Farmers groups hold rallies, protests across the country

Delegations from several States reach Delhi for R-Day tractor parade

January 24, 2021 09:27 pm | Updated 09:27 pm IST - New Delhi

Thousands of farmers from various parts of Maharashtra arrive to participate in a protest rally scheduled for Monday in Mumbai, on January 24, 2021.

Thousands of farmers from various parts of Maharashtra arrive to participate in a protest rally scheduled for Monday in Mumbai, on January 24, 2021.

Riding bullock carts and motorbikes, tractors and tempos, farmers from across the country are preparing to join rallies on Republic Day, declaring that their agitation goes beyond the spotlight on Delhi’s borders.

In Maharashtra, more than 15,000 farmers walked down the 7 km Kasara Ghat on the border between Nashik and Thane, and then got into vehicles for a procession towards Mumbai. They will join a sit-in protest of farmers and agricultural workers under the banner of the Samyukta Shetkari Kamgar Morcha at Azad Maidan, where political leaders including NCP chief Sharad Pawar are expected to speak on Monday. On Tuesday, they plan to hoist the flag and then head to Raj Bhavan to submit a memorandum to the Governor.

“Many of these farmers are from the same areas in Nashik that took part in the Long March in 2018. There are more protests across the country now, and more unity among different farmers’ organisations, so they are marching with hope that the government will have to listen to them now,” said All India Kisan Sabha leader Vijoo Krishnan, who helped lead the 180 km foot march from Nashik to Mumbai in 2018.

Five hundred farmers, including 200 women, from the Gujarat Khedut Samaj, who have moved the High Court after they were refused permission to hold protests in Surat and other parts of the State, will be joining the unions at Shahjahanpur on the Rajasthan-Haryana border.

In Madhya Pradesh, farmers from northeastern districts such as Gwalior, Bhind, Morena and Shivpuri are heading towards Palwal near Delhi with 400 tractors, while those from the rest of the State will hold protests in their own district headquarters, said Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh spokesperson Abhimanyu Kohar.

“The BJP is trying to present the movement as only from the northwestern States, but we want to show that it is nationwide,” he said.

In the south, Karnataka’s farmers are planning major rallies in Bengaluru and Belgavi, but say there may be as many bullock carts as tractors. “In our area, there are not so many tractors. Also, the sugarcane season is going on. So one or two tractors will come from each village, but there will be people on bullock carts, motorbikes and on foot, coming to salute the flag in Belagavi,” said Jayashree Gurannanavar, leader of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sanga (KRRS).

Northern Karnataka has sent about 100 people in four Tempo trucks for the Delhi protest, while another 1,000 from the region will head for the Bengaluru parade.

“We are protesting because we want a law guaranteeing that we get fair remuneration for our sweat. No one is paying us a salary. We don’t want any subsidy. We just want a 100% MSP for all agricultural produce,” said Prakash Naik, Belegavi secretary of the KRRS. Regarding the demand for repeal of the three laws, he said, “If the big agriculturists in Punjab and Haryana will be affected by the three laws, how much worse will it be for our small farmers? These laws will lead to cheating.” The KRRS are also protesting the State’s own amendment of the land reform laws.

Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch leader Kavitha Kuruganti said the Centre does not understand that people in States without the strong, regulated mandi system of Punjab and Haryana have already faced corporate exploitation and will be worse affected by the three farm reform laws. “In these places, it is a case of legalising exploitation. They need a repeal even more than places which are more vocal,” she said.

More than a thousand farmers from eastern Indian States, including Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh are also making their way to Delhi to join the Samyukt Kisan Morcha protest, even while their compatriots continue dharnas back home.

“We are a group of 500 mostly paddy farmers from Odisha who left Bhubaneswar in six buses on January 15 and reached Singhu on January 22. Overall, we have travelled about 2,000 kms and were detained several times in Uttar Pradesh,” said Navnirman Krushak Sangathan national convenor Akshaya Kumar. The larger contingent is still on the way and has reached Agra, he added.

Tractor and bike rallies have been held in Ongole and Vishakapatnam districts of Andhra Pradesh in the last few days, and a tractor rally is planned in Vijayawada on January 26. At a protest on Saturday in Hyderabad, trade unions joined farmers groups.

“We want to show that this is a people’s movement, with support beyond farmers, because the corporatisation of the food system will affect everyone, especially the poor who are dependent on PDS,” said Kiran Vissa, State convenor of the Rythu Swarajya Vedika.

On Saturday, rallies were held at or near Raj Bhavans in several States, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Jharkhand, Assam, Tripura and Jammu and Kashmir, although several faced opposition from the police.

“After just ten minutes of our rally in Chennai, the police detained 1000 people. For January 26, we have told the police, it is not a protest, it is just farmers exercising their right to celebrate the country’s Republic Day together,” said Swaraj Abhiyan leader K. Balakrishnan, claiming that TN farmers had been protesting even before Punjab and Haryana, with signature campaigns and dharnas in June and July. “As usual, the rulers in Delhi close their eyes to what is happening in South India,” he said.

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