Gurugram: The attempts to forge a unity between the cultivators and the working population – the two “productive forces” in the society – was provided with a new fillip in the ‘mazdoor-kisan panchayat’ held in Haryana’s Gurugram on Sunday. The event saw slogans being raised against what the protesting groups called their “common enemies”.
This came ahead of the first year anniversary of both the farmers’ march to Delhi – that eventually metamorphosed into a long-drawn sit-in protest – and the countrywide general strike of workers this month on November 26. Both, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), the umbrella body that is currently leading the agitation at the national capital’s border, and the Central Trade Unions (CTUs) have given out a call for demonstrations to mark the day.
Since the passage of reform-oriented agriculture bills and the labour codes in the Parliament last year, both sections have been up in arms against the Narendra Modi-led Central government.
Held at Gurugram’s Mini Secretariat, the public meeting, on Sunday, was organised by the employees’ union of Bellsonica Auto Component India Private Limited, an automotive parts manufacturer that is situated in the millennium city’s industrial town Manesar.
At the congregation, over a hundred auto workers – both, permanent and contractual – of the said company were joined by a farmers’ delegation led by SKM leaders, as well as by representatives from the CTUs along with that from other Manesar-based auto workers’ unions.
Among the prominent farmers’ leaders present were Darshan Pal, Yudhvir Singh and Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan) president Joginder Singh Ugrahan.
While slogans against the Central government and corporate groups – the “common enemies” of both farmers and workers – reverbed in the air, the leaders termed it the event as a “significant step” in strengthening the “joint struggle.”
According to them, a joint meeting of this kind in an urban centre, that saw a joint demand to withdraw the agriculture bills and the labour codes, signifies widening of the agitation, that had begun last year, against the contentious policy decisions of the Centre.
“Such conventions of workers and farmers are a significant step in forming a joint struggle against the Central government and its decisions,” said Darshan Pal, who heads the Punjab-based Krantikari Kisan Union, while addressing the congregation. “It shows that that farmers’ movement has now become a movement not only of the farmer but of the whole country.”
More importantly, Sunday’s meeting was heralded as the coming together of industrial workers and the farmers, said Joginder Singh Ugrahan of the BKU (Ekta Ugrahan): “The workers and the farmers are the two productive forces in the society, who must fight shoulder to shoulder towards changing the system.”
Adding that this “unity must continue”, the soldier-turned farmer leader invited the auto workers to the borders of the national capital where the farmers are staying put for the November 26 demonstration. He cautioned that the agriculture reforms would lead to more distress not just for farmers but also for the workers.
Shyambir Shukla of the Inqlabi Mazdoor Kendra, a Gurugram-based workers’ union told NewsClick that it is the same government that passed the labour codes and the agriculture bills and as such then, the joint conventions between industrial workers and farmers must be held across the country.
“It is the same corporate groups, who will purchase food grains from farmers for cheap, that are currently paying workers monthly payments which are nothing but starvation wages,” the trade unionist said.
Flaying the labour codes for purportedly “taking away” the rights of the workers to unionise or strike by making the regulations surrounding them “more stringent”, Shukla urged that the farmers’ group must take up the demand of the workers’ too in their charter. Among the latter’s major demands also include, as per Shukla, the implementation of regular jobs for regular work and the stopping of mass retrenchments.
Abhishek, of the All India Central Council Trade Union (AICCTU), who was also present in the public meeting, meanwhile, highlighted that solidarity between the SKM and the CTUs towards each other demands has already been shared, with each of them maintaining to observe the protest programmes of the other since last year.
Besides, there was another aspect to Sunday’s public meeting that proved to be consequential, even as it didn’t directly relate to the demands of either protesting group.
Haryana’s millennium city has been simmering with rows over namaz in public places as protests by right-wing groups have been staged at different locations across the city in recent months. That a joint meeting of farmers and workers was held in the same city, amidst all this, will also ease the tensions, union leaders told NewsClick.
Mohinder Kapoor, union secretary, Bellsonica Employees’ Union said, “The row over namaz in public places was also causing tensions among the Muslim workers in the [Bellsonica company] factory. They felt increasingly unsafe to continue with their work and have been approaching the union with such worries in recent days.”
However, much of it will be dealt with now, believed Kapoor, when asked about the impact that Sunday’s public meeting will have on the same. “The farmers and workers will join hands not just to fight for their demands but even to retort the divisive politics of the right-wing forces,” he said.
Meanwhile, another instance of attempts at forging unity between farmers and workers was witnessed at Sahibabad near Delhi. Rakesh Tikait, a prominent face of the ongoing farmers’ movement arrived at the Central Electronics Limited (CEL) unit and met workers who have been on strike for 52 days protesting against its proposed privatisation.
CEL’s permanent employees, who have been striking under the banner of the Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU), were addressed by Tikait, who expressed solidarity with their cause against “big capital.” Later, Tikait also visited the union office and spoke with the office-bearers.