first session of the public meeting was addressed by AIKSCC working group members. They included Raju Shetti, MP, Hannan Mollah, Ashish Mittal, Pratibha Shinde, Atul Kumar Anjan, Rajaram Singh, Medha Patkar, K Chandrashekhar, Sunilam, Ayyakannu, Kiran Vissa, Kavita Kuruganti, Tejinder Singh, Yogendra Yadav and convenor V M Singh. It was also addressed by P Sainath on behalf of the Nation for Farmers and by Maj Gen Satbir Singh on behalf of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement. All the leaders dwelt upon various aspects of the farm crisis and stressed the need to defeat the thoroughly anti-farmer Modi government. Avik Saha proposed the vote of thanks.
Hannan Mollah hailed this historic united march and said that consistent peasant struggles, both independent and united, over the last four years had succeeded in bringing agrarian issues to the forefront of the national agenda after many decades. He attacked the ‘jumlebaj’ Modi regime for betraying all the election assurances that it had given. He declared that an all-encompassing ‘Manifesto of Indian Farmers’ covering all classes connected with agriculture would be adopted in this rally. He castigated the RSS-BJP for its communal agenda aimed at dividing the people. Giving the slogan of ‘Narendra Modi, Kisan Virodhi’, he called for the defeat of the BJP regime in the coming general elections.
P Sainath said that the idea of the platform ‘Nation for Farmers’ emerged from the spontaneous outpouring of support from the middle class to the AIKS-led Nashik to Mumbai Kisan Long March eight months ago. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, techies, employees, workers, literary figures, cultural artistes, students, youth and women have come out in large numbers all over the country to support this Kisan Mukti March in various ways. He lashed out at the Modi regime for its betrayal on MSP and its anti-farmer policies. He demanded a special session of Parliament to pass the two key bills and also to discuss the agrarian crisis and its related aspects, and said that we will not leave this demand.
The second session of the public meeting was addressed by various political leaders of parties that had supported the two key bills prepared by the AIKSCC – the ‘Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill, 2018’ and the ‘Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Commodities Bill, 2018’. These two bills were placed in the last Parliament session as private member bills by Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader Raju Shetti in the Lok Sabha and by CPI(M) leader and AIKS joint secretary K K Ragesh in the Rajya Sabha.
Among the political leaders who spoke were CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary Sudhakar Reddy, CPI(ML-L) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar, National Conference leader and former J & K chief minister Farooq Abdullah, AAP leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, Loktantrik Janata Dal leader Sharad Yadav, Samajwadi Party leader Dharmendra Yadav, MP, Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Trilok Tyagi, MP, Telugu Desam Party leader Ravindra Kumar, MP, AAP leader Sanjay Singh, MP and Trinamul Congress leader Dinesh Trivedi, MP. It was conducted by AIKSCC convenor V M Singh.
All the leaders pledged support to both the above bills and assured that these and other vital farmers’ issues would be incorporated in their election manifestos. They severely criticiSed the Modi-led BJP regime on all counts and called for its resounding defeat.
Addressing the gathering, Sitaram Yechury began by recalling that, many decades ago, Parliament Street was the same police station where Bhagat Singh was brought on being arrested after he threw a bomb in parliament. Today, he said, we have an even more powerful bomb, and that is our vote. And we must use it to replace the BJP government. But we must have an alternative government with alternative policies. It is only a change in policies that will really help farmers and other sections of the working people.
After extending the full support of the CPI(M) to both the bills, he said that agricultural growth has slumped to 2.5 per cent under the Modi regime. It has clearly betrayed its promises of a loan waiver and MSP at one and a half times the cost of production. This has led to 20,000 farmers committing suicide every year in the years of the BJP government.
Yechury said that knowing that their support base is slipping, the Sangh Parivar has now once again taken out its ‘Brahmastra’, the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. But people this time will see through this game. He gave a clarion call for unity and struggle to replace this regime lock, stock and barrel.
CULMINATION OF SERIES OF STRUGGLES
This Kisan Mukti March was a powerful culmination of the constantly rising upsurge of peasant struggles after the Modi regime came to power.
In the struggle against the draconian Land Acquisition Ordinance introduced by the Modi regime, the AIKS took the initiative in 2015 to bring several peasant and social organisations together to form a broad platform called the Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan (BAA). After state level agitations and Delhi rallies against the ordinance and with intervention by the Left and other opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha, it had to be withdrawn in August 2015. This was a major victory for the peasantry. The BAA has since taken up several land-related issues against forced land acquisition for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train, the Salem-Chennai green corridor and the various industrial corridors and freight corridors proposals. It has also taken up issues related to the killing of farmers by cow vigilantes.
