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Comment

India Vs Bharat

It is still too early to say if the farmers’ agitation is an unqualified success. But judging by the developments over the last few weeks it is certainly proving to be historic.

Governments have been pushed on the back foot. For the first time in many decades, urban India has been forced to pay heed to the cries of the peasantry.

The bottom line is stark — farmers are not getting a fair price for their produce. And they are no longer willing to suffer in silence.

Chief Ministers of some States have tried their level best to defuse and defeat the movement. Police firing has been ordered. “Anti-social elements” have been blamed for inciting violence. Opposition parties have been accused of fishing in troubled waters.

Also, make-believe negotiations have been held with pro-establishment farmers’ bodies on the payrolls of the ruling dispensation. So-called deals have been struck and official announcements have been made that the agitation has been called off.

Now that all the tried and tested methods of diverting attention and deflecting from the core issues have failed to break the unity of the 62 different peasant organisations involved in the on-going agitation, the governments concerned are trying to sow confusion by staging one-day fasts to sincerity. At another level, while placatory noises are being made about willingness to concede all demands, contradictory statements are being issued that the central exchequer is empty and that the country’s fiscal deficit will widen dangerously if farmers are given their due.

Some farmers’ organisations have issued statements celebrating the fact that their voice is finally being heard. The All-India Kisan Sabha, for instance, has said in the context of Maharashtra: “The united peasant struggle that has become victorious in gaining the major demand of loan waiver and remunerative price to dairy farmers among other demands. This is a historical achievement of farmers against the neo-liberal regime dominating India”.

Then it adds: “The confidence it filled among the peasantry will trigger large scale and widespread peasant struggles in other parts of the country as well.’’ If it really happens then it will be a great achievement.

All the 60-plus peasant organisations are expected to actively continue the struggle. Then, on August 9, there will be a blockade of national highways across India. The battle, clearly, is not over — it has just begun.

The current peasant movement has revived the age-old demand to implement M S Swaminathan Commission recommendation of fixing MSP as 50% above cost of production to all crops and guarantee purchase centres. They are also demanding reversal in reduction in allocation in MNREGA and withdrawal of anti-farmer notification of the centre banning cattle trade in cattle market.

Strangely, leftists, including communists and socialists who once galvanized the imagination of the peasant masses and led peasant movement from the front, have virtually lost the track with peasant struggles. They have failed to revaluate and address the peasant question in the changed context. And those who are hoping to liberate India relying on the peasants as foot soldiers as the Chinese did in the 1920s, also lack concrete ideas to cope with the changing agrarian scenario.              

[contributed]

Frontier
Vol. 49, No.52, Jul 2 - 8, 2017