Patna: After being denied permission to hold a dharna in support of protesting farmers, Bihar opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav, along with leaders of the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance), on Saturday staged another dharna near a road in Patna. Hundreds of leaders and workers of his party Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) joined the protest. They loudly shouted slogans against the Centre and the state government for “anti-farmer” policies.
The Left parties took to streets on Saturday in support of protesting farmers. Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders and workers took out a protest march and burnt effigies of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Narendra Modi. Members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) blocked different roads in the state during their chakka jam demanding withdrawal of the three recently enacted farm laws. All 12 party MLAs took part in the chakka jams in their assembly constituencies.
The Left parties and the RJD will also join the call for Bharat Bandh on December 8.
On Friday, Tejashwi had announced to hold a dharna near Mahatma Gandhi’s statue at Gandhi Maidan in Patna on Saturday to support the farmers protesting against the farm laws in Delhi and other places across the country. But the Patna district administration on Saturday morning refused permission to him to hold the dharna. Soon after, Tejashwi dared Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to stop him from staging the dharna. ”I challenged Nitish Kumar to stop me from holding a dharna, I will stage dharna near gate no 4 of Gandhi Maidan to express our solidarity with farmers,” he said.
Calling the three laws “kaale kanoon” (black laws) – the term which has resonated among farmers from Punjab and Haryana –Tejashwi has appealed again to farmers and their organisation in Bihar to come out on the streets against the legislations and express their solidarity with the protesting farmers in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and other parts of the country. The RJD leader said that by doing this, they will strengthen those protesting farmers.
The denial of permission to stage the dharna was seen by the opposition Grand Alliance leaders as an order from the top of the NDA government in the state led by Nitish Kumar. Besides, they deemed the dharna as a strong message to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat, who arrived in Bihar on Friday to hold closed-door meetings with workers.
Tejashwi also administered an oath to leaders and workers of the Grand Alliance at the dharna that they will continue to support protesting farmers till the ‘black farm laws’ were withdrawn by the Centre. Tejashwi, who was the chief ministerial candidate of the opposition Mahagatbandhan in the recently concluded Bihar Assembly elections, said the Centre has been cheating the farmers in the name of the farm laws. “The protesting farmers are our own people, but the central government is doing everything to suppress them by using police force and by designing conspiracies to derail their agitation,” he said.
He said that this was the same NDA government at the Centre that had announced that it would double the farmers’ income by 2022, but instead, it ended up doing away with the minimum support price (MSP).
Prominent leaders of the Mahagathbandhan joined Tejashwi’s dharna including Congress state president Madan Mohan Jha, CPI state secretary Ram Naresh Pandey and senior RJD leaders.
The farm laws are a major issue in the state as, according to government data, nearly two-thirds of Bihar’s total population of 12 crores is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. Most of them are small and marginal farmers. Moreover, nearly two-thirds of all agricultural activities in the state are dependent on rainfall.
Agriculture is the backbone of Bihar’s economy, employing 81% of the workforce and generating nearly 42% of the state’s gross domestic product, according to the state government’s figures.