SKM Assam Convention Resolves to Fight Anti-Farmer Policies
Writer and literary critic Hiren Gohain addresses the Samyukta Kisan Morcha convention in Guwahati on Tuesday.
Guwahati: The Samyukta Kishan Morcha (SKM) Assam has resolved to fight the “anti-farmer policies” of the BJP-led Central and state governments.
At a convention organised at the Pragjyoti Cultural Complex in Machkhowa here on Tuesday that was attended by thousands of farmers, activists and leaders of different organisations, the SKM discussed the chronic issues faced by Assam farmers for a long time and resolved to coalesce with the national issues and movements.
Resolving to fight the “anti-farmer policies” of the Centre and Assam government, the convention discussed a larger possible framework for future farmers’ movement in the state.
Inaugurating the convention, Assam’s eminent public intellectual Hiren Gohain said that the Centre’s “intention to pave the path for monopoly capital in the agriculture sector will worsen the situation”.
“It was reflected in the three farm Bills, withdrawn later due to the consistent and historical farmers’ movement,” he said praising the struggle and urging people to adopt the same stance to counter the Centre’s and the Assam government’s anti-farmer intentions.
The convention discussed a larger possible framework for future farmers’ movement in the state.
All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) national vice-president and SKM national convener Hannan Mollah, AIKS general secretary Atul Kumar Ranjan and Bihar MLA Sudama Prasad urged people to prepare for another national movement in the near future.
All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) national vice-president and SKM national convener Hannan Mollah addresses the convention.
The SKM has planned for a nationwide agitation on September 22 to demand that the floods in Assam and other four states be declared a national problem. The convention appealed to farmer organisations present there and others to organise agitations in every district of Assam on that day.
The convention will also organise a demonstration in Assam demanding punishment for Union minister of state for home affairs Ajay Kumar Mishra and his son Ashish for the violence in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri on October 3, 2021, which claimed the lives of four farmers.
From November 26 to 28, SKM Assam will organise a statewide demonstration demanding the fulfilment of promises made by the Centre to the SKM in writing.
Land Rights, MSP Important Issues in Assam
SKM Assam co-convener Balindra Saikia, who is also the convenor of the All India Kisan Mahasabha, Assam, told Newsclick that the Centre is “yet to fulfil its promise of withdrawing the thousands of FIRs against farmers and providing adequate compensation to families whose members died during the movement”.
“We demand the government fulfil the promises immediately,” he said.
Saikia also said that land rights is a crucial issue for Assam’s farmers. “In our state, about 47% of Hindus don’t have land while 57% of Muslims are landless. Only 12 lakh families have land in Assam. Most of the weaker sections don’t own land.”
Calling for changing Assam’s land policy, he said, “Annual floods cause massive erosion, washing away lands and properties of people, forcing them to change their place of residence. On top of that, the BJP government is hellbent on evicting people in large numbers and snatching away the littlest of possession they have.”
Moreover, small tea growers, jute farmers and those involved in piggery also contribute to the state’s economy, according to Saikia. “There is no policy to protect the rights of those involved in these fields. The recent trend in Assam is to convert agricultural land into non-agricultural land. In a decade, around 19,000 bighas of forestland have been cleared.
Assam urgently needs protection of both agricultural and forestland.”
Shahar Ali, one of the evictees in Gorukhuti area, Dahalpur (Darrang district), was hit by a bullet during the unprecedented massive eviction drive in his area right after Himanta Biswa Sarma became the chief minister in 2021.
“The bullet in my leg damaged a nerve. I still can’t walk normally and visit the doctor regularly. The cost is extremely difficult to manage,” he told Newsclick.
On being asked whether they were compensated with land plots after the eviction, as promised by Sarma, Ali said, “No. We were engaged in agriculture. After losing our land, we work as daily wagers. The government said that the land would be used for agriculture. However, large swathes have been barren for the last two years.”
Ali, present at the convention, said the issue of eviction and their plights were also highlighted there. “It’s a hope for us. Our issues are being discussed at some national platform.”
Palm Oil Cultivation in Assam
One of the controversial issues is palm oil cultivation in the Tinsukia district. Recently, Sarma, accompanied by Baba Ramdev, planted palm oil saplings at Saikhowaghat, Tinsukia.
The convention discussed the “possible dangers” of palm oil cultivation. “We recently visited the place where the process was started by the Assam chief minister. Actually, huge swathes of land will be handed over to Baba Ramdev for this purpose,” Saikia alleged.
“Apart from the environmental disaster, palm oil cultivation will trigger fights among people. The land has been acquired quite undemocratically. Villagers weren’t told clearly what would happen there.”
Farmers who didn’t allow the saplings to be planted will bear the consequences if they are planted on the adjacent land as palm oil trees will make the entire area dry. The government will not take responsibility,” he explained.
Saikia said that the Supreme Court has “barred palm oil in Andaman”. Many countries are moving away from it. Why the Assam government is promoting it by letting Baba Ramdev make huge profits? It will be menace for Assam,” he said. “The SKM and other organisations will fight it.”
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