Organised by Kamgar Ekta Committee and the Maharashtra Council of Lok Raj Sangathan
A meeting to support the ongoing peasant movement was organised on an internet platform by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) and the Maharashtra Council of Lok Raj Sangathan (LRS) on Sunday, 10th January 2021. A large number of people from all walks of life and from all over the country participated, including union leaders of large public sector enterprises like the Indian Railways, the oil sector, banks, insurance and Air India. Com Mathew welcomed the various farmers’ leaders who are in the thick of battle, and who had taken time out to address the participants. He said that KEC, along with 16 other unions, had brought out a statement in support of the farmers and widely distributed it. These unions have been fighting against the privatisation of their sectors and KEC had organised several meetings over the course of a few months as a part of the effort to get them together and unite our efforts against privatisation.
Com Mathew said that the organisers were honoured to have Com. Hannan Mullah (General Secretary of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), and member of the working group of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC)), Harinder Singh (a young peasant leader) and Prof. Ms. Surinder Gill Jaipal (Janwadi Stri Sabha, Punjab) as speakers. These leaders in turn expressed their gratitude to the organisers for giving them this opportunity.
Com. Hannan Mollah gave an overview of the ongoing peasant movement. He pointed out that the AIKSCC had begun the movement to oppose the three anti-peasant bills as soon as they were introduced, nearly seven months ago, in a totally undemocratic manner, without any consultation with the peasants’ organisations. Letters were written to the local and highest authorities of the government but were met with no response. When the bills were passed in Parliament in September 2020, in an utterly surreptitious manner, overriding the parliamentary opposition, the AIKSCC gave a call to peasant organisations all over the country to step up the struggle for repeal of the three anti-peasant laws. He pointed out that the AIKSCC subsequently had a meeting with hundreds of other peasants’ organisations that were also opposing the laws and all decided to fight together under a common banner. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha was formed. Since the lockdown was in force and trains were not running so it was decided that peasants from Punjab, Haryana, UP, and Rajasthan would come to Delhi in their own vehicles while those from other states would demonstrate in front of the collectors’ offices and the Vidhan Sabhas in their respective states.
Hannan Mollah said that peasants faced an unprecedented situation, when they were prevented from entering Haryana on their way to Delhi. We overcame the blockade and reached the borders of Delhi. There we decided to stay put.
Hannan Mollah explained that the peasant organisations had refused to have a clause by clause discussion with the government over the three anti peasant laws, because the laws were made for the benefit of the capitalist monopolies and no amendment would make them favourable for peasants. They have to be repealed. These laws are most harmful to workers as well, because they will lead to the ration system being destroyed and hoarding will lead to unprecedented price rise of essentials. Contract farming will be promoted, forcing farmers to be slaves on their own farms.
Hannan Mollah pointed out that today the MSP (Minimum Support Price) is less than the input cost and only 6% of farmers get even this meagre price. We insist that the MSP must be fixed for every crop in accordance with the Swaminathan Committee’s recommendations and that those who violate it get punished. After the government’s parades on Republic Day, we will have farmers’ parades in all the state capitals of the country as well as in the national capital. Our struggle will continue and we will win!
Comrade Ashok of KEC explained how the three laws are aimed at strengthening the domination of the Indian and foreign biggest monopoly capitalists over the agricultural sector in our country. The monopoly capitalists have been long been eyeing the agricultural sector as a source of huge profits and are today relying on the Modi led BJP government to carry out their agenda, he said. On behalf of KEC, he called on workers organisations and trade unions áll over the country to fully support the peasants’ struggle.
Harinder Singh Reona spoke of the role of the youth in the on-going peasant agitation. The youth are contributing in numerous creative ways, including running the peasants’ own youtube media channel to counter the falsehood spread by the official media, publishing newspapers highlighting different aspects of the struggle, organsing music concerts, sports and cultural events, film shows etc. as well as rendering valuable services such as cleaning, cooking and providing technical support and security at the protest sites. The youth, he said, are playing a very important role in ensuring that no one is able to stage any provocation to spoil the peaceful and organized nature of the protests.
Harinder pointed out that this struggle is being led democratically. Everything is discussed before a decision is taken, and that keeps over 500 organisations united. Apart from the highest committee, there are sub-committees which work on the ground, keep a watch and organise. Every kisan is involved in discussions, and hence in the process of decision making.
Harinder concluded by pointing out that this is a question in front of all Indians, not just of one religion, caste or region. We are very happy that so many trade unions support us. We will stay united and peaceful, and there is no question of defeat!
Prof. Surinder Gill Jaipal (leader of Janwadi Istri Sabha, Punjab) highlighted the role of women in the struggle. She pointed out that the militant participation of women, both at the protest sites as well as in taking care of the work in the villages after so many peasants have left for the protest, has led to the breaking down of many social barriers and led to a great sense of awakening and emancipation of the women. The women have realized that the struggle for repeal of the laws is a struggle for their very existence! Women in Punjab, UP and Haryana are learning to drive tractors and are driving them to the borders of Delhi for the tractor rally, she pointed out.
The stereotyped roles of men and women have broken. Women at home have started doing all jobs in the farm – harvesting, watering, and laying manure. They are telling their husbands – don’t return till you win! On the border men have learnt cooking. Fathers are lovingly serving food to their daughters. Some women are so old, they can’t even walk properly. But they have come, determined to not go back until the laws are repealed.
The women have realised that this is a struggle for existence. People are able to decode the intentions of the government as it tries to divert the people.
Prof. Surinder said that the Samyukt Kisan Morcha has called for marking January 18 as Mahila Kisan Diwas to highlight the heroic participation of women in the struggle. She called upon women and men all over the country to make this day a great success. She also expressed great hope in the fact that the society we all aspire for – a society where there is no discrimination on the basis of gender and there is equality and prosperity for all – is what we see at the protest sites at the borders of the capital today!
Sanjeevani of Lok Raj Sangthan elaborated on how the peasant movement was exposing the limitation of the existing system of democracy and pointing to the necessity for bringing about necessary changes in this system in order to ensure the empowerment of the people.
Trade union leaders – Comrades Uday Choudhary – General Secretary, All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Maharashtra, Amanullah Khan – President, All India Insurance Employees Association (AIIEA), S.P.Singh – General Secretary, All India Guards Council (AIGC), Sanjay Pandhe – President, Indian Railway Loco Runningmen’s Organisation (IRLRO), Anand – General Secretary, South Zone, General Insurance Employees All India Association (GIEAIA), Joe D’ Souza – Vice President, Central Railway Mazdoor Sangh (CRMS), Pranav Kumar – Vice President, Western Railway Trackmaintainers Association (WRTA), Mumbai Division, S.K.Kulsheshta – ex Vice President, All India Station Masters Association (AISMA), Sujoy Kumar – All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) Haryana, A.K.Srivastav – General Secretary, All India Railway Employees Confederation (AIREC) Western Zone, Vidyadhar Date – Chairman, Amchi Mumbai Amchi BEST (Citizens’ Committee formed to save BEST, Mumbai’s bus transport service from privatisation), Suryakant Shinge – General Secretary, Ladaku Garment Mazdoor Sangh participated in the meeting and expressed their full support to the struggle of the peasants. The meeting concluded with the resolve to further step up the united struggle of workers and peasants against the capitalist agenda of globalization through liberalization and privatization.