Mumbai: "We are here because the Modi government has not accepted our demands about the MSP, cancellation of Electricity Bill 2020 as well as resignation of Ajay Mishra. We will keep protesting till it happens, whatever it takes," said young farmer Santosh Arasad, who had come from Vani, Nasik to participate in the Mumbai Mahapanchayat organised by Sanyukta Kisan Morcha.
Thousands of farmers from across Maharashtra reached Mumbai's Azad Maidan on Sunday, as the day also marked the death anniversary of reformer Jyotiba Phule.
"Modi sarkar is arrogant. But farmers have shown them their place. In Mumbai, farmers are telling Modi sarkar as well as their crony friends that your dictatorship will no longer be tolerated. We have forced you to announce repeal of the three farm laws; we will force you (to bring a law ensuring) MSP, repeal the electricity bill, and reverse four anti-labour bills too," said Ashok Dhavale, leader of the All India Kisan Sabha.
The Mahapanchayat was organised by Sanyukta Kisan Morcha, Shetkari Kamgar Morcha, and many other organisations from the state. It was a celebration of the farmers’ historic victory as well as a tribute to the 700 farmers who lost their lives in the battle for the repeal. The Asthi Kalash Yatra of farmers from Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh had started on October 27. All the asthi kalash were brought to Azad Maidan today and later immersed in the Arabian sea near the iconic Gateway of India.
"They tried to break us into castes and religions. They labelled us anti-national and what not. But in the end, they had to give in. Because farmers were united and we have been courageously fighting for the cause. The farmers of UP, Haryana, and Punjab are grateful for your tremendous support throughout the year. But the battle is not yet over. I appeal to the Modi government to accept the demand regarding MSP as well. Because you had promised it before the elections," said Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait.
The Mahapanchayat was also supported by the workers from across the state. A unit of CITU members from Nasik travelled to Mumbai with 101 vehicles.
"We are here to show solidarity with the farmers. Modi sarkar has brought four codes against the workers as well. After the victory with the farm laws, this battle against anti-labour laws will also continue. We will not stop until they are forced to take those back," said DL Karad, a CITU leader from Nasik.
Various units of the National Alliance of People's Movement also participated in the Mahapanchayat. Deepak Sakpal, a member of the 'Ghar Bachao Andolan' from Mumbai told NewsClick: "We stand here because the farmers feed us. I feel that it is our duty to stand for the rights of the farmers," said Sakpal.
A leader of the Sarvahara Jan Andolan, Ulka Mahajan, claimed in her speech that the farmers’ protest has defeated the Modi government and BJP's larger plan for the country. "They (BJP) want us to be fearful, hungry and deluded. (Bhay, Bhukh, Bhram). Once a person is trapped in such a situation, he does anything and everything which he is asked to do. This is the model of the fascists. But farmers of the country have shown that this model can be defeated with unhindered struggle," said Mahajan.
Ajit Navale, general secretary of All India Kisan Sabha Maharashtra, thanked farmers for coming to Mumbai in large numbers. "Farmers have been awakened now. They have realised their power and are ready to fight till they win. The Modi government should know that all its tactics of breaking this agitation have failed in the last one year. So, better accept our all six demands...," said Navale.
The Mahapanchayat was attended by women in large numbers as well. Sayali Patil, a woman from Alibaug, Raigad, who had come to support the protest, said: "Women are the backbone of any home. They are coming here to support the protest. Because farmers are feeling betrayed as they are not getting the fair price of their crop. Not even 50 percent of the production cost. That is why the MSP is needed," she said.
Former CPI-M MLA JP Gavit said that the announcement of repealing laws could be one more jumla. "You take the law back in Parliament and then the farmers will believe this. Also, you had promised MSP for acche din (good days) in 2014. What happened to that?" said Gavit, addressing the BJP-led government at the Centre.
The Mahapanchayat was supported by the Congress, Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Peasants and Workers Party of India and Aam Aadmi Party in the state.