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Industrial workers' struggle didn't get support from farmer leaders, Punjab meet told

By Harsh Thakor* 

A conference on the issue of the implementation of the land ceilings Act on the occasion of the birthday of Guru Ravidas at Bhawanigarh in Punjab, comprising mainly agricultural Dalit labourers, has taken strong exception to the connivance of all political parties with the State's pro-landlord elements.
Organised by the Zameen Prapt Sangharsh Committee (ZPSC), the participants included industrial workers, intellectuals and doctors with an impressive presence of women. Held following a preparation campaign in the neighbouring villages, notably, the speakers sought integrated class and caste oppression and the importance of teachings of Dr BR Ambedkar.
The message of the conference was loud and clear: that in spite of inducting welfare laws and making promises, lakhs of acres of land remain with higher caste absentee landlords or politicians. A worker from the Pespi Cola factory expressed how the Dalits were being deprived of any meaningful employment in surrounding areas. He summarised, in his own words, the link between the issues of farmers, agricultural workers and industrial workers and how they should collectively fight for their rights.
He narrated how the situation becomes grave for the industrial workers, who face retrenchment threats, and how many farmers and Dalit workers become helpless after losing land or work. He said, thousands of acres of land remained in the hands of absentee landlords or remained fallow.
He regretted, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, which led the year-long farmers’ movement, gave no support to industrial workers, insisting, worker-peasant unity was imperative. He added, this happened even though many a factory worker originated from the farming community.
A gynaecologist, belonging to the Dalit community, spoke about how none of Dr Ambedkar's visions were fulfilled, pointing out, the implementation of one-third panchayat land rights was of central importance, yet many a Dalit being illiterate was not aware of it. She touched upon the ruthlessness of the Brahminical culture and how it perpetrated the exploitation of Dalit women.
Organised by the Zameen Prapt Sangharsh Committee, the participants included industrial workers, intellectuals and doctors
In her view, technical institution should have been built to educate the Dalit community as Ambedkar had suggested, insisting on the need for drastic transformation in the entire thought process, because the Manuwadi philosophy depriving the Dalits of any cultural progress. Stating that the elections gave no space to Dalits in the programme of any party, she said, Hindutva forces through their demand for Ram Mandir had giving a crushing blow to any progress.
ZPSC leader Meghnad Singh illustrated how since 1947 the Dalit community was entrapped into slavery and how Dalits' resistance struggle got intensified to a very high volume during the last nine months. Although five activists of ZPSC were jailed, media virtually boycotted the news of Dalit struggle and conspired to alienate them.
ZPSC secretaries Paramjit Kaur and Bikar Singh Hathua spoke about why Guru Ravidas' birthday was failing to be aspirational. Activists Mukesh Mulaudh and Tarsem Peter explained how the reformist laws promising Dalit rights existed only on paper. They explained the reasons behind Dalits remaining landless all over the nation, emphasising on the need to unite on a common platform.
Dharamvir Harigadh and Dharampal Nurkhedi hoped that the Bhawanigarh conference would pave the path for the unity of the landless labourers and poor peasantry, and fresh struggles would be launched for distributing the promised land. The Pagri Kala Manch from Phillar staged a drama ‘Aise Chahu Raj’ at the conference.
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*Freelance journalist

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