Lakhs of farmers, workers, trade union bodies, students and women organisations at thousands of places across the country observed a black day on May 26, which marked the completion of six months of the farmers’ protest against the three contentious farm laws at the borders of the national capital. As the country reels under second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers have remained strong in their resolve to continue their protest until the “black laws” are scrapped unconditionally.
Samyukta Kisan Morcha – a collective of farmers’ unions – had called for observing the day as Black Day at all protest sites at the entry gates of national capital as well as in villages, towns and cities across the country while adhering to COVID-19 protocols.
In some places, protests were marked by burning of effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and copies of the farm laws, while in others the participants displayed black flags atop their houses, vehicles, shops, tractors, in their fields and at street corners.
In UP, several farmer leaders were put under house arrest ahead of May 26 in order to curb the protests. Protests also turned violent in a few places in the state, when police launched attacks at the protesters in toll plazas.
Extending their solidarities, the workers unions across the country, too, observed the day by hoisting black flags outside factories, commercial establishments and shops. Amarjeet Kaur, general secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress said that the people can’t forget the agony of not getting beds, medicines, oxygen in their dire need and losing their near and dear ones to the claws of death. “They can’t forget the indignity meted to the departed, failure in assistance for cremations and burials. Hence the anguish is manifold. The result is that except for the coastal areas of Odisha and West Bengal, where Cyclone Yaas has hit, the black day was observed in every nook and corner of India,” she said.
In Delhi NCR too, different workers unions affiliated to the Centre for Indian Trade Unions observed the day at more than 50 places including Noida and Ghaziabad. Anurag Saxena, general secretary of CITU said that the enormity of the protest only suggests that people are miffed with this government as it has enabled unprecedented assault on employment opportunities to make the corporates wealthier.
He added, “To save the working people in pandemic, we demand free and universal vaccination
to all. We also demand immediate help to all unorganised/informal sector workers and unemployed people in terms of free food grains and cash subsidy of Rs 7,500 per month. Most importantly, it should withdraw the four labour codes and draft central rules, and convene the Indian Labour Conference immediately.”
NewsClick presents a report from various states.
Farmers at Delhi Borders Reiterate Resolve to Continue Protest Until Demands Are Met
Delhi/ Ravi Kaushal: The farmers, in black clothes and turbans, raised slogans against the
central government and burnt the effigy of PM Narendra Modi in front of Kajaria tiles, the temporary office of farmers’ struggle at Singhu Border. Later, the protesters were addressed by leaders of the SKM.
Gurjeet Kaur, a lady farmer who came from Mansa district in Punjab to observe the day, said that the government was very much responsible of violation of human rights of farmers when they had to face extreme conditions like winters and scorching heat to just press for their demands. “On the one hand, it is asking people to adhere COVID-19 protocols whereas it is compelling people to sit on roads in pandemic. This is nothing but sheer double standards of this criminal government,” she said.
Gurmeet Mehma, general secretary of the Punjab unit of Krantikari Kisan Union, said that the rising temperature cannot deviate the farmers who have already spent six months at the border. The site recorded temperature above 35 degrees with extreme humidity on May 26. He said, “We are facing another heat where the government is enabling large scale procurement of our land so that the corporates can build their silos and compensation is pittance. Once it repeals the three central laws, we have a whole lot of other issues to fight. So, essentially the fight will go on until this plunder is stopped and we are out of indebtedness.”
The day was also observed at the protest site led by the Bharatiya Kisan Union- Ugrahan in Bahadurgarh near Tikri Border. Talking to NewsClick, president of the union, Joginder Singh Ugrahan said that the day, May 26, carries three different yet significant reasons to observed as a black day in the history of Indian democracy.
“First, the farmers’ protest at the entry gates of national capital has completed six months. A government which was chosen by the farmers is now going back on its promises. If that was not enough, it completely ignored the demands of people and did not try to resume talks after 11 rounds of discussion after January 22. It miserably failed on this front. Second, Narendra Modi government is completing seven years of its term and during these years, it has completely wrecked the economy through rampant privatisation where it sold every enterprise like airports, ports, railways and important public sector undertaking just to benefit its election sponsors. The jobs have literally
vanished for our children,” Singh said.
He went on to add, “Third, it failed in protecting the lives of the citizens in the pandemic. When the pandemic’s impact subsided, the health minister was chest thumping that they have defeated the virus even though the scientific community kept warning against a second wave. When it eventually arrived, patients were forced to run from pillar to post for oxygen, medicines and ventilators. So, it failed all sections just to serve the corporates. We are getting reports that the day has been observed at an unprecedented level in the entire country where the members of students community, youth, workers, employees, people running small businesses came together to show their solidarity with us.”
