Thursday, Nov 30, 2023

Farmers' Protests Enter 100th Day, Unions Say 'We Are Going Strong'

Farmers' Protests Enter 100th Day, Unions Say 'We Are Going Strong'

March 6 will be observed as 'Black Day' as part of which the Kundli–Manesar–Palwal (KMP) expressway will be blocked for five hours

Farmers during their ongoing agitation against new farm laws, in New Delhi. PTI

With the farmers' protest against the Centre's farms laws entering its 100th day on Sunday, the farmer unions have asserted that their movement is not getting over and they are "going strong".

To mark the completion of hundred days, March 6 will be observed as 'Black Day' as part of which the Kundli–Manesar–Palwal (KMP) expressway will be blocked for five hours, according to a statement from the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a coalition of protesting farmer unions.

The Unions said that the large scale movement sent a message of unity across the country, made "farmers visible once again" and brought them back on the political landscape of the country.

Farmers from different parts of the country, especially Punjab, Haryana, and Western Uttar Pradesh have occupied Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur points of Delhi border for over three months now. 

Rakesh Tikait of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) said they are prepared to continue the protest as long as it is required.

"We are completely prepared. Unless and until the government listens to us and meets our demands, we will not move from here," Tikait, who is among the leaders at the forefront of the movement, told PTI.

Despite several rounds of talks between the government and the farmer unions, the two sides have failed to reach an agreement, and the farmers have refused to budge until the three laws are repealed.

Enacted in September, the three farm laws have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove the middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.

The protesting farmers, on the other hand, have expressed apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) and do away with the "mandi" (wholesale market) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.

While a resolution was reached on two of the four demands -- rollback of rise in power tariff and penalties for stubble burning -- in January, a decision on repeal of the three farm laws and a legal guarantee for MSP continues to be stuck in limbo.

However, according to the farmer leaders, the movement has achieved much beyond the immediate scope of the protest. It has evoked nationwide unity among farmers as well as recognised the contribution of women in farming.

Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj India said, "The movement has brought the farmers back on the political landscape of this country. It has made farmers visible once again. It has taught every politician a lesson — not to take ‘panga’ with the farmers."

"People used to take farmers for granted but this movement has shown that getting into a confrontation with farmers is costly business,” the activist-political told PTI.

The fight against the laws was one cause that seemed to have resonated with a large number of farmers throughout the nation, cutting across religious and caste barriers .

"It has united farmers like never before. Haryana and Punjab  farmers are united. Despite deep attempts at communal mobilisation in UP, Hindu and Muslim farmers are united in this protest. Gujjars and Meenas are united in Rajasthan,” Yadav said.

Kavitha Kuruganti of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee agreed and added the movement had proven very “constructive” socially as well.

"The farmers movement has to be assisted on multiple levels. There is a very important but limited agenda of securing our four demands, but beyond that is the issue of what the farmers movement has been able to achieve as larger outcomes. 

"In Punjab, socially...things like substance abuse, alcoholism and so on have come down because the youth have been constructively engaged in the movement,” she said.

She added that the movement had also “reinforced the identity of women farmers”. "Women farmers have been able to assert themselves and make their presence and participation felt,” she said.

To mark International Women's Day on March 8, the protesting men will hand over charge of managing the protest sites to their female counterparts.

“The stage management will be taken care of by women only. Besides, the spokesperson for the farmer movement for that particular day will all be women,” said Avtar Singh Mehma of the Krantikari Kisan Union.

Continuing the movement over such a long period has not been devoid of any setbacks. One of the major setbacks that the movement faced was the violence during the January 26 tractor parade.

"There's been the setback of January 26, when all farmers were portrayed as violent 'khalistanis' and so on. The image that was there of the protest before the 26th was intentionally maligned by the police and the government,” Kurugranthi alleged.

She added they have also had to “fend off multiple attacks from the government, including supplies being cut, and locals being provoked against the protestors”.

Prepared for the long haul, protesting farmers at all the borders have already started gearing up to beat the Delhi summer by equipping their trolleys with air conditioners, coolers and farmers. Arrangements for better and steady supply of water are also being made.

After weeks of protest in their respective regions, farmers from Punjab and Haryana pushed towards the national capital with their 'Delhi Chalo' march and camped at Singhu and Tikri since November 26 last year.

They were joined a few days later by farmers from UP who set up a camp at the Ghazipur border.

(With inputs from PTI)