Will Kisan mahapanchayat signal a political movement in UP, Haryana?

Arrested farmers should be released before talks are resumed demands Rakesh Tikait as over 50,000 farmers attend Kandela khap mahapanchayat

Image Courtesy:indiatvnews.com

Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait addressed the massive crowds of farmers’ gathered at the mahapanchayat called by Kandela khap at Jind, Haryana. Tiakit questioned the Union government’s response to the agitation, “What will you do if the youth removes you from power?” According to India Today, over 30 khap panchayats of Haryana attended the event. Even as the stage collapsed under the weight of scores of khap leaders gathered there (no one was reported hurt), the farmers movement has pitched its tents deep into Haryana now. 

Tikait has once again called for a “wapsi” (withdrawal) of the three new farm laws, and given a sound warning to those in power that the farmer’s voice must be heard, else political consequences are imminent. “We have so far talked about “bill wapsi” [repealing the farm laws]. The government should listen carefully. What will you do if the youth call for “gaddi wapsi” [removal from power]” he was reported as saying. Most important is the demand that the farmers who have been arrested, should be released before the government initiates further talks. 

At the Jind Kisan Mahapanchayat the farmer leaders remained focused on their demands:

  • The three agricultural laws be repealed
  • A new law guaranteeing MSP be made and
  • The Swaminathan committee report be implemented.



While Rakesh Tikait, is being credited with adding renewed strength to the farmers’ protests now swelling at Ghazipur-Delhi border, he has acknowledged that it is the community that is the strength behind the movement. While on the surface he is speaking of the community of farmers which has united across India and made the dissent against  the three farm laws a national movement, making the world take notice, he also hints at the backup he has received from the powerful Jat community.

Ghazipur has seen a massive inflow of farmers from the community, arriving from both from western Uttar Pradesh, as well as Haryana, and Rajasthan, adding to the strength of the resilient Sikh farmers, mostly from Uttarakhand, who were holding the fort here with Tikait for nearly three months. Mahapanchayats, or large community meetings, across the Hindi heartland have now decided to regularly send farmers, and supplies, to Ghazipur for “as long as the anti farm laws sit in protest lasts” say farmers. The around eight layer, security barricading and road blocks are no deterrent here. “Our leaders have said we should come here on a regular basis, we have put a system in place and each family from UP will send one person,” said a farmer who came with a group of 100 on February 1. Many farmers are setting up a relay system, and will come in batches so others can go back and tend to work back in the farms. Many more are here to sit in protest long term, till the laws are repealed.

Late on February 2, BKU leader Rakesh Tikait declared that a pan-India tractor rally will be taken out soon. He declared to the media that the farmers were giving the government time till October, indicating how long the protests are likely to go on. He also announced an “all india rally of over 40 lakh tractors”. The massive barricading seems to have added to the farmers resolve to sit in protest for the long haul. Tikait ate a meal right under a barricade to illustrate that point.

Many farmers of Uttar Pradesh have claimed that they “regretted voting for the Bharatiya Janata Party in past elections,” and feel betrayed by the party now. At from Muzafarnagar panchayat led by Naresh Tikait, the Muslim leaders recalled the community’s errors of “defeating Ajit Singh and Jayant Chowdhary led RLD”, and “killing Muslims” reffering to the communal riots. At Ghazipur Rakesh Tikait has been visited by leaders from both the Shiv Sena as well as the Samajwadi Party and others. Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut visited Ghazipur on Tuesday to extend the “full support” of his party and the Maharashtra government to the agitation. Jharkhand’s agriculture minister Badal Patralekh too visited the Ghazipur border and met Tikait, and conveyed his “moral support” reported HT.

There is anger amongst the farmers, who say it was their votes that helped BJP win in both Haryana and UP. “We voted them to power, we will vote them out. Bring back the paper ballot, and see what happens in the next election if the farm laws are not taken back,” is the common answer given by farmers at Ghazipur. Though Tikait, who admitted to voting for BJP himself, has so far refrained from making such a comment, even he has blamed the party and the RSS, for allegedly attempting to defame the farmers movement, including vilifying the Sikh community. 

If a call to action is made after Mahapachayat at Jind on February 4, there may cause bigger political waves that the BJP government, especially in its two bastions of UP and Haryana will have to deal with. Tikait’s attendance at a community mahapanchayat at Haryana’s Jind district is also a sign of the unification of the Jat community at large. 

According to a report in the Hindustan Times, tight security arrangements have been put in place at Jind’s Kandela village for the event, organised by the Sarv Jatiya Kandela Khap and backed by other khaps of the region. In Delhi, the police continue to restrict vehicular movement between Delhi and Ghaziabad on National Highway 24. The cement barriers, barbed wire fencing and spikes on roads have also made sure no one can walk across.

Farmers unions will observe a chakka jam on all national and state highways on February 6, 2021 from 12 PM to 3 PM to decry the persistent government repression, the corporate-friendly budget and to demand the repeal of the three farm laws and the legalisation of Minimum Support Price (MSP,) said the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM). “The youth arrested and beaten; missing tractors and vehicles after January 26; blocking of all routes leading to farmer protest sites; problem relating to water, electricity, latrines, internet; attacks on journalists; stopping of trains carrying farmer supporters; withholding of Kisan Ekta Morcha – considering all this, we have decided to call for a three-hour road blockade on February 6,” said farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal speaking to the media the Singhu border.

Now many independent journalists have also reported that they are being prevented from entering the protest sites, even on foot. The internet too will remain suspended in around 17 districts of Haryana till Wednesday evening, it still remains erratic along Ghazipur border as well. According to HT, in Chandigarh, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh chaired an all-party meeting on Tuesday, which too passed a resolution seeking the withdrawal of the new laws which the protesting farmers say will lead to the weakening of the minimum support price (MSP) system. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has also attacked the government over barricades and roadblocks set up at farmer agitation sites at Delhi’s borders. 

According to The Indian Express, several MPs, said that the heavy police deployment to evict the protesters led by Tikait have “inflamed the sentiments of farmers, especially those from the Jat community which carries significant political weight in western UP, Haryana and parts of Rajasthan.” This was reflected in the Muzaffarnagar mahapanchayat on Friday, where over 10,000 participants have reportedly acknowledged the growing public sentiment that  does not bode well for the BJP. It was attended by leaders from Rashtriya Lok Dal, Samajwadi Party, Congress and even the Aam Aadmi Party. The IE  reported that some leaders, perhaps those also from the BJP, have “blamed the UP government” for “mishandling” the situation. They admitted that the potentially turning western UP’s political mood and make it emerge as a “protest hub.” In Haryana, Jat Khap leaders across the party lines have already come out in support of Tikait. Local panchayats have also begun mobilising more supplies and people to reach Singhu and Tikri borders in batches.

Most Khap leaders of Haryana have maintained that now that INLD MLA Abhay Chautala has officially quit, his nephew Dushyant Chautala, the state’s deputy CM will be under even more pressure. “His MLAs are all hiding, no one will dare come and talk to us now, leave alone seek our votes,” is the refrain that is heard clearly on the Tikri border, where spikes have also been cemented onto the road. The IE reported that as BJP has 40 out of 90 seats, Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala and his 10 MLAs hold the key to power in Haryana. The increased police action on the Haryana-Delhi border is also likely to now revive the agitation well into Haryana.


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