There is seemingly no end to the agitation led by farmers’ bodies in Haryana. The farmers were met with a brutal lathi-charge on Thursday, September 10, even as a committee has been formed by the state government to mediate with them.
The farmers have been protesting against the recent amendment to a central law and a set of structural changes to the agriculture sector – all promulgated through three ordinances. Farmers’ organisations in the state are mulling over intensifying their struggle in the days to come, with attempts being made to ensure greater participation in demonstrations by coordinating between different farmers’ groups.
Yudhvir Singh, national secretary of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), pitched for various farmers’ bodies to come together and join the protest against ordinances which he described as “anti-farmer”. He said the moves would result in a “shift of balance against farmers and towards private groups and big traders.”
“The central government was under the impression that there won’t be any opposition or mobilisation due to the COVID-19 outbreak. They though it was a good time to introduce agricultural reforms. However, ever since the changes were brought in, protests have erupted in states like Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and now in Haryana,” he told NewsClick.
The Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre cleared the ordinances – The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerement and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 – in the month of June, which also received Presidential assent. The ordinances are likely to be tabled in the upcoming monsoon session of the Parliament.
Thousands of people, not just farmers, but mandi workers have taken part in the demonstrations against the ordinances, Singh, who is also a member secretary of the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements (ICCFM), added. “Now there is a need to intensify the struggle, which is possible if different farmers’ bodies across the country coordinate,” he added.
Protests against the ordinances – which are being flayed for attracting the private sector to agriculture marketing – gathered steam recently after a BKU-led rally of farmers was not allowed to protest at Pipli in Haryana’s Kurukshetra, leading to the national highway being blocked – a clash with the police followed who resorted to lathi-charge.
A day later, in a video message posted on Facebook, BKU Haryana state leader Gurnam Singh Charuni accused the police of “bringing in” individuals dressed in civilian clothing who targeted the farmers heads with batons. Charuni, along with 300 other unidentified people, were reportedly booked for damaging public property and engaging in an “unlawful assembly”.
An individual dressed in civilian clothes was pictured to be hitting farmers with a baton at Haryana's Pipli on Thursday. Image Courtesy - Twitter
Leaders of the opposition parties, including the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) came out in support of the farmers, accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) coalition government in the state of crushing the non-violent protest. In addition, other groups such as a industrial workers' union in Manesar also condemned against the lathi-charge and demanded an investigation.
On Friday, a three member committee of MPs in the state was constituted. The committee will hold talks with the farmers’ groups over the issue of police action. Singh, however, called it “nothing more than an eyewash”.
Echoing his sentiments, Sumit Singh, state secretary of the Haryana chapter of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), told NewsClick that the issues in agriculture are too “grave” to be resolved by meetings.
“On one hand the government is saying that MSPs and mandis won’t be directly affected; however, on the other hand it is clear that these ordinances will give rise to conditions that will eventually destroy both,” he told NewsClick. In such circumstances he said it was imperative for farmers to come out on the streets and ensure that the changes are rolled back.
He said that talks are underway with other farmers’ groups to hold state-wide demonstrations around September 20.
Harsh Girdhar, vice president, Haryana State Anaj Mandi Arhtiyas Association, told NewsClick that arhtiyas (commission agents) across the mandis in the state are considering an indefinite strike from September 15. They will be protesting against an ordinance which they fear will take away business from the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs). The arhtiyas association had also extended its “moral support” to the farmers’ rally in the state, though not necessarily for the same reasons.
“While we continue to pay mandi tax and ‘rural development cess’ on the transactions in anaj mandis, no fees is levied on traders who are now allowed to approach a farmer directly,” Girdhar said. “This arrangement will hit the mandi trade in the future.”
Meanwhile, a day ahead of the farmers’ rally, individuals, including agriculture experts took to social media to express their anger against mainstream media where the protest coverage largely remained absent.