The right-wing’s internet forces, including many ‘influencers’ who have lakhs of followers collectively spent Sunday in trying to communalise the Kisan Mahapanchayat held at Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, on September 5. Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait had from the stage made a public attempt to invoke communal harmony, and raised the slogan “Allahu Akbar” the sea of humanity gathered then responded with “Har Har Mahadev”.
Tikait told the gathering that his father Mahendra Singh Tikait, who is revered in the farming community of the area, had raised both these chants together to encourage unity of farmers. He added that politicians “will divide, we [farmers] will unite people.” Soon the trolls of the IT cell were supplied with edited clips of Tikait only chanting “Allahu Akbar” from the stage. Chanting ‘god is great’ in any language for any religion is not illegal in any form. However, the right-wing trolls had their assignment and agenda set for the day and soon targeted Rakesh Tikait ‘accusing’ him of raising ‘Islamic slogans of “Allahu Akbar” in the Kisan Panchayat.
Tikait’s speech invoking the Muslim-Hindu slogans was an attempt to offer a symbol of solidarity in the area which had witnessed one of the worst communal clashes between Hindu and Muslim communities in 2013, coincidentaly in the same month. Over 60 people had died, mostly Muslims and many more had been injured. More than 40,000 Muslims were reportedly displaced in the aftermath of the riots which have had a long lasting social and political impact in the state.
In March 2021, a court in Muzaffarnagar allowed withdrawal of cases against BJP leaders like Uttar Pradesh minister Suresh Rana, MLA Sangit Som, former MP Bhartendu Singh and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Sadhvi Prachi, in connection with the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots case. After the incident, arrests were made and the National Security Act (NSA) was also invoked. However, later on, the NSA advisory board had revoked the charges against them and bail was granted.
At the Mahapanchayat on Sunday September 5, 2021, many speakers recalled the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 and asked farmers to condemn and reject communal politics. “The Kisan Mazdoor Mahapanchayat declared that the farmers will never allow communal riots to happen in the future. Kisan Andolan will always give slogan to strengthen Hindu-Muslim unity,” they declared in an official statement issued after Mahapanchayat.
The Samyukt Kisan Manch (SKM) accused the Uttar Pradesh government of “ruling on the policy of ‘divide and rule’ and communal policy of caste and religion of the British government”. The SKM said that this “Mahapanchayat is to send a warning to the Union and the State government. Despite the rally of lakhs of farmers with the support of all castes, religion and class, if the government does not repeal all three agricultural laws and does not give legal guarantee for the purchase of agricultural products, then the movement will be intensified.”
The right wing response
However, the right-wing also did their best to flood social media with statements manipulating what had occured with statements such as, “The connotations are clearly on the lines being peddled by global anti Modi, anti India, ISI, Khalistani, Canadian cabal. The script is being handed from there.”
That “Allah O Akbar” by Rakesh Tikait once again proves the agitation is not about farmers or Farm laws. The connotations are clearly on the lines being peddled by global anti Modi, anti India, ISI, Khalistani, Canadian cabal. The script is being handed from there.
— Vikas Saraswat (@VikasSaraswat) September 5, 2021
— Panchjanya (@epanchjanya) September 5, 2021
According to Uttar Pradesh’s Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya, those gathered for the Mahapanchayat were “not farmers but people from SP, BSP, Cong, RLD portraying as farmers in the Mahapanchayat. The real farmers are with the BJP.”
When TV journalist Chitra Tripathi of Aaj Tak, called pro government ‘godi media’ by the farmers, was refused entry by the farmers and was escorted out of the grounds, it was projected as farmers harassing / attacking a ‘woman journalist’. The fact that there were scores of other journalists reporting from the event without any hindrance was conveniently ignored.
एक महिला पत्रकार को घेरकर अपने ‘किसान’ होने का परिचय देते गुंडे।
— Sushant Sinha (@SushantBSinha) September 5, 2021
Attack on media can’t be justified under any circumstances. Journalists are simply doing their job unlike some power greedy AandolanJivis.
— Varun Puri (@varunpuri1984) September 5, 2021
Mission Uttar Pradesh-Uttarakhand
Muzaffarnagar Mahapanchayat has effectively launched the Samyukta Kisan Morcha’s (SKM) Mission Uttar Pradesh-Uttarakhand. The goal is to amplify the farmers’ movement all over these states and demand the repeal of the three contentious farm laws, withdrawal of Electricity Amendment Bill 2020, and assert a legal guarantee for Minimum Support Price (MSP) at one and a half times the comprehensive cost for all agricultural products.
Politically, the area has been a Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) stronghold, till the ‘Modi wave’ led to the rise of the BJP in 2014. Now the influential Khaps of community / clan groups such as the Balyan Khap lead by Naresh Tikait brother of Rakesh Tikait, have sounded the clarion and have called for change, as UP readies for polls in 2022. “People of UP will not tolerate (Home Minister) Amit Shah, (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi and (UP Chief Minister) Yogi Adityanath. If we have governments like this, there will be riots,” said Tikait, adding that the government had not met the farmers at all since January 22.
September 5 marked day 283 of the farmers protest
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha estimated that over 10 lakh farmers from across the nation came together for the Kisan Mazdoor Mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar. According to the SKM farmers had come from “Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and other states.” They stated, “Kisan Mazdoor Mahapanchayat will be remembered as a historic day, and will prove to be a turning point in Indian political landscape.” They called for a Bharat Bandh on September 27.
The SKM accused the Adityanath-led UP government of not fulfilling “even 20% of the promised procurement” adding that while “the UP government had promised loan waiver for 86 lakh farmers, while only 45 lakh farmers have received the loan waiver,” and that “in 2019-20, only 47 lakh farmers were paid, where crop insurance companies earned a profit of Rs 2,508 crore”. The Kisan Mazdoor Mahapanchayat also announced “an agitation in the upcoming meeting of the SKM demanding a rate of ₹ 450 per quintal for sugarcane as promised by the Uttar Pradesh government.”
The ‘other Gandhi’ spoke for farmers
A big surprise of the day was the ‘appeal’ by BJP’s MP from Pilibhit, Varun Gandhi who called for a “re-engagement” with the protesting farmers, saying, “They are our own flesh and blood. We need to start re-engaging with them in a respectful manner: understand their pain, their point of view and work with them in reaching common ground.” The tweet went viral, and while the party is yet to make an ‘official’ response public, this statement from an insider is likely to ruffle a few feathers, at least in the state that is seen as a crucial one for BJP to retain power in.
Lakhs of farmers have gathered in protest today, in Muzaffarnagar. They are our own flesh and blood. We need to start re-engaging with them in a respectful manner: understand their pain, their point of view and work with them in reaching common ground. pic.twitter.com/ZIgg1CGZLn
— Varun Gandhi (@varungandhi80) September 5, 2021
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