Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement regarding the repeal of the contentious farm laws, farmers are determined the continue their agitation. "Bills are passed in Parliament. Let them take (the bills) back there. Let them also pass a bill for MSP. Only then we will believe them," said Dattatraya Shankar Mhatre of Shahapur. Dattatraya was meeting farmers to inform them about the upcoming Mumbai Mahapanchayat when NewsClick contacted him on Monday.
"Protests by farmers is still on in Delhi. But some people are spreading lies. That's why I am going to villages in my area to inform (farmers) about the next protest in Mumbai," said Dattayraya Mhatre.
Shetkari Kamgar Morcha, a farmer union, along with more than 100 organisations have announced a Mahapanchayat in Mumbai on November 28. Earlier it was planned on November 18 but due to the Shahid Asthi Kalash Yatra campaign, in which the ashes of Lakhimpur Kheri victims were taken to tehsils across Maharashtra, the Mahapanchayat was shifted by ten days.
"There is anger among farmers over the killings in Lakhimpur Kheri. Maharashtra was the only state to observe a complete strike. The Asthi Kalash Yatra has inspired farmers for a bigger battle. If the Central government thinks that the protest would be over with just the announcement (of repeal), then they are cut off from the ground reality," said Kisan Gujar, state chief of All India Kisan Sabha.
The Yatra from all over Maharashtra will reach Mumbai on November 27. Ashes of the deceased will be taken to Chaityabhumi, where Dr Ambedkar's last rites took place, at Shivaji statue of Dadar, Babu Genu's memorial and later to Gandhi's statue at Nariman Point. The next day, the Mahapanchayat will be held in Azad Maidan of Mumbai where thousands of farmers, activists and labourers are expected to join.
"Demands are not just about repealing the laws. There are other demands like MSP bills, cancelling the bill regarding electricity charges, revoking FIRs on thousands of farmers involved in this agitation and so on. Modi government was trying to project this agitation as anti-national. But the farmers have shown them their place and now will not stop until all demands are met," said Dr Ajit Navale, general secretary of AIKS, Maharashtra state unit.
The Mahapanchayat will be joined by Jan Andolananchi Sangharsha Samiti, National Alliance for Peoples’ Movements (NAPM), Shetkari Sanghatana, Aadivasi Shetkari Morcha and many others. As of now no mainstream political party in Maharashtra has declared to participate or support the Mahapanchayat. But, they are expected to clear their stand by Friday, November 26.
"Modi sarkar has not done something extraordinary by the announcement of repealing laws. Had they not done so, they wouldn't have been able to entere villages in UP and Punjab where elections are scheduled in two months. Farmers are not fools. BJP only understands the language of elections," said Govind Kajale, AIKS worker of Satara, Maharashtra.
The BJP's campaign that PM Modi's announcement was in national interest too hasn't gone well on the ground. "They were saying that the farm laws are in national interest. Now they say that taking back (the laws) is in national interest. BJP needs to learn that everything they do is not in national interest," said JP Gavit, former MLA and leader of CPM.
The Mumbai Mahapanchayat will also put pressure on the Maharashtra government to take back the farm bills it has presented in the state assembly. The state government has come up with its version of farm bills and those are open to the public for suggestions. But these bills too are not acceptable to Shetkari Kamgar Morcha of Maharashtra. Therefore, the Mahapanchayat will also make a demand to scrap these bills in the state too.
"It has been our demand from day one that there is no need to make bills based on centre's laws. We have told this to the MVA government. We are waiting for their stand. It is likely to get changed with the Parliament's scrapping of the three laws," said Dr Ashok Dhavale, president of AIKS.