Kolkata: As many as 17 left and secular political parties in West Bengal, including the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress, on Tuesday held a five-hour dharna in the heart of Kolkata’s bustling Esplanade in support of the farmers protesting against farm laws.
Prominent Left and Congress leaders along with artists from the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) took part in the five-hour programme, which was presided over by Left Front Chairman Biman Basu. The leaders spoke in support of the protesting farmers sitting at five points of Delhi for the past 33 days.
It is for the first time in the state that so many political outfits have together offered their public support to the farmers’ cause.
The dharna on Rani Rashmani Avenue started at 12.30 PM and continued till 5.30 PM in the afternoon. Flags and festoons detailing the condition of farmers and their demands lined the area. More than 15 artists from the IPTA performed at the programme.
Speaking in the rally, Left Front chairman Biman Basu highlighted that 33 martyrdoms of farmers have already taken place in the 33 days that they have completed in the biting cold on open streets in the National Capital Region. He underlined that the extreme cold in Delhi is taking a toll on the farmers but yet they are fighting and even sacrificing their lives.
Basu said that at first, water cannons were used in a brutal way on the protesting farmers, but later, the government understood that they could not curb the protest like that. “They (the authorities ) have given up,” he asserted.
“This is not a protest of only Punjab farmers but all farmers of the country as the issues touch each and every farming household and the consumers of agrarian produce in the country as corporate interests are overshadowing consumer and agrarian interests through these Farm Acts,” Basu said in his speech. He pointed out that the number of total unemployed population in the country has reached 40 crores and forging movements with their demands is the answer to the prevailing problems.
CPI(M) State Secretary Dr Suryakanta Mishra claimed that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were indulging in a fight for only a show over the naming of central schemes, which are not anyone’s property but are rather run by the taxpayers’ money. “Not even any one of them is interested in discussing why the framers are not getting the right price for their produce. West Bengal and India are inching towards famine and already in the state, as per recent reports, one out of six people has to miss one meal a day due to their monetary condition,” Mishra said.
Mishra further added that West Bengal had already ratified the Agricultural Marketing Act in 2014 and called for convening a special session of the state Assembly to cancel the act. He said that while the CM called for big public meetings, however, she was not convening sessions of the Assembly for unspecified reasons and was falsely citing the pandemic as the reason. He added, “We cannot defeat the BJP or the TMC (Trinamool Congress) on our own. So, we have all come together to defeat both of these forces.”
In his speech, former MP and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Mohammad Salim highlighted that the country’s Parliament has been turned into a theatre where rules are flouted and issues like those of farmers are disallowed to be raised on the floor of the House. “When such a situation arises, then taking to the roads gives the answer like it has when farmers from Punjab and other states arrived at Delhi to make their demands heard,” he said.
The Leader of the Opposition in West Bengal Assembly, Congress’s Abdul Mannan alleged that the Prime Minister made false claims in his speeches, starting from the assurance of transferring Rs 15 lakhs in the bank accounts of citizens. In the same way, in West Bengal, the Chief Minister was saying that she supports the farmers' agitation in New Delhi, however, she used the police to hinder the strike call in support of the farmers’ cause. “This contradiction exposes her as a two-timer,” he said.
Former state Congress president and MP Pradip Bhattacharya said, “Corporate interests were being served by opening up the agricultural sector to the Adani and Ambani groups.”
Communist Party of India (CPI) state secretary Swapan Banerjee, Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) state leader Mrinmoy Sengupta, Forward Block state secretary Hafiz Alam Sairani CPI(ML)Liberation leader Kartik Pal, Congress’s Manoj Chakraborty also spoke at the dharna. Other speakers included Barnali Mukherjee (CPB), Mihir Baine (RCPI), Bechu Doli (PDS), Ashish Chakraborty (MFB) Soma Nandy (LJD), and Najrul Islam (DSP), among others.