The AIKS took the independent initiative of organising four nationwide jathas, culminating in an AIKS Delhi Rally of several thousand peasants on their burning demands on November 24, 2016. A large Delhi Rally was also subsequently held by the AIAWU.
The AIKSCC was formed in June 2017 after the Mandsaur police firing in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, which killed six farmers. It took up the two key issues of the vast mass of the peasantry of India today, viz. loan waiver and remunerative prices as per the C2 + 50 per cent formula of the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) headed by Dr M S Swaminathan.
After a countrywide campaign, a massive two day Kisan Sansad of tens of thousands of farmers from across the country, and also a novel Mahila Kisan Sansad, was held on Parliament Street in New Delhi on November 20-21, 2017. Two bills for liberation from farm debt and for just remunerative prices were prepared and finalised after holding consultations with farmers in the states. These bills were supported by leaders of 21 opposition parties in a special convention in New Delhi.
The struggles spearheaded by the AIKS in Maharashtra and Rajasthan from 2016 to 2018 contributed greatly to building up the resistance of the peasantry at the all India level. The one lakh-strong two-day AIKS-led Mahapadav in Nashik in March 2016; the 50,000-strong two-day Adivasi Mahagherao at Wada in Palghar district in October 2016; the united 11-day Maharashtra farmers’ strike in June 2017; the massive AIKS-led Rajasthan farmers’ struggles in September 2017 and February 2018; the remarkable Kisan Long March from Nashik to Mumbai organised by the Maharashtra AIKS in March 2018; and the huge Singur to Kolkata March by the AIKS and AIAWU in West Bengal in November 2018 – all these became sources of inspiration for the entire democratic movement in the country.
The struggles in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Jharkhand and elsewhere succeeded in wresting concessions from the BJP and Congress-led governments in these states. All these struggles also helped to carve out an important space for the AIKS in the united movement.
Running parallel to these peasant struggles were the series of working class struggles led by the CITU and other trade unions throughout the country. They included the two massive all India Strikes on September 2 in 2015 and 2016 and culminated in the huge three-day sit-in struggle of lakhs of workers at Parliament Street in Delhi in November 2017.
On August 9, 2018, well over five lakh peasants and workers under the leadership of AIKS, CITU and AIAWU courted arrest at over 610 centres in 407 districts in 23 states across the country on August 9, 2018. The largest and most militant participation in this struggle was in West Bengal, followed by Maharashtra and Bihar. This was by far the largest nationwide Jail Bharo struggle in the country in recent times. It was a fine example of worker-peasant unity. The peasants and workers of India raised the central slogan “Modi Sarkar, Chale Jaao!”
The mammoth September 5, 2018 Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Rally in Delhi of over two lakh workers, peasants and agricultural workers led by CITU, AIKS and AIAWU was another major step forward towards worker-peasant unity in action. It was also another blow under the leadership of the Red Flag that was aimed at the BJP-RSS-led central government. Working people in huge numbers from across the country participated in this Delhi Rally.
Within three months of this huge action came this Kisan Mukti March on November 29-30, 2018. Preparations are now on for the success of the all India Strike by trade unions on January 8-9, 2019, which will be fully supported in action by the peasantry of India.
With this rising wave of worker-peasant struggles, the stage is being set for the defeat of the BJP-RSS regime in the general elections that are due next year. The stage is also being set for a change in policies in favour of the working people and for the advance of the Left and democratic forces in our country.
THE FIVE KISAN MARCHES TO RAMLILA MAIDAN
ON November 29, five Kisan marches under the AIKSCC banner began from the outskirts of Delhi and they all came together at the Ramlila Maidan in the evening.
The largest march from Nizamuddin comprised farmers from the southern and central states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The second large march began from Anand Vihar and it comprised farmers from the eastern and northern states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand. The third march began from Majnu ka Tila and it comprised farmers from Himachal Pradesh and Haryana. The fourth march began from Brijwasan and it comprised farmers from Haryana, Delhi, West Bengal, Odisha and some other states. The fifth march began from Sabji Mandi and it comprised farmers from Punjab.
