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Struggle will continue, say farmer leaders: 'Victory rallies' in Maharashtra, Delhi

By Harsh Thakor* 

The Shetkari Kamgar Mahapanchayat (SKM), which took place recently in Mumbai's Azad Maidan, with at least 100 organisations coming under one umbrella, saw peasants, workers, agricultural labourers, women, youth and students of all religions and castes from all over Maharashtra culminating at the venue to celebrate the victory in terminating the farmers bills.. The rally took place ahead of the the winter session of Parliament in which the Centre moved the bill to repeal the three farm laws.
In addition to celebrating the “historic” victory, the speakers at the rally declared their determination to fight for the remaining demands.
These include a Central law to guarantee a just minimum support price (MSP) and procurement, withdrawal of the Electricity Amendment Bill, removal from the Cabinet and arrest of Lakhimpur Kheri MP Ajay Mishra Teni for the tragedy in which several farmers and and a journalist were run over by a car allegedly belonging to his son, repeal of the four labour codes, end to “selling off” the country to corporates, halving the price of diesel, petrol, cooking gas and other essential commodities, doubling the days of work and wages under MNREGA and extending it to the urban areas.
SKM leaders, including Rakesh Tikait, Darshan Pal and Hannan Mollah, addressed the gathering. Yogendra Yadav, Medha Patkar, Yudhvir Singh, Tajinder Singh Virk, Atul Kumar Anjaan, Rajaram Singh and others also spoke. Tikait accused the Central government of running away from a debate on MSP and other issues.
“Several issues related to farming and labour sectors need attention, and we will travel all over the country to highlight them,” he said. Speaking to the media, Tikait said the Central government should bring a law to guarantee MSP. “Otherwise, January 26 (Republic Day) is not far and 4 lakh tractors and farmers all are there.” He said, the ruling BJP had framed critics of the government as ‘Maoists’, ‘Islamists ’ or ‘Khalistanis'.
The Samyukta Shetkari Kamgar Morcha (SSKM) leader Ashok Dhawale said the Mahapanchayat also called for the defeat of the BJP in upcoming State assembly elections and the Statewide local body elections in Maharashtra.
Yogendra Yadav portrayed the harsh economic conditions prevailing and how the policies of the rulers reversed any progress, while Hannan Mollah referred to the instances when Sikhs joined anti-imperialist movements and how till today they breathed the spirit of secularism at the highest pitch.
Tajinder Singh Virk recounted how in Laxmipur Kher, the team of BJP cadre pounced on him and other farmers like a lion attacking it’s prey. He threw light not only on the barbarity of the incident, but how the rulers framed the farmers. Virk narrated how Union minister of state Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra was driving one of those vehicles -- and that he was targeted for leading the protest that day against the Minister’s remarks about farmers the previous week.
The Shaheed Kalash Yatra of the Lakhimpur Kheri martyrs, which began from Pune on October 27, traversed over 30 districts of Maharashtra in the last one month, reached Hutatma Chowk. It also commemorated the 106 martyrs of the Samyukta Maharashtra struggle in the 1950s. After this, the ashes of the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre martyrs were immersed in the Arabian Sea off the Gateway of India in a special programme at around 4 pm, just after the Mahapanchayat at Azad Maidan.
Being the death anniversary of social reformer Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, SKM paed rich homage to him. In all, around 50,000 persons attended the rally, with around 12,000 participants occupying the actual assembly place.

Delhi rally

The rally took place following the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) commemorating the annual anniversary of the Delhi Morcha at Pakaura Chowk, New Delhi, with a huge public rally, where also around 50,000 persons participated. The speakers at the rally said, after the announcement of repeal of farm laws they would continue their struggle for their remaining demands.
The rally started with a tribute to more than 700 martyrs who sacrificed their lives during the struggle. State committee of the organisation saluted the martyrs’ memorial temporarily established in the rally ground. Participants joined the tribute standing silently for two minutes as revolutionary poet Sant Ram Udasi’s anthem of martyrs ‘chadhan waleoo haqaan di bhet utteh’ (o people who sacrificed their lives for rights) was played from the stage.
Addressing the rally Joginder Singh Ugrahan, president of BKU (Ekta Ugrahan), said the “historic victory” of the farmershas been made possible not only by the unity of farmers and farm labourers from across the country but also global solidarity. He reminded that demands like procurement of agriculture produce of all crops at remunerative MSP and universal public distribution system (PDS) are still unfulfilled.
Sukhdev Singh Kokri, general Secretary of the organisation, stated that demand like procurement on MSP and PDS are unaddressed, even as as Indian state is committed to implement policies of the World Trade Organisation. The farm laws were part of these policies, so the real solution lies in India getting out WTO agreements.
Jhanda Singh Jethuke, senior vice president and Shingara Singh Mann said there was need to guard against complacency, warning, if farmers became less vigilant about opportunist political parties, the upcoming elections may prove to be an assault on their unity.
Harinder Kaur Bindu, leader of women’s wing of the organisation, said that women played leading and equal role in the protest against the farm laws, adding, this role would be expanded in the future struggles. She called upon women to take more responsibility in the struggles. I attach great significance to this in contemporary light of women being subordinated to oppression.
Lachman Singh Sevewala, general secretary of the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union, insisted, that farm workers have played an important role in the agitation and the unity among farmers and farm workers has become stronger. Among those who were present on the occasion included human rights human rights activists Gauhar Raza, Shabnam Hashmi, and Nandini Sunder, among others.
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*Freelance journalist based in Mumbai, has toured India, particularly Punjab, has been writing on mass movements

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