At Muzaffarnagar rally, leaders call for BJP’s ouster but many farmers disagree

Farmers leave after attending a 'Kisan Mahapanchayat' as part of their ongoing agitation against Centre's farm reform laws, in Muzaffarnagar on September 5, 2021.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Farmer leaders raised a war cry against the BJP at a rally in which they also called for Hindu-Muslim unity in this western U.P. town on Sunday but many of their listeners that The Hindu spoke to have not given up on the party. Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait had called for the ouster of the Yogi Adityanath government in next year’s Assembly election in U.P.

A section of farmers wants to punish the BJP for the three farm laws at the centre of the controversy.

“The BJP fooled us in the last election by bringing up the Pulwama issue and speaking of national interest.. I am a farmer first, a Jat second and then only a Hindu. Farmers' interests are national interests,” said Birender Singh, who owns three acres of land in the Bulandshahr district.

Mr. Tikait’s chanting of religious slogans of both Hindus and Muslims during the rally was widely seen as an attempt to win over a large section of Muslim farmers who parted ways from the BKU, after communal tensions rose in the region in recent years. Mannan Balyan, a Muslim from the Balyan Khap who is also a leader of the Azad Samaj Party, insisted that "Muslim farmers were always with the BKU, it was the Jat farmers who parted ways..”

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The Jats aligned with the BJP in recent elections. Mr. Balyan estimates that 60% of Jat farmers may be upset with the BJP but the rest are still allied with the party.

Digpal Singh, an elderly farmer from Aligarh with two acres of land, said they had seen through the BJP. “It is sad that we realised it only when we were cheated with farm laws and the increasing input cost that is threatening to push our children out of agriculture.”

Now, he said, there is an attempt to alienate farmworkers from landowners by distributing free ration. “This new attempt at dividing society could have dangerous repercussions in the long run,” he said.

Also read: Farmers’ unions promise show of strength at Muzaffarnagar


There are others who were willing to give the BJP another chance given its nationalist agenda and ability to keep the “Muslims in control.”

“We have had no issues with Yogi. With the Taliban raising their head in the neighbourhood, we need a strong government in the State,” said Ranvir Singh, a farmer from Bulandshahr. He hoped that with pressure mounting, the State government would increase sugarcane prices but wondered whether that would be enough considering the high rise in input costs.

Also read: Farmers’ meet has refreshed memories of riot-ridden rule under Congress, SP: Mayawati

“If Modiji listens to us even now, we will give him our vote again. But if not, we will vote for whomever listens to our demands, or we farmers will stand for elections ourselves,” said Rishipal Singh from Aligarh.

Mr. Tikait’s highlighting of issues such as pensions for teachers and policemen as well as permanent positions for sanitation workers was also seen as an attempt to cross not just religious, but also caste and social barriers. The ASP, which is headed by Bhim Army chief Chandrasekhar Azad and has been courting Dalit votes, supported Sunday’s mahapanchayat.

Several farmers that The Hindu spoke to were clear that they support the BKU for farmers’ issues, but that may not extend to electoral politics. “The moment the BKU takes a decision on direct political participation, not only the movement will come to a halt, the Tikaits will face a revolt in villages,” a senior leader of the Rashtriya Lok Dal said requesting anonymity.

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 4:37:41 AM |

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