Why Embers of Peasant Struggle Must Keep Burning Even in Victory
The day has arrived for which lakhs of farmers endured harsh weather and state repression with patience and resolute determination for one and a half years, ever since the central government passed the farm laws as ordinances in June 2020. The Prime Minister himself had to announce the acceptance of the farmers’ most prominent demand to withdraw all three laws. The peasants of the country and the working classes sympathetic to their struggle held their breath as they heard his announcement. Then the atmosphere rang with their war cries of victory celebrations amidst waves of sizzling emotions. The faces of the people who have sacrificed their lives came alive before their eyes again. Their martyrdom was remembered and revered. The working masses enjoyed the pinnacle of their struggle, which has witnessed many ups and downs, with the warmth of unity.
But the method adopted by the Prime Minister to announce the decision to repeal the three laws has proved to be one more evidence of his anti-people and fascist mental make-up. Not only did he not feel it necessary to convene a meeting of the Cabinet, but he also tried to ignore the leadership of the farm movement by resorting to a one-sided announcement. The correct course would have been to parley with the peasant leadership on other important issues when the decision to accept the most prominent demand of this gigantic mass movement was to be made known, and reach a consensus. Instead of undertaking such an effort, the PM tried to foreground the constructed image of himself: ‘Modi hai to mumkin hai—Modi can do anything’. It is an image that gives a toss for others’ opinions. It is an image based on which Modi has cornered every kind of dissenting voice and paid no heed to the justifiable and genuine demands of the people. It is an altogether different matter that, for those who have the temperament to struggle, nothing can alter the significance of this achievement.
In his address, the Prime Minister forcefully tried to justify the pro-corporatisation thrust to agriculture that works underneath the three laws. He claimed his laws have the universal concurrence of the peasants of the entire country. He tried to project the widespread resistance of peasants to these laws as merely an unpleasantness created by a minuscule section. In reality, through his address, he has apologised to global imperialist companies and big corporates for his failure to defraud the people with these laws. Simultaneously, the Prime Minister reiterated his commitment to continue to follow the path he has taken so far. Ideas like zero-budget farming and crop diversification have been repeated, and only to serve the interests of so-called ‘reforms’. After the Prime Minister’s address, agriculture minister Narendra Tomar also talked about adopting alternative methods to further ‘reforms’ in agriculture.
From all this, it is amply clear that the Modi government stands committed to the entry of corporates into the agricultural sector, as it always was, and is making every effort to find an alternative route to make this happen. Even the proposed committee on the MSP issue is one of these routes. When the commitment to the interests of the corporates is so forceful, farmers and peasants cannot get easy victories. The danger of their already achieved successes getting washed away also always looms. The troubles of our fields and crops have not simply melted away with the declaration of the intent to repeal the three agricultural laws. It is just a matter of time before efforts are undertaken again to ‘reform’ agriculture. For example, running away from government procurement remained its agenda even when the movement was going on.
Even when the State takes up the process of repealing the three laws, there will be a need to closely read and catch the latent meanings of the technical language it uses for that purpose. We will need to make ourselves aware of machinations to secretly strike against the peasants’ interests if they go off-guard. This intention of government is clear from the fact that it has still not moved away from its claims to give ‘freedom’ to the peasants by establishing private mandis.
Even now, the government will attempt to stop the peasantry from transforming its hard-won victory into a uniform, standardised, and comprehensive one, one that will further the interests of the peasantry. The government’s intentions will be to ignore their other demands, avoid guaranteeing or even assuring MSP and PDS, and keep the peasant leaders and the activists embroiled in legal cases.
Therefore, the need of the hour is to defeat these intentions of the government by remaining vigilant and continuing to struggle determinedly for the acceptance of the remaining demands. The flag of the struggle must be raised high until the three laws get repealed in Parliament, MSP and PDS are guaranteed, and other demands, such as on the electricity and pollution bills, are met, along with the withdrawal of cases and compensation for farmers. We must remain vigilant over moves that the government might initiate to allow corporates entry into the procurement business. These steps may be undertaken by the government under the guise of new laws or through executive orders or any other secret crevices the State might open up. It is certain that the government will not desist from this path. Therefore, the people should be made conscious of these issues, besides maintaining vigilance and unity. In the absence of clarity on demands, governments succeed in obfuscating or trampling upon people. In the enthusiastic atmosphere created by ‘the laws have been repealed’, the peasantry must not forget its concerns over their actual withdrawal and other issues.
The first stage of this struggle has, no doubt, ended in victory for farmers and all those who support them. But a prolonged struggle is required to save the crops from being trampled in the mandis, get proper prices for them, and secure the right to food for the working masses through the PDS. This struggle now demands a higher and long-lasting unity. The need is to keep the embers of struggle burning until the declarations of victory translate into reality. Amidst the ongoing celebrations, the bigger concerns must not be lost sight of.
The author is president of Bhartiya Kisan Union Ekta (Ugrahan). The views are personal.
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