He also refuted any rumour of contradictions among farmers’ organisations regarding the continuation of the protest till the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Major Singh Punnawal, All India Kisan Sabha Punjab’s secretary, said that the secular character of the movement is rattling the government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and it remains the prime reason why they do not want to discuss these laws.
“We are very clear about our agenda now. We will ensure that this anti-people party loses in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand next year. The movement has only grown from Punjab to West Bengal now. We are getting this support from people everywhere only because we are right and defending the right of dignified life where a person does not have to beg for things as basic as bread and butter,” Punnawal said.
Farmer Leaders Under House, UP Police Attacks Protesters at Toll Plazas
Lucknow/Abdul Alim Jafri: In Uttar Pradesh, the black day protest was marked by the burning of PM Narendra Modi’s effigies and hoisting of black flags atop farmers’ houses and tractors, with the protesters coming under attack by police officials in several places.
Western UP farmers staged a sit-in at the toll plazas where police attacked the protesting farmers. During the sit-in near Meerut-Dehradun road in Thana Daurala area, many toll plazas including NH58 was left free. Many Bharatiya Kisan Union supporters held black flags in their hands, several others had placards that condemned the government and demanded withdrawal of the contentious laws, even as they shouted slogans against both the Yogi Adityanath and Modi-led governments.
"Six months have passed since the farmers' protest at Ghazipur border against the three farm legislations began," said BKU leader Rakesh Tikait, adding that their protest has now become a fight against oppression, fascism and capitalism.
In Sisauli, 10 km from Muzaffarnagar district, a tractor rally was organised by local farmers under the banner of Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Gaurav Tikait, where scores of farmers not only from the district but also from adjoining areas including Meerut, Baghpat and Saharanpur participated with their tractors. The agitating farmers later reached the local toll plaza where they started a strike. Heavy police forces were deployed to stop the farmers from proceeding further.
Meanwhile, the UP Police has put many farmer leaders under house arrest in Etawah, Bijnor and Muzaffarnagar districts and stopped the convoy of farmers in many places in Eastern UP which were on their way to the district headquarters to handover the memorandums.
General secretary of the AIKS UP chapter, Mukut Singh, along with the president were put under house arrest since Tuesday evening a day before the call for black day. "Yogi (Adityanath) government is afraid of farmers and therefore they are trying to suppress our voice as much as they can but the fight against this government will be intensify more than ever. Furthermore, the day is not too far when this government will have to pack its bags of lies in the upcoming Assembly elections," Singh told NewsClick.
According to villagers in Bijnor and Baghpat district, farmers with black flags in their hands in more than 50 tractor-trolleys and other vehicles moved to Ghazipur border to join their fellow farmers who have been protesting for the last six months; many women farmers and their children also travelled in the tractor-trolleys to make the protest a success.
Uttar Pradesh Khet Mazdoor Union (UPKMU) Brij Lal Bharati, general secretary of Uttar Pradesh Khet Mazdoor Union said, "We are not going anywhere and budge even an inch unless our demands to repeal the three laws are met. If the government wants us to go back then it should listen to us and roll back the laws. It is not our hobby to sit in the heat and the cold at the borders. We also want to go back home and be safe," Bharati, who organised protests at several places in Purvanchal and adjoining districts, told NewsClick.
Farmers’ Protest in Several Districts of Assam
Assam/ Sandipan Talukdar: In response to the call given by AIKSCC, protests against the farm laws were held in many districts across Assam. Several farmers’ organisations including the Krishak Mahasabha, AIKS, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, Jeepal Krishak Shramik Sangha, Sangrami Krishak Shramik Sangha, and Sadou Asom Khetiyok Santha joined hands to raise their voice against the farm laws.
In upper Assam, protests were organised in Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Charaideo, Lakhimpur and Sonitpur districts.
Farmers protest against the farm laws by holding black flag in Jorhat, Assam.
In Dibrugarh district’s Tingkhang area, people along with demanding the scrapping of the farm laws, also raised slogans demanding compensation for the farmers who have lost lands in the Mikir Bamuni gaon of Nagaon district. The Mikir Bamuni gaon has been witnessing wide scale protests against alleged land grab by a solar company named Azure. Other than Tingkhang, protests were also held at Lahowal, Chabua and Naharkatiya of Dibrugarh.
