“Today’s development in the form of a morning announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding the decision to repeal the three anti-farmer and pro-corporate black laws is welcome, and a historic first victory for farmers of India. By forcing the repeal of the laws the farmer’s struggle has led to a reinstatement of democracy and of the federal polity in India,” with these words on November 19, 2021, farmers group Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) celebrated the farmers’ victory.
However, it also reminded the central government that there are several pending demands that Modi and his government are well aware of, and that need to be addressed. SKM leaders in their joint statement voiced the hope that the government that “experienced a major climbdown in this repeal-related announcement” also fulfil other legitimate demands of protesting farmers, including legalisation of Minimum Support Price (MSP).
“On this occasion, the SKM pays its humble homage to around 675 farmers who have been martyred in this agitation so far, and states that their sacrifice will not go in vain. The Punjab government has announced that it will erect a suitable memorial for these bold martyrs,” said leader Balbir Singh Rajewal.
For now, the SKM confirmed that mobilisation continues for a large demonstration to mark the first anniversary of the movement on November 26. Similarly, another large group of farmers will head towards the Lucknow Kisan Mahapanchayat.
Following the repeal of the three laws by Modi on Friday morning, he appealed to all farmers at Delhi borders to vacate the area. While the SKM is yet to give an official statement regarding the same, Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait said that farmers will not move until their demands for MSP are realised. All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) Ashok Dhawale and Hannan Mollah too addressed a press conference in the capital city to say that the failure of a legally guaranteed MSP has aggravated the agrarian crisis and led to the suicide of over 4 lakh farmers in the last 25 years. Of the latter, around one lakh farmers died in the last seven years of the ruling regime.
The AIKS celebrated the announcement as the second defeat for the BJP-led government following the halting of the Land Acquisition Ordinance. Mollah said the news is a big victory against the effort to corporatize agriculture and aggressively pursue neoliberal economic policies.
“Farmers shall not forget the extreme repression, brutal attacks, the killing of our comrades and the insults hurled at farmers. We shall not forget the concrete walls, the barbed wire and barricades, the trenches dug, nails planted, insults hurled, the water cannons, teargas, the clampdown on the internet, attacks on journalists. Everything shall be remembered,” he said.
Similarly, Central Trade Unions (CTUs) reiterated worker-peasant unity against the government’s “anti-people” policies. As such, they resolved to continue plans for the national convention of workers on 11 November and the two-day strike during the Parliament’s budget session supported by the SKM.
“Whatever decisions the SKM will take on the future course of their struggle, the trade union movement will continue with active support which has been extended since the beginning of this historic struggle,” General Secretary Tapan Sen.
Justice to martyrs
Despite the celebratory environment on this Prakash Parab of Guru Nanak Jayanti, the SKM has not forgotten the deaths of many farmers like those who were killed in Lakhimpur Kheri.
On October 3, four farmers and a local journalist Raman Kashyap were allegedly mowed down by Union Minister Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish. Farmers demanded the Minister’s removal from the Union Cabinet to allow a fair trial. This demand remains the same even after Modi’s morning announcement.
Uttar Pradesh farmer unions expressed deep concerns about the inclusion of IPS Officer Padmaja Chauhan into the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the state government to investigate the Lakhimpur Kheri violence. “A perusal of various reports that have come to the notice of SKM of her tenure in different districts of UP show that this official’s record has been against the farmers’ struggle and also around muzzling of media. SKM expresses its sincere hope that the Supreme Court will look into this matter, since the very purpose for the reconstitution of the SIT and to appoint retired Justice R. K. Jain to oversee the investigations is to bring in impartiality and independence,” said Darshan Pal.
According to the SKM, Chaujan, as the district level police official, was involved in harassing and falsely implicating a journalist in Lakhimpur Kheri. Some local farm unions allege that Chauhan invoked the Gangster Act against farmer leaders who were fighting for land rights in the district.
In Haryana, a large group of farmers outside the office of the Superintendent of Police in Hansi, once again demanded that FIRs against three protesting farmers be withdrawn. Instead, they demanded that a case be registered against the BJP leader Ram Chander Jangra for calling protesting farmers insulting names like jobless alcoholics, addicts and so on.