22 September Friday

The Steady Buildup Of Farmers Movement

Vijoo KrishnanUpdated: Friday Apr 8, 2022

The united movement of the peasantry with unprecedented support from the working  class and a wide cross-section of society achieved what was deemed impossible; the most  authoritarian of regimes considered invincible, to bow down and accept major demands  of the struggle. Modi led BJP Government withdrew all three contentious farm laws on 19 November 2021.

The massive show of anger and disapproval against the BJP  Government is not a spontaneous outburst against a perceived injustice to farmers. It is  rather a result of meticulous efforts to build broad issue-based unity of farmers over the  last seven years.

In 2015 the Bhumi Adhikar Andolan (Movement for Land Rights) saw the unity of over 300  organisations of the peasantry, farmers, tribal people, Dalits, fishing community etc., together against indiscriminate land grab. Struggles by this unity forced the  regime to withdraw an Ordinance aimed at facilitating corporate land grab.

In 2017 yet another Issue-Based Unity called All India Kisan Sangharsh (Farmers Struggle)  Co-ordination Committee was formed around the two issues of assured remunerative  prices at least 50 % more than the cost of production and freedom from indebtedness.  More than 250 farmers organisations are part of this Unity which launched many  struggles as well as drafted two Bills from amidst the protests which are in Parliament as  Private Member Bills. These cross-class issue-based unities that cut across castes,  religions and regions that launched many struggles created an atmosphere as well as  fertile ground for bigger actions.

The march led by the landless farmers in April 2015 in Karnataka against the ordinance was a prominent one. It involved marches from three different points in the State  converging in a massive rally at Bangalores Freedom Park. A dedicated team of Kisan Sabha cadres marched about 466 kilometres to reach  Bangalore. Another much larger march started from Bagepalli in Chikkaballapur district  completing 100 kilometres to reach the States capital. The third march was from  Srinivasapura in Kolar district 104 kilometres away. I had marched for 4 days and covered 100 kilometres and participated in the massive rally held at the conclusion of the  marches. The effort primarily by the Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha affiliated to All  India Kisan Sabha supported by the All India Agricultural Workers Union, the Centre of  Indian Trade Unions; almost independently under the red flag could draw to the  concluding rally different farmers organisations, Dalit organisations and civil society  groups with flags of all hues as well as a cross-section of leaders.

AIKS had independently organised the Kisan Sangharsh Jatha that had moved through  different States and had a massive mobilisation at Delhi on 26th November 2016, which  also turned into the first All India protest after the demonetisation.

The Nashik-Mumbai Kisan Long March starting from the land of the historic Warli Adivasi  struggle covered about 186 kilometres again with thousands rallying under the red flag  in an independent struggle led by the All India Kisan Sabha. This struggle again was by  raising the issues of land rights, forest rights, food security; social security pensions and  against indiscriminate land acquisition along with the local burning issues including  remunerative prices for their produce and waiver of loans.

The Long  March witnessed unbound energy of the landless peasantry, the Adivasis,  agricultural labour, especially the women who marched undeterred by the blistered and  bleeding feet. It also saw a never-before kind of solidarity emerging with different  sections of society coming forward in support of the farmers, motorists bowing in  reverence to the peasants whom people see as Annadatas (providers of food) and the  broad spectrum of the opposition political parties vying to be seen as the well-wishers of  the peasantry.

The Kisan Long March shook the conscience of people, caught the imagination of  the masses and the capitulation of the ruling government and acceptance of all the  demands sent a message that victory was possible when masses are on the move. These struggles inspired the cross class unity of farmers, dalits and the downtrodden which ultimately inspired historic farmer's struggle and the repeal of three anti - people farm laws introduced by Modi Government.