Mandsaur: On the second anniversary of the Mandsaur firing, in which six farmers were reportedly killed after the police opened fire, thousands of farmers from across the nation, under the banner of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (AIKSS), gathered in Takrawad village, Mandsaur district, Madhya Pradesh (MP) to pay tribute to the martyrs. The farmers are celebrating ‘Shahid Divas’ (Martyrs Day) under the chairmanship of Balaram Patidar, uncle of one of the martyrs.
Why the Protest?
The 208 farmer organisations, across the country, gathered to pay homage to the martyrs memorial statues in Budhgaon. These statues were put up by the farmers after six of them were killed on June 6, 2017. After paying tributes, the farmer organisations demanded that the government must erect a memorial for the sacrifice of the farmers and acknowledge their courageous act in the history of the farmers movement.
Apart from the construction of the martyr’s memorial, they are also demanding that the false cases that have been lodged against the farmers after the 2017 Mandsaur protest, be withdrawn. Also, the alleged murderers, including the police personnel that opened fire on the farmers be arrested. On the second anniversary, they have reiterated their long-standing demand of getting a fair price for their produce.
Who attended the protest?
The protest was attended by multiple farmer organisations and their leaders such as- Comrade Premsingh Gehlawat, National Vice President of the All India Kisan Mahasabha; Comrade Ishwari Prasad, National Secretary All India Kisan Mahasabha; Shri Rajendra Purohit, MP State President, Shri Rajesh Vairagi, State secretary, and Shri Dilip Patidar, Mandsaur district President, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti.
The district panchayat member, Subhash Patidar, was also present who gave a vote of thanks and addressed the Shahid Divas assembly.
What are the leaders saying?
The leaders present at the protest were angry at the MP Chief Minister, Kamal Nath, who just paid tribute to the martyrs via twitter. The farmer leaders have called this move as “insufficient and insensitive.” They have even warned of a protest outside the CM’s residence in case their demands are not accepted.
Addressing the ‘Shahid Divas’ assembly, the president of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan and former MLA, Sardar V. M. Singh, said “the 208 farmers organizations, dedicated to this purpose, even forced the Prime Minister of the country to speak of the farmers, but the Chief Minister of the state has taken to Twitter to pay homage to the martyrs, which in no way is effective or helpful. We have formed the peasants’ unified organisation to which the government have to surrender and lend an ear to all the demands that are being put forth.”
Former MP and farmers’ leader from Maharashtra, Raju Shetti, said “Assurances to farmers demand is not enough anymore. If the Swabhimani Shantakari Sangathan in Maharashtra can force the government to revise the prices of sugarcane and milk, it surely can do justice to the farmers of Madhya Pradesh.” He further added that if their demands are not accepted, the farmers will organise their demonstration outside the CM’s residence.
Rajaram Singh, the National General Secretary of the All India Kisan Mahasabha said that the martyred farmers of Mandsaur have shook the country and brought the entire farming community together. He further added that their struggle for justice will continue.
Madhuresh Kumar, National Convener of National Alliance of People’s Movements said, “Our struggle is against atrocities, exploitation and injustice, whether it is in Narmada, Mandsaur or Tuticorin. Our aim is to change the present system.”
MP state president of the All India Kisan Sabha, Mr. Jaswinder Singh, said “We are struggling to stop the exploitation of the farmers and workers. When the farmers buy and sell agricultural produce, they are all farmers, but caste and money assumes a dominant role during elections and thus their electoral power is divided.”
Expressing his fear on the farming community, after the landslide victory of the BJP, Shailendra Singh from Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) said, “it is not the opposition that has lost in the current elections, instead the country’s unemployed, farmers and labourers have been at huge loss and the capitalists have assumed the seats of power.”
Warning that the Congress government in the state might lose power if they continue to ignore the demands of the farmers, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti’s Executive President, and former MLA Dr. Sunilam, said “the MP Congress government is counting its last breaths, the oxygen tube is in the hands of Amit Shah and Modi, they can make the government fall whenever they want to. In such a situation, the Congress Government should immediately take to fulfilling the farmers’ demands, who have a considerable contribution to the formation of their government.” Further expressing his anguish over Kamal Nath’s tweet, Dr. Sunilam added, “Rather than tweeting, the CM should instead visit Mandsaur and pay homage to the martyrs, withdraw false cases against farmers and speak for arresting the murderers.”
What happened in Mandsaur two years back?
On June 6, 2017 farmers
had gathered in Mandsaur, a drought-ravaged region, to demand fair prices for their produce as 2017 was the second year of a bumper onion crop with no buyers, forcing the farmers to sell their produce at Rs. 2 to 3 per kg. They were also demanding loan waivers.
The protest gradually turned turned violent and the police as well as the jawans from the Central Reserve Police Force started firing on the protestors. This led to the death of five on the spot and one succumbed to the injuries the next day.
After a lot of demands, the then BJP state government appointed a commission under the chairmanship of retired High Court Justice JK Jain that was tasked with investigating the deadly firing. Notably, the commission concluded that the police and the CRPF were not to blame for the incident as they were forced to open fire and thus were given a clean chit!
What has the MP government done?
In 2017, Mandsaur had become an epicentre of agrarian protests, which led to the death of six farmers. Consequently, the then CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan launched the Bhavanter Bhugtan Yojna, which promised to pay farmers the difference between the average sale price and the government mandated minimum support price (MSP). However, farmers alleged that the scheme only benefited the big farmers with bargaining power. This was a major factor behind BJP’s defeat in the assembly elections.
Immediately after coming to power, MP CM Kamal Nath cleared a proposal for waiving farm loans, as promised. The entire farming community was euphoric and started applying for the waivers. However, the excitement was short lived!
Soon after the scheme kicked in, there were reports of scams by the banks with some farmers alleging that their names were included in the list of defaulters even when they hadn’t taken a loan or the loan amount was higher than the original amount. There have also been allegations that not a single farmer has benefited from this waiver as yet. This created immense resentment among the farmers and they started losing faith in the Congress.
Now what has angered the farmers more is Kamal Nath’s tweet “Today is the second anniversary of Mandsaur firing. Tribute to six farmers killed in this barbarous firing.” He also added, “Our government is determined to punish the accused of this firing, to give justice to the victims and to withdraw the false cases registered against the innocent farmers (during protests).”