Kranti Burkhunde, a second-year student from Parbhani district of Maharashtra’s Marathwada region, is part of the farmers’ group who reached Nasik on the morning of January 23 enroute to Mumbai. She is well aware about the recently enacted farm laws and believes that the Modi-led central government is attempting to suppress the farmers through these anti-farmer laws.
Talking to NewsClick, she said, "The government has brought these laws to benefit the big corporates and not the farmers. Over 60 farmers have already lost their lives in the ongoing protest at the borders of Delhi. But the government seems to be oblivious to the farmers’ plight. That is why we are marching to Mumbai to extend our support to them and to demand the government to repeal these laws. We, too, want MSP (minimum support price) for our produce.”
Explaining the details about the protest, All India Kisan Sabha’s national president Dr Ashok Dhavale told NewsClick that the protest will see participation of farmers from all over Maharashtra. "It is expected that around 50,000 farmers from all over the state will reach Mumbai before Republic Day. On January 25, these farmers will walk down towards the Governor's house to hand over a memorandum listing our demand. The next day, these farmers will sing national anthem at Azad Maidan where they would be staying and salute the tricolour," he added.
Another youth farmer from Marathwada, Rajesh Daksha, expressed his anger over the Modi government’s apathetic attitude towards farmers despite protesting for months. He said, "How come the government has done nothing even after over 60 farmers have lost their life (in the protest)? This is why youth farmers like me have decided to participate in this protest. We will reach Raj Bhavan any how and let Modi government know that these laws have to be scrapped."
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Preparations for the Mahapadav is also underway at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan with a stage being raised at the ground. The Gurudwara Committee of Mumbai has also announced its decision to support the protest. Sahib Singh Gurudwara's president Raghbir Singh and general secretary Manmohan Singh told that they are preparing to provide meals five times a day to all the protesters coming to Mumbai. "It is our duty to support the farmers. They are our Anna Data and we must show them our gratitude for feeding us. We will do all possible things to support the farmers," said Raghbir Singh.
Meanwhile, a few organisations have also been organising awareness programme in the middle-class societies of Mumbai. Groups like Nation for farmers, Hum Bharat Ke Log (We, the People of India), Jan Andolananchi Sangharsh Samiti (People’s Movement Sangharsh Samiti), 'Sanvidhan Sanrakshan Samiti and others are reaching out to the societies in different parts of the city.
They are explaining the need for this protest as well as how these laws will ultimately hurt the common citizen of India. "We are sure that these efforts will be fruitful. Middle class people are expressing their support for the farmers’ agitation. We hope that this will mount the pressure on Modi government," said Dr Dhavale.
Women have also joined the march in large numbers and are expected to form a sizeable chunk at the upcoming mahapadav. Women’s organisations including the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) and Lok Sangharsh Morcha are mobilising women from various parts of the state.
"We have seen how women farmers have been active in the protests in Delhi. Women farmers also joined and lead the protests on Mahila Kisan Diwas on a large scale across the country. We will get to see in Mumbai and also during this Vahan Jatha (vehicle march) from Nasik to Mumbai that women are shouldering their historic responsibility equally," said Mariyam Dhawale, president of AIDWA.
Anusuya Karnakumbre is a 60-year-old lady from Nanded, Marathwada. Although, she cannot read, she decided to join the march after her grandson read her from the pamphlets describing how these laws are going to affect farmers’ interests. "We are going to Mumbai for our rights. These laws are against us, so we are going to protest against laws. We are not looking for any personal gains,” Anusuya told NewsClick.
Also read: Maharashtra: Thousands of Farmers Prepare to March to Delhi, Call for Protest at Reliance Office in Mumbai
The Mahapadav is expected to have participation of thousands of farmers with support from more than 100 organisations as well as all main stream political parties in the state excluding the Bharatiya Janata Party which is ruling at the Centre.
Limbaji Kachare, a farmer from Marathwada, said, “Earlier there was an assumption that the protest at the borders of Delhi were supported by farmers from only two states (Haryana and Punjab). But now it is clearly visible that farmers from across the country are protesting against the farm laws. We will march to the Raj Bhavan on January 25. Similar protest actions will be undertaken by farmers across India.”
The farmers’ resolve to not back down was clear from Kachare’s words when he said, “If the government doesn’t listen to us, then we will throw them out from power.”