Their sweetness and humility hardly hide destitution. Faces smeared with dust and sunken eyes tell a story of hardship and struggle. Yet, hope binds them together. And it is this hope that brought thousands of Muslim farmers and agricultural workers together at Sunehra protest site on the Haryana-Rajasthan Border on Monday to show their unanimous opposition to the three farm laws.
The mahapanchayat, organised to pay tribute to local king Hasan Khan Mewati who fought against Babur in Panipat, was another step to connect people of the Mewat region with the ongoing farmers’ movement.
Mohd. Sharif, who came from Gangwani in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district, said the region is seeing a new trend wherein the agents of traders are buying produce directly from farms.
“The farmers are selling their produce because they are saving on transportation and other costs. But this is largely an assault on our mandis. The prices are good for now, but these will go down once the government mandis (markets) are completely dismantled,” he says.
Shairf, who owns 10 acre of farmland, says that the best way to provide relief to farmers is to link the minimum support price (MSP) with inflation. “Diesel and petrol prices are at an all-time high now. DAP’s (fertiliser) price too has increased while the volume of one bag has been reduced from 50 kilograms to 45 kg. We came to this mahapanchayat with sole demand that inflation should be considered when bureaucrats and leaders fix the prices of our crops” he tells NewsClick.
Asked if he has got any credit from his Kisan Credit Card, Sharif says conduct of the bank officials compelled to him to never take any loan, as it deprives them of self-respect earned through years.
“It is disgraceful that bank officials come to your home with loudspeakers and humiliate you in front of neighbours. My experience was fine but had I defaulted, I would have witnessed the same fate” he says.
Sharif says there is no profit in agriculture. “How will you pay if your crop perishes due to hailstorm or untimely rains? I would like to die before seeing such dreadful thing,” he adds.
However, farmers say the mustard crop is reaping good returns this season with sales above the MSP due to increase in demand of oilseeds and pressure of the over 100-day farmers’ movement.
Another farmer sitting next to Sharif says the farmers’ struggle has only half-won the battle, and the other half needs to be clinched. “I am saying so because we have already stopped the government from implementing the laws for now,” he says.
Mewat, a Muslim-dominated area spanning Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana, had made headlines in 2019 for lynching of Muslim cattle traders by vigilante Hindutva groups under the garb of checking cow smuggling.
“We were defamed, our reputation was damaged through consistent smear campaigns without knowing our history. In this region, a buffalo is preferred more for its milk in comparison to cows. However, the differences between the two communities are blurring now and they are coming closer,” says Umar Farooque, who came to the mahapanchayat from neighbouring Sunehra village.
Talking to NewsClick, Farooque says his biggest worry about the farm laws is about losing autonomy over what he is growing. “How will a poor person survive if he has have to buy everything from the market,” he adds.
Apart from highlighting the agrarian crises, Ramzan Chaudhary, one of the organisers maintains that the gathering was called to diffuse the propaganda furthered by Hindutva ideologues that Muslims are children of Babur.
“We are remembering Hasan Khan Mewati and tales of his valour to emphasise the fact that our predecessors fought Babur in Panipat even when his rival offered clemency for his abducted son and new provinces to rule if he aligned with him on religious lines. It is to remind them that he chose country over religion and was later martyred,” he adds.
Addressing the mahapanchayat, Amra Ram, a popular farmer leader from All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) said the pandemic and subsequent economic crisis was an important lesson for the corporates -- they need to look beyond traditional methods to get rid of it. “This time, they have chosen our hunger to trade. We can live without vehicles or clothes, but cannot live without bread. They have their eyes on our plates now. But the farmers will not let this happen. We defeated them (BJP) three times in Rajasthan when they enjoyed absolute majority (in government). First, in 2004, we compelled them to reduce electricity tariffs. In 2007, we defeated them in Rawala Gharsana on the question of water and in 2017, we forced them to waive our loans. But the most astonishing thing about the movement is that it has revived what we cherished for long. We used to say that Hindus, Muslim, Sikh and Christians are brethren. I am seeing it happening in front of my eyes,” said an emotional Ram.
Interestingly, at the end of the gathering, the person managing the stage thanked the participants for deferring their namaz owing to the schedule of meeting of farmers.