Barabanki: Since early Wednesday morning, hundreds of tractors, cars and bikes lined up on the Harakh Chauraha near Haidergarh road of Barabanki district in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, unloading scores of supporters, mostly women, who had come to join the protest in the village against three farm laws.
Hundreds walked several kilometres to reach the protest site, singing Awadhi folk songs, waving the tricolour and raising slogans to encourage the movement, which gained fresh impetus a few days ago; Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), under the banner of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), held its first ever 'mahapanchayat' in Eastern Uttar Pradesh also known as Purvanchal on Wednesday.
This was the first 'mahapanchayat' of farmers in the region after a massive congregation in Muzaffarnagar on January 29, then Baghpat, Bijnor and in Mathura, resolving to support the ongoing BKU-led protest at the Ghazipur border against the three new farm laws.
"Mahapanchayat is being organised in Eastern Uttar Pradesh just to create public awareness and to make the farmers conscious about the three farm rules because people in rural areas are still unaware about the implications of the farm laws. It is high time to convey the message to the layman that how the government is doing injustice with the farmers. We have been distributing a handy pamphlet to the marginal farmers in the simplest of languages on the loopholes of farm laws. Hence, the farmers and especially landless farmers who work in the villages during the harvest season will also play a major role in the chaos," Chandrabhan, a farmer from Jeoli village in Barabanki district told Newsclick, adding that anger among the farmers is intensifying.
The mahapanchayat witnessed the participation of around 10,000 people from Barabanki, Lakhimpur Kheri, Sitapur, Hardoi, Ayodhya, Faizabad, Amethi, Bahraich Raebareli, and Fatehpur districts. Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) president Naresh Tikait, Digamber Singh, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Youth) president, Harinam Singh Verma and Balram Singh Lambardar of BKU addressed the gatherings.
"While Western Uttar Pradesh farmers are joining protests on borders and farmers in Eastern Uttar Pradesh have difficulty in reaching there since there is no train. So, we have decided to hold mahapanchayat in every region including Gorakhpur and Varanasi. Barabanki is known as an entrance gate for Purvanchal and when we successfully mobilised farmers here, the flame we lit here, will continue till the repeal of the black laws," Verma, vice president of BKU, Barabanki region, told Newsclick,
ATTEMPT TO CONNECT MARGINAL FARMERS
The ripples of the farmers' protest against the new agri laws on the Ghazipur border have spread further in Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's bastion Purvanchal via Western Uttar Pradesh. BKU is taking the agitation against agricultural laws from Western UP to Purvanchal through 'mahapanchayats', so that small farmers who cannot reach the Delhi border can be connected.
Usha Devi, a woman farmer associated with BKU walked around 100 km from Faizabad to Barabanki to participate in the mahapanchayat along with her 50 colleagues. Usha, a potato grower, expressed deep anguish over the Modi government's stand on the Minimum Support Price (MSP). "We are forced to dump potatoes as they are not getting the required MSP for our crops. Our potatoes are sold for Rs 100 per tonne and we have to pay Rs 250 per tonne for cold storage. Farmers are forced to shell out extra money from their pocket for storing the produce," says a distraught Usha.
Usha says that the cost of growing every kilogram of potato was put at Rs 10-12, farmers sell them only at Rs 3-4 per kg. Even the best quality potato sold at the mandi at Rs 170 for a bag of 50 kilos. “Where MSP has gone now? I would rather give away my potatoes for free to the needy ones but not sell below the costing,” Usha said as she broke into tears.
Surjinder Singh, a young farmer from Sitapur was excited and nervous as well. Excited, because the farmers’ mahapanchayat is being organised in Eastern UP almost after three months, but also nervous as the police is making house arrests, illegally detaining people, arresting and issuing legal threats to prevent them from joining the protest on state borders.
“We have been raising our voice against the farm laws ever since the protest started in Punjab but the Yogi government has put us under house arrest and is threatening us if we give a call for protest in Sitapur. This is the reason why farmers are not being able to join protests on borders, but since Barbanki has given the nod, the protests will reach every nook and corner of Purvanchal,” Singh said.
BKU president Naresh Tikait said the government is under a "misconception" that only the farmers of Punjab and Haryana are in this "battle" and asserted that farmers across the country want the scrapping of the "repressive" legislations.
"The government first claimed that only farmers from Punjab and Haryana are in the ongoing protests and West UP followed suit; they said it was only Jats. What will the government say now after seeing massive gatherings in Purvanchal?” Tikait told Newsclick, adding that the government is under the wrong impression that only the farmers from Punjab and Haryana and Jats are in this movement. Farmers across the country, be it Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Northeastern states or any other place, have the same sentiment," he added.
GUARANTEE MSP ON CROPS
Lambardar, vice president of BKU Uttar Pradesh, said due to absence of MSP-based procurement, farmers in Uttar Pradesh are forced to sell their produce at much lower prices. “Maize MSP is around Rs 1,800 per quintal and Paddy MSP is around Rs 1,868 but private traders are buying it at Rs 800-900 per quintal in UP,” he said.
Accusing the Modi government of working for corporate biggies like Adani and Ambani, Tikait said, “We will not let our children become slaves of these corporate families. We will sacrifice our lives but not let this happen.” Tikait said adding that this mahapanchayat was also against big corporate houses.
A similar mahapanchayat was also held on Thursday in Munderwa in Basti district. BKU said it will organise such gatherings in Gorakhpur and Varanasi next month to garner support of farmers.