Thousands of farmers from across the country will assemble at Ramlila Maidan here on Thursday, and then march towards Parliament the next day. They are petitioning the President to call for a special session of Parliament to discuss the agrarian crisis and pass two Bills on farmers debts and guaranteed minimum support prices for their crops.
“Over the last one and a half years, farmers have been protesting across the country. This is a culmination, an eye-opener moment for farmers that the government has still not heard their distress,” said V.M. Singh, convener of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, the banner organisation of 200 farmer groups which has issued the call for this Kisan Mukti March. “The elections are around the corner. There is no more time, no more jumlas [empty promises] will be accepted. Farmers are demanding that this government keeps its promises and passes these Bills before its term ends,” he said.
The two proposed legislations are the Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill, 2018, and The Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Commodities Bill, 2018, which were introduced as private member Bills in the last session of Parliament. At the time, 21 political parties had indicated their support.
With Subhash Chandra Bose’s slogan of “Dilli Chalo” on their lips, about 10,000 farmers and supporters are expected to march from five different directions in the city towards the vast grounds of Ramlila Maidan where they will camp on Thursday night.
While the Delhi Police have given their permission for Thursday’s marches, there is still doubt regarding Friday’s mega rally, when organisers expect one lakh people to march from Ramlila to Jantar Mantar, the protest venue on Parliament Street. Police guidelines states, “The total number of protesters at Jantar Mantar shall not exceed 1,000”. The guidelines also stipulate that no march to or from the Jantar Mantar venue will be allowed.
“We are still having talks with the police, and there is a final meeting planned for tomorrow. But we have decided to march. Four years of the Modi government has seen a total betrayal of farmers. They cannot be stopped now,” said Vijoo Krishnan, Joint Secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, a CPI-M affiliated farmers’ group that is a key part of the march organisation.
Apart from farmers and agricultural labourers, organisers hope to draw in several thousand students, artists and middle-class urban professionals under the banner of a fledgling forum called ‘Nation for Farmers’.
P. Sainath, veteran rural journalist and the key force behind the forum, says he was inspired by the doctors, lawyers and businessmen who stepped out to engage with adivasi farmers who marched from Nashik to Mumbai in March. “After economic liberalisation in 1991, the links between farmers and urban Indian consumers were broken. We are now rebuilding that engagement. This is not a culmination; it’s a historic beginning,” he said.