Lucknow: Hundreds of farmers, mostly from the Awadh region in Uttar Pradesh, have been preparing for the ‘mahapanchayat’ in the state capital on November 22 on war footing. On Friday, soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced to repeal of three contentious farm laws, the farmers’ union said though the move was a victory for farmers’ unity ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the decision seems to be an “election gimmick.”
The state unit of the farmers’ collective, Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), which is spearheading the farmers’ movement, said the Mahapanchayat planned to be held on November 22 in Lucknow would not be postponed.
“The Centre knew that the farm laws would ruin its chances in the upcoming elections but they understood the ground realities after visiting Uttar Pradesh and getting feedback of undercurrents to the party,” Santosh Kumar, member of the state committee of SKM said, adding that SKM would keep an eye on the government to see how they actually implement the repeal.
“We will not postpone any of our programmes, be it Lucknow mahapanchayat, or events on the occasion of one year of protest. We will monitor how the government repeals the three contentious farm laws because it may be just an announcement for the sake of the election,” he said.
Kumar said to get a guarantee on the Minimum Support Price (MSP) was a longer fight and the battle had begun with the government repealing the laws.
Echoing similar sentiments, Mukut Singh, state secretary of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) said the farmers’ movement and their sacrifices had brought the Modi government to its knees. The government had not faced this kind of challenge earlier, he said.
“The government is feeling the heat of the continued agitation by the farmers, and the decision has come ahead of Assembly elections in several states, including Uttar Pradesh,” Singh told NewsClick, adding that the agitation would continue till government guarantee on MSP and withdrawal of all cases against peasants.
“At the Lucknow mahapanchayat, we will intensify the demand for (minister of state for home at the Centre) Ajay Mishra Teni's dismissal and his arrest and also a fair investigation in the Lakhimpur Kheri violence,” he said.
Addressing the nation on the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the three farm laws were for the benefit of farmers but "we couldn't convince a section of farmers despite best efforts.”
The goal of the three farm laws was to empower farmers, especially small farmers, he said.
Reacting on the government’s move to roll-back the farm laws, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait, who led the agitation from Ghazipur border in western Uttar Pradesh, said: “The protest will not be withdrawn immediately. We will wait for the day when the farm laws are repealed in Parliament. Along with MSP, the government should talk to farmers on other issues too," he tweeted in Hindi.
BKU president Naresh Tikait said: “The farmers are sitting on a pile of gunpowder. The movement will keep farmers alive. Everyone has to bear this responsibility. Disenchantment with land is a conspiracy of the government. Agricultural land is shrinking. These people will also snatch the right to buy and sell land from farmers. Forgetting caste and religion, farmers have to unite.”
Sardar VM Singh, a farmer leader who leads the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, which withdrew its support from the ongoing farmers’ protests after the tractor march to Delhi on Republic Day turned violent, said farmers’ key demand was a guarantee on MSP.
“Ordinances came in June 2020 and crops like wheat, paddy, maize, etc, were then going at the rate of 30-40% less than MSP. The basic thing is that the MSP guarantee must be given. This is the issue farmers were fighting for. If the guarantee on MSP had been given, the three laws would have become infructuous automatically,” he added.
PROTEST IN LAKHIMPUR KHERI TO INTENSIFY
In October, in Lakhimpur Kheri, four farmers were mowed down by an SUV when a group of farmers agitating against the Centre’s three farm laws was holding a demonstration against the visit of Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya.
Amandeep, state vice-president of the BKU in Uttarakhand and Terai region in Uttar Pradesh, said within the next two to three days, a meeting of farmers' organisations would be held in Nighasan, the same area where the four farmers were killed.
Amandeep felt this matter would not settle down just with the return of the agricultural laws, adding that after discussion with top leaders of organisations, further action plans would be decided.
Avtar Singh and Nirmal Singh, who are actively involved in the farmers’ movement in Lakhimpur, said the movement would intensify in the Kheri region.
“We knew that the government had to go on backfoot on the issue of three controversial farm laws. The government is responsible for the death of four farmers who were protesting against the laws. The government cannot escape from its responsibility by only announcing the repeal of the three farm laws, they have to compensate for every loss the farmers had,” Singh told NewsClick.
Meanwhile, a Rashtriya Lok Dal leader claimed that the repeal of farm laws would embolden the opposition and drive home the message of unity against the ruling BJP, as the decision shows the government can be made to bend by popular protests.