Thousands of farmers camping in Azad Maidan, Mumbai, registered their protest against the Modi government's Farm Laws. They warned the Central Government that they would intensify their protest in the future if the laws were not scrapped.
The farmers were joined by labourers and students from across the state as well as more than hundred civil society organisations. The protest was also joined by all non-Bharatiya Janata Party parties from the state, including partners of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi. What was clear from the protest in Mumbai was that the farmers are not ready to accept any assurances from the Modi government, including the suspension of the three laws for 18 months. They stood firm on their demand to scrap the laws completely.
Gaurang Choudhari, a farmer from Nashik, told NewsClick that he does not believe in the assurances of the Modi government since had not kept many promises in the past. “We are here to scrap the anti-farmer laws. We don’t believe him because he has not fulfilled his earlier assurances, including giving us ration,” said Choudhari.
The complete lack of trust in the Modi government and its lack of credibility was palpable, with each farmer at Azad Maidan alluding to it. Radha Sonkarwar, a 43-year-old from Chandrapur, said that she and her community of Anganwadi workers were assured of a salary hike by the Prime Minister himself.
“But we had to fight for one and half years to get his word implemented. This is our experience. If Modi is so hesitant to stand by his own assurances then how will these farmers believe that he will not bring in these laws again in the future,” she said. Radha and her colleagues travelled from Chandrapur to Mumbai to participate in the protest.
Sopan Adokar, a farmer and activist from Malkapur, Buldana, listed the number of assurances given by the BJP government at the Centre in the past. “From 15 lakh in bank accounts to loan waivers to farmers to free ration for all; tell me a single thing that Modi followed through on after having announced it. How are we supposed to believe what he says after all this. We want that the laws be scrapped, not a temporary suspension,” said Sopan.
The tone of the protests was set with this unambiguous demand; leaders who lead it also reiterated it in their speeches. Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Congress state president Balasaheb Thorat, AIKS general secretary and former MP Hannan Mollah, ministers Jitendra Awhad, Aslam Shaikh, Sunil Kedar and others also participated in the protest.
In his speech, Pawar alleged that the Centre did not consult any of the opposition parties before passing the laws. “There was a clear protest by opposition parties in both houses of Parliament, but the Modi government didn’t care enough to speak to us and passed these laws. We are opposing them vehemently and we demand that they be scrapped,” said Pawar.
After the rally, protesters led the march to Raj Bhavan. Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari is in Panjim, Goa, for the Republic Day function as he is in-charge of the state too. Pawar attacked the governor for being conveniently absent. “The governor has time to meet like film actresses like Kangana but does not have time for these farmers,” he said. While leaving for the Raj Bhavan, the farmers’ march was stopped by the Mumbai Police at Metro Theatre.
Farmers and their leaders, like Ashok Dhawale, Jayant Patil, Ajit Nawale and others refused to go to Raj Bhavan. “What is the logic in going to Raj Bhavan if the governor is not there. We are now tearing the memorandum prepared for the governor. If he is not there and if we are not allowed to go to his place then this memorandum has no meaning,” said Ashok Dhawale, president of the All India Kisan Sabha.
Dhawale also announced that farmers will lead the flag-hoisting ceremony at Azad Maidan on January 26. All eyes will be on national capital, where lakhs of farmers are expected to storm Delhi with an unprecedented tractor rally. In Mumbai, farmers will support their agitating brethren and sisters in Delhi.
The Maha Padav protest in Mumbai has clearly brought out two important things. The first is that the farmer protest is an all-India phenomenon and not limited to some parts of the country. The farmers are also prepared for a fight until their demands are not met.