Nashik: Despite police restrictions on a peaceful march, the detention of a number of activists across districts and all possible means to stop the agitation, thousands of farmers gathered at Nashik's Mumbai Naka for their second historic long march on Wednesday, February 20. They are aiming to reach Mumbai on February 27, covering a distance of 180 kilometres— an average of 22 km per day.
The call for the Kisan Long March was given by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) which is affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Close to 80,000 farmers from 23 districts are participating in the march this time.
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Navasu Devaji Thapad (68) has come from Jhap village of Javhar Tehsil, Palghar. He is participating in the Kisan Long March for the first time. "Last year I was not well at the time of the march. But this year, we will win this battle for our land," said Navasu. His hopes could be seen in his eyes.
However, another lady from Navasu’s adjoining tehsil Mokhada, 62-year- old Janaki Diva Nangare, who had participated in the march last year, was clearly angry. She is from Kurjhe village. She asked, "Last year we walked for one week. This government told us that they will give us our land's papers. But they cheated us. What shall we do? When will we eat rice from our own land?"
These are the symbolic reactions of thousands of farmers gathered at Nashik on Wednesday. They have resolved to take on the government. "This time, we will not call off this protest without getting our papers signed by forest officers," said Pandit Gavali, standing next to Janaki.
The Kisan Long March has ignited the hopes as well as fighting spirit again in the minds and hearts of farmers. "The state government failed to keep it's word. We believed the assurance given on the floor of the house last year. But what else are we left with?" asked Dr Ajit Navale, state General Secretary of AIKS.
Interestingly, the state government tried to negotiate with the AIKS twice. In a meeting on February 17, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had tried to reassure the farmers. "But how would you believe their words? There should be concrete order by government. That is not happening in this case," said Dr Navale.
This time, the AIKS has issued a 15-point charter of demands. The major demands include clearing land titles of farmers on forest land, Rs 50,000 per acre compensation to drought affected farmers, and MSP plus 50 per cent rates to agricultural produce. Another demand is that the water running into the Arabian sea should be used for irrigation projects in Maharashtra and should not be diverted to Gujarat.
In the first ever Kisan Long March in March 2018, over 40,000 farmers from North Maharashtra had walked for seven days. From March 6 to 12, these farmers walked peacefully from Nashik to Mumbai to raise their demands.
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The Maharashtra government had accepted all of their demands with the assurance on the floor of the state assembly by none other than CM Devendra Fadnavis himself. He had said that the farmers' rights on forest agricultural lands will be cleared by May 1, 2018. He had also accepted a number of other demands. But not a single demand has been met till today.
The farmers are resolved this time to wake up the government from its slumber and will not stop till their demands are met.