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Farmers hail ‘historic victory’, but won’t wind up strike now

No saints in BJP, decision driven by political profit and loss, says Bharatiya Kisan Union general secretary Yudhvir Singh.

November 19, 2021 07:20 pm | Updated November 20, 2021 07:37 am IST - Ghaziabad

Farmers celebrate after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the repeal of the three farm laws at the Tikri border in New Delhi on Friday, November 19, 2021.

Farmers celebrate after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the repeal of the three farm laws at the Tikri border in New Delhi on Friday, November 19, 2021.

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), a platform of protesting farmer unions, has welcomed the repeal of the three laws as a “historic victory” but noted that its struggle included other demands regarding remunerative prices and electricity rates. It has not yet taken a decision on whether or when to withdraw its stir.

In an initial statement, the SKM said it would wait for the declaration to take effect through parliamentary procedures. “If this happens, it will be a historic victory of the year-long farmers’ struggle in India,” it noted. “However, nearly 700 farmers have been martyred in this struggle. The Government’s obstinacy is responsible for these avoidable deaths, including the murders at Lakhimpur Kheri,” it stated.

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“SKM will take note of all developments, hold its meeting soon and announce further,” it added.

It said that they had also called for a statutory legal guarantee that all farmers will receive Minimum Support Prices for their produce and withdrawal of the Electricity Amendment Bill.

Describing the repeal of farm laws as just “one step” towards resolving farmers’ demands, the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) said that they would decide on the future course of the agitation only after the SKM meeting on Saturday.

 

“Our demand for a law on guaranteed MSP is still pending. The promise of forming a committee will not do. We will wait for clarity on other issues and the repeal of the laws in the Parliament,” general secretary of BKU Yudhvir Singh told The Hindu .

Political calculus

The timing of the decision, Mr. Singh said, had once again proved that “those ruling us are no saints and that they think only in terms of political profit and loss.”

“Had they been sensitive towards farmers, they would not have allowed 700 peasants to die over the last one year. That’s why we can’t welcome the move; it is just a step,” he said.

 

Dharmendra Malik, media in-charge BKU, said it was the victory of a non-violent movement led by young farmers against the arrogance of a few powerful individuals. “ Der aaye durust aaye (better late than never) but concerns remain. It is the first victory achieved through the unity, struggle and sacrifice of farmers,” he said.

As the news broke on Friday morning, farmers camped at the Ghazipur border celebrated by distributing ladoos and jalebis , and raising slogans of unity.

Kiranpal Gill, an elderly farmer from Bijnor, who was distributing jalebis said, “Finally, they (government) realised that we exist. That the news has come on Gurpurab has made it all the more special.”

 

As two tankers of the Ghaziabad municipality washed the service lane connecting the Delhi-Meerut Expressway to the city, farmers were seen sharing sweets with the U.P. Police personnel who have guarded the site for over a year.

A ritual was conducted to honour the memory of the over 500 farmers who lost their lives during the agitation and to seek sadbuddhi (good sense) for the government to honour its promises and concede the demand for guaranteed MSP.

Sanjay Singh, a lawyer from Meerut with a farming background, said the government forgot that for a farmer “hoplessness is a sin”.

“It is hope that keeps him spirited in a harsh occupation. How could he have lost this battle against a few proud men who don’t understand the pulse of rural India,” Mr. Singh said.

 

Pavan Khatana, a spokesperson of BKU from Gautam Buddha Nagar, said the Union was not in the electoral game but only those should vote for the BJP who are ready to spend a year on the road for their just demands. “We have seen private mandis coming up despite the laws being put on hold by the Supreme Court. So, you never know...”

Vijendra Yadav, a farmer leader from Sambhal, said the farmers could not forget that they were termed Khalistanis, anti-nationals, and andolanjivis (professional agitators) for asking what was their due.

Bhagwan Das, a small farmer from Kanpur said the government had promised to give ₹10,000 by direct transfer to street vendors. “My son’s chat stall was shut down because of COVID but we have yet to receive any payment. The elections could be held but the schools and shops could not open. Is it justified,” he asked.

 

Swing back to BJP?

However, there were some who felt, with the repeal of farm laws, the acrimony towards the BJP could be over.

“We have no enmity with the BJP. Let them take a call on the MSP, we don’t mind returning to the fold,” said Ramesh Malik from Muzaffarnagar. Gyasi Ram from Pala village of Aligarh said “God has given good sense to Modi. Itna kasht toh chalta hai (This much pain is fine)”.

Meanwhile, noted agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan welcomed the announcement.

 

“I am happy with the announcement today. I emphasise that C2+50% is the core of the Reports of the National Commission on Farmers,” he said on Twitter.

“The future of our agriculture depends on the impact we can make on three fronts: production, procurement and prices,” he added.

BKS opposes decision

Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), affiliated to the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) has opposed the Centre’s decision to repeal the farm laws, saying it will result in “long-term damage” to farmers’ interests.

“Because of the stubbornness of these so-called farmers, there is bound to be long-term damage for farmers. The reforms brought about by these laws would have especially benefited small and medium farmers,” the BKS said in a statement.

The group had said the laws needed amendments, not a repeal.

According to the BKS, the real problem facing farmers was exploitation in the market. It demanded that farmers be protected by the enactment of law guaranteeing remunerative prices for their produce, a demand that it shares with the farm unions protesting the three laws.

The committee being set up to make minimum support prices more effective must have a fair representation from non-political organisations, it added.

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