A woman farmer holding a placard saying, “Withdraw the three farm laws, Scrap Electricity Amendment Act” at Dibrugarh in Assam
Similarly, protests were held at Mariani, Titabar and Teok in Jorhat district. In central Assam, farmers protested at Kaliabor and Raha in Nagaon district.
Protest at a paddy field in Assam.
Tiken Das, state secretary of AIKS, Assam, while told NewsClick said that the Students’ Federation of India, All India Democratic Women’s Assocation, Centre of Indian Trade Unions and the AIKS joined with other organisations in protesting against the farm laws in 19 districts of Assam. He added, “Silchar in Cachar district witnessed a protest programme, while in four centres of the Karimganj districts the protests were held.”
Balindra Saikia of the Krishak Mahasabha told NewsClick that several districts in lower Assam, including Nalbari, Bongaigaon, Barpeta and Goalpara also organised protests today in solidarity of the call given by AIKSCC.
Thousands of Farmers, Workers Observe Black Day in Bihar
Bihar/Mohd Imran Khan: Thousands of farmers along with workers of different organisations of Left parties across Bihar observed May 26 as black day in protest against the black farm laws and to express their solidarity with the agitating farmers who have completed six months at the borders of Delhi.
The Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal also extended support to the farmers’ protest, conveyed by party spokesperson Mrityunjay Tiwari.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) state secretary Avadesh Kumar said that farmers, trade union workers and members of different organisations of the party participated in protests in their villages, fields, houses, office and other places maintaining social distance in view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
CPI(Marxist Leninist) state secretary Kunal said, "It was a rare black day protest amid the ongoing lockdown in Bihar. The protests have made it clear that farmers are against farm laws and they will continue to oppose it.”
The Left parties and RJD leaders have demanded the Bihar government to pass a resolution against the farm laws and pressure the Centre to repeal the laws.
In the flood prone Koshi region, the Koshi Nav Nirman Manch, a farmers body, observed the black day by protesting inside hundreds of houses. With hand written placards in their hands they expressed their support to the agitating farmers and vowed to continue to oppose the farm laws.
Farmers, Workers Display Black Flags Atop Vehicles, Houses in Madhya Pradesh
Bhopal/ Kashif Kakvi: Farmers in Madhya Pradesh observed the black day by putting up black flags atop their houses and at the corners of the streets across the state. Effigies were also burnt on several districts, according to the official communique of Madhya Pradesh unit of the AIKSCC.
Veteran Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Digvijay Singh too displayed a black flag at the main gate of his Bhopal residence to support the six months long agitation led by farmers at the borders of the national capital and across the country.
Abiding by COVID-19 protocols, farmers observed protests at six places in the state including Raisen, Sehore, Chhindwara, Rewa, Satna, Gwalior and other districts. “In Raisen and on the outskirts of Bhopal districts, the rallies were carried out in groups of four and slogans were raised against the Union government by protesters on vehicles with black flags,” said Irfan Jaffri of the Jagrut Kisan Sanghatan.
In some places, the farmers put up black flags in their fields, tractors and vehicles to express their solidarity with anti-farm laws protest.
Apart from farmers’ unions, members of the labour, transport and coal labourers’ unions also showed support to the farmers’ protest, that completes six months today, by carrying black flags at their workplaces.
In addition to the scrapping of the farm laws, they are also demanding the abolition of the four labour codes, free COVID-19 vaccination for every citizen, free ration and Rs 7,500 monthly compensation for the marginalised class for six months due to the lockdown.
“We are firm on our demands and are not going anywhere until the Union government comes to its sense and fulfil our demands,” said convenor of state AIKSCC Badal Saroj, adding that the state has witnessed the shutdown of 40% of the krishi mandis within six months of the laws being enforced. Further, more than 200 cases of farmers being cheated outside the mandis have also been reported, he said.
Outdoor Protests Curtailed Due to Cyclone in Bengal
Kolkata/Sandip Chakraborty: In West Bengal, black day was observed in Darjeeling and Birbhum districts in support of the anti-farm laws protest. In Siliguri, AIKS activists, donning masks and following COVID-19 protocol, poured on the Hill Kart road outside the Anil Biswas Bhavan. They held placards stating their demands and also formed a human chain.
In Birbhum, protest programmes were taken up at the block levels to show support to the six months long farmers’ agitation against the three farm laws.
In East Burdwan, Nusratpur and Kalna, protests were held by AIKS activists.
Meanwhile, in several other parts of the state, protest programmes which were planned to take place outside were curtailed due to the inclement weather caused by Cyclone Yaas.