In several of these places, the Delhi chapter of the Nation for Farmers and CITU workers welcomed the marchers, served them snacks, tea and water, and hundreds of them actually participated in the marches themselves. They included a large number of students from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University, Dr Ambedkar University and Jamia Millia Islamia, workers, middle class employees and also professionals. Several volunteers of the Nation for Farmers, including a large team of doctors from the AIIMS, rendered round the clock help to the farmers during their stay at Ramlila Maidan.
Special mention must be made of the fact that the Delhi state government led by Arvind Kejriwal of AAP made available many facilities for the marchers at the Ramlila Maidan.
All these five marches created a very good impact on the eve of the Kisan Mukti March that marched next day from Ramlila Maidan to Parliament Street.
Manifesto of Indian Farmers
Adopted by an assembly representing the farmers of India on the occasion of the historic Kisan Mukti March organised by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee on November 30, 2018
We, the farmers of India, are convinced that the wellbeing of farmers is not just about economic survival of a majority of Indian households, it is about retaining our national dignity and our civilizational heritage; farmers are not just a residue from our past; farmers, agriculture and village community are integral to the future of India and the world; and, the demands of the farmers’ movements are fully consistent with our constitutional vision, fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy;
Therefore, call upon the parliament to immediately:
Hold a special session to address the agrarian crisis by passing and enacting the two Kisan Mukti Bills that are of, by and for the farmers of India, namely,
- The Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill, 2018; and
- The Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Commodities Bill, 2018.
And also demand that the government of India must:
- Increase the number of guaranteed employment days under MGNREGS to 200 days per family, and ensure wage payment within the period guaranteed by statute and at par with legal minimum wages for unskilled farm labour;
- Reduce the cost of inputs for farmers either by regulating industry price or offering subsidy directly to farmers;
- Provide comprehensive social security for all farm households including pension at least Rs 5,000 per month per farmer above the age of 60;
- Universalise the benefits of the public distribution system including cereals and nutri-cereals, pulses, sugar and oils without linking it to Aadhaar or biometric identification and without shifting to direct cash transfer;
- Address the menace of stray animals by removing all legal and vigilante-imposed restrictions on cattle trade, compensating farmers for destruction of crops by wild and stray animals and supporting animal shelters;
- Stop land acquisition or land pooling without informed consent of the farmers; no acquisition or diversion of agricultural land for commercial land development or for creation of land banks; prevent the bypassing or dilution of The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 at the central and state level; and evolve land use and agricultural land protection policy;
- Mandate the sugar mills to pay interest at 15 per cent p.a. if cane dues are not paid to the cane-growers within 14 days of the delivery of cane; FRP of cane to be fixed by linking it to 9.5 per cent recovery of sugar;
- Withdraw pesticides that have been banned elsewhere and not approve GM seeds without a comprehensive needs, alternatives and impact assessment;
- Disallow foreign direct investment in agriculture and food processing, and remove agriculture from Free Trade Agreements, including the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP);
- Require identification and registration of all real cultivators including tenant farmers, sharecroppers, women farmers, lessee cultivators and rural workers etc. for purposes of accessing benefits of all government schemes; and
- Stop uprooting adivasi farmers in the name of afforestation, ensure strict implementation without dilution of Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act and Forests Rights Act, 2006;
And, further, urge the government to evolve policies to:
- Provide land and livelihood rights to the landless, including agricultural and homestead land, water for fishing, mining of minor minerals etc;
- Ensure timely, effective and adequate compensation for crop loss due to natural disasters; implement a comprehensive crop insurance that benefits farmers and not just insurance companies and that covers all types of risks for all crops and for all farmers, with individual farm as the unit of damage assessment; reverse anti-farmer changes in the Manual for Drought Management;
- Build assured protective irrigation through sustainable means for farmers, especially in the rain-fed areas;
- Ensure remunerative guaranteed prices for milk and its procurement for dairies and to supplement nutritional security through Mid Day Meal Scheme and Integrated Child Development Scheme etc;
- Waive off all outstanding agricultural loans of farmers from suicide-affected families and provide special opportunities to children of such families;
- Protect the farmers from corporate plunder in the name of contract farming by reviewing the Contract Farming Act 2018;
- Promote procurement, processing and marketing under Farmer Producer Organisations and Peasant Cooperatives instead of corporatisation of agriculture and takeover by MNCs; and
- Promote an agro-ecology paradigm that is based on suitable cropping patterns and local seed diversity revival, so as to build economically viable, ecologically sustainable, autonomous and climate resilient agriculture.