Call to turn the farmers' movement into a nationwide people's struggle

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin saw peasants in dhotis and lungis laying siege on Kolkata decades back when the city was a radical red citadel without a Left Front in power in Bengal. Standing at Dharmatala in granite, an iconic landmark at the heart of the city, the leader of the Russian revolution also witnessed the fall of the LF government after three decades in 2011.

Now, he is observing another kind of siege to the city of rallies as the state has been under increasing threats from the surging Sangh Parivar, the most reactionary right wing forces led by BJP-RSS. The central ruling party with its entwined corporate-communal agendas has emerged as the main challenger to the incumbent Trinamool Congress government, a regional party of middlepathers and former ally of the Hindutva party while the LF-Congress combine has turned into a distant third force.

Nevertheless, a potential turnaround for the anti-BJP politics seems to have begun in Bengal with the Left-liberal efforts to organise public support to the agitating farmers from Punjab-Haryana. They have virtually laid a siege on Delhi Darbar of the Narendra Modi regime demanding the rollback of pro-corporate farm laws. Speakers at different protest sites said that the task to turn the farmers' movement into a nationwide people's movement has become a must not only for Punjab-Haryana but also for the people of the states who are still resisting the hegemony of the Hindutva party that has been openly espousing 'one country-one election-one party-one leader' rule.

Responding to the call of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee,  the umbrella body of the peasant bodies now spearheading the farmers' agitation, its state chapter has launched an indefinite Dharna or sit-in demonstration a stone's throw away from Lenin's statue on Saturday to spread the solidarity protests across Bengal.

The pro-farmer campaigns have been gaining traction in Bengal as Left parties and many independent Left groups have joined it. The footfall at the dharnas is likely to increase in the coming days as students, youth, minorities and intellectual groups have already started holding such solidarity programmes in Kolkata and districts. Some anti-BJP Civil society groups have already hit the streets with an appeal to the popular mind not to vote for the BJP as the state  assembly election is round the corner.

Similar indefinite sit-in and rallies have begun in Howrah, north 24-parganas, Nadia Birbhum, Bankura and Nadia districts by a forum called Bengal against Fascist BJP-RSS and members of CPI (ML) liberation and other like-minded groups . The first forum will stage a sit-in protest at Moulali More in Kolkata on 13 January.

Artists and intellectuals are also joining
Mukto- Bangla, a group for cultural activists will chalk out its campaign programme on January 10. Netaji-Bhagat Singh United Forum will bring out a torch ra!Ly from Sarat Bose Road on Sunday evening to pay homage to the martyrs of the farmer's movement, most of whom succumbed to the biting north Indian cold after being forced by the Modi regime to stay under the open sky for more than a month.

The spirit of solidarity is evident both offline and online. Some young artists and their friends have joined hands in selling the paintings that reflect the rainbow colors of the ongoing peasant mobilization at five borders around Delhi. These paintings have captured the defiant mood of daily life in the makeshift city of caravans on the national highways which have been blocked by the kilometres-long lines of tractors, trolley vans and trucks brought by the farmers and their families. An exhibition of three young activists-- Laboni, Subheccha and Baishali will be held at Niranjan Sadan in Kolkata on January 24 and the proceeds would be donated to the pro-farmer campaign.   

January 18: Mahila Kisan Divas.
Meanwhile six national women’s organisations have called for solidarity programmes on January 18. Samyukt KisanMorcha (SKM) has already asked to observe the day as Mahila Kisan Divas.

National Federation of Indian Women(NFIW), All India Democratic Women’s Association(AIDWA), All India Progressive Women’s Association(AIPWA), PragatisheelMahilaSangathan(PMS), All India AgragamiMahilaSamiti(AIAMS) and All India MahilaSanskritikSangathan(AIMSS) will hold protests all over the country on January 18 demanding repeal of the three farm laws, food, work, health services, waiver of the loans of SHGs, action against harassment by MFIs and express solidarity with the farmers’ struggle.

In a joint press statement, they said:" The Modi government has launched a full scale attack on the survival of a large section of our population. The three farm laws will further worsen the situation for women whose lives are already facing a severe crisis due to sky-rocketing prices of essential commodities which has made it impossible to make both ends meet. The new Essential Commodities Amendment Act will aggravate the situation. The targeted public distribution system is in disarray. The distribution of free food grains has been discontinued since December. Regular food grains distribution through the ration shops has been disrupted. The NFHS5 shows that in 13 out of 22 States, child stunting has deteriorated over the preceding 4 years. Likewise, child wasting across 11 states and underweight children in 14 states has shown deterioration.

As schools are closed, alternate arrangements for Mid-day meal to students have not been made. ICDS services are also affected badly. Conditions for availing free ration during COVID crisis coupled with loss of work will further aggravate the malnutrition, hunger and starvation death.

Even after all the tall promises regarding provision of work made by the central government, the reality is that no work is available. MNREGA work has been stopped. Women in the unorganised sector have been demanding the implementation of the Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme as the means of livelihood have shrunk during this pandemic. Indebtedness has increased manifold. This has had a devastating impact on the lives of poor families living on the verge of starvation.``

Biswajit Roy

9th January, 2021

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Jan 10, 2021