“Please understand what’s at stake now! Whatever is happening is not spontaneous but crudely designed by opponents of the farmers’ movement. We are still paying the price of the misdeeds of 2013 when we targeted each other in Muzaffarnagar. BJP won the elections and the nation lost its chance to grow. We cannot let it happen again.” These words of young farmer leader Abhimanyu Kohar at the Kisan Mazdoor Bhaichara Mahasammelan (Convention for brotherhood of farmers and workers) at Sunehra Border, Rajasthan, cleared the mood after disturbing events in the Mewat region.
Mewat region, which comprises parts of the districts -- Nuh in Haryana, Alwar and Bharatpur in Rajasthan, and Mathura in Uttar Pradesh -- has a large Muslim peasant population.
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The convention, organised by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha -- a collective of over 40 farmers’ organisations -- saw massive participation of farmers who assembled to denounce the isolated incidents of violence being rebranded on communal lines. The region recently witnessed the lynching of a Muslim youth, Asif, by rogue elements in inter- gang rivalry. The situation further became precarious after another Muslim man, Junaid, was allegedly beaten to death by policemen in custody. However, the atmosphere started worsening after a congregation (mahapanchayat) was conducted by Karni Sena where its chief Suraj Pal Amu openly justified the lynching and even rewarded the murderers of another boy Junaid who was killed in train in 2017.
Tearing into Hindutva forces for trying to spread communal poison, Kohar said the movement had achieved the rare unity of people where they identified each other as farmers and workers and could rightly question the misdeeds of the government which has failed to listen to farmers’ demands sitting at the entry gates of the national capital for previous seven months.
“We are seeing a double faced man at the helm of affairs in the Union government. When he was Chief Minister of Gujarat, he kept emphasising as the head of consumer affairs committee that farmers should be paid the minimum support price (MSP). Once he was elected to power at the Centre, it was his government which categorically submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court that it cannot pay the MSP as per the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendation. Now, they fear people’s wrath in the upcoming Assembly elections. In Uttar Pradesh, elections are scheduled to take place next year. So, they have gone back to the tested formula of dividing the people on communal lines and reaping the harvest. But we will not let this happen,” he said.
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Inderjit Singh, vice president, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), Haryana, who was also among the speakers at the convention told NewsClick that the entire farmers’ leadership reached out to the community to reassure that the prevailing unity should not get disturbed.
“One needs to understand the history and tradition of the region first to know what’s happening now. Traditionally, the people in the area have been peace-loving and secular. Mewat has a Muslim majority population, but hardly anybody migrated to Pakistan post 1947. Mahatma Gandhi came to the area and addressed the people to maintain peace in the region. The extent of the appeal was such that people who had set off of for migration, returned half way,” he said.
Hitting out at Hindutva forces, Singh Said: “If we look at recent past, we find that the people associated with Sangh Parivar deliberately attempt to disturb harmony here and use some instances outside to polarise other communities. It happened with cow slaughter smear campaigns, then beef biryani, lynchings etc. By stoking tension in these areas, the Sangh Parivar wishes to accomplish two goals; first, weaken the farmers’ movement and second, create a pre-election scenario for the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand elections due early next year. This is why we are more vigilant,” the AIKS leader said.
Farmer leaders, while addressing the gathering, made it clear that they would be launching Mission UP and Mission Uttarakhand, where they would be campaigning and appeal to people to punish the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Gurnam Singh Charuni, President, Bharatiya Kisan Union, Charuni, said: “It is being reported that ahead of the polls in states like Uttar Pradesh, BJP leaders are trying to assess the impact of the farmers' movement on the party's poll prospects. The party is not ready to look into the real issues of farmers for which farmers have been waging this struggle for seven long months now, but is keen on saving its vote bank. It is clear that this is the prime concern of the party. It is for this reason that SKM has decided to reach out to the public in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and ask them to punish BJP for its anti-people agendas.”