The dusty grounds of Ramlila Maidan in the heart of New Delhi have come alive in the spirit of anger and enthusiasm as the farmers begin their long march to Parliament street. Having camped overnight in tents together, the spirit of unity grips the grounds.
Speaking with Newsclick, 78-year-old Chota Singh from Mansa, Punjab, standing arm in arm with Ranganath from Karnataka, said, “The spirit of togetherness in the face of the anti-farmer government defines our struggle.”
Gearing up for the big march farmers are seen singing regional songs, holding up their flags high, chanting- Dhikaro, Dhikaro, Modi ko Dhikaro (Reject, reject, reject the Modi government).
Activists and farmers from the Narmada belt of Madhya Pradesh led by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) painted their faces in white and silver. The reason that the activists pointed out was, “Imagery is a major part of our protest, while the BJP government wants to build statues, we want to attract the middle-class consciousness and the media to our plight.”
Also read : Farmers of India Take on Modi Govt
Riding high on the imagery agenda, the farmers from Karnataka held skulls and sticks in their hands and mouth before starting the march. When asked about the symbolism of the same, they said, “This is our way to tell the BJP government that we will not be cowed down or used as mere vote banks by Narendra Modi. We have in the past resorted to unique ways of protest to raise our voices and we will continue to do so until his government is voted out.”
The farmers marching from several states, resisting the Delhi winters are motivated to ensure that the anti-farmer policies of the Modi government are protested in the strongest sense.
Talking to NewsClick, Narmada Deshpande from Nashik in Maharashtra said, “I have travelled for over 24 hours on a train, all the way from Maharashtra. Ours is the worst affected region from the ongoing crisis- we have no water, no food and no land to work on anymore. When I am travelling for the next 24 hours back to my village, I will be happy only if my voice reaches the deaf ears of Narendra Modi.”
Also read : Kisan Mukti March: ‘It’s Time to Take on the Govt and Make our Voices Heard’
The historic march is setting an agenda against the Modi government ahead of the 2019 elections, Under the BJP government, farmers’ protests have witnessed a significant increase. Starting with the massive struggle for protection of land rights and against unjust land acquisition within a year of the formation of the Modi government, the movements of farmers have burst out repeatedly in several states, mostly on the twin issues of low prices for produce and consequent indebtedness.
Beyond the issues of indebtedness and the right MSP price, female farmers are marching to Parliament in large numbers. Jashoda from the Panchmahal district of Gujarat said, “I have fought an eight year-long battle, because as a woman I don't get entitlement to agricultural land after my father and husband. Our fight is to tell the world that women are farmers too, it's high time our due is given to us.”
The Kisan Mukti March is being led by an umbrella body, All Indian Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, which includes the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), Swaraj Abhiyan, Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathan, and is supported by over 208 organisations across the country, including workers, students, artistes.
On reaching the Parliament street, the congregation of the farmers will be addressed by political leadership, activists, etc. Major announcements are likely to be made in the congregation in the light of elections next year.