Report from Punjab

A truly memorable conference

Harsh Thakor

A truly memorable conference was jointly staged by Bharatiya Kisan Union Ugrahan representing the landed peasantry and Punjab Khet Mazdur Union representing the agricultural labourers near ITI Chowk, in Bathinda city on Wednesday, May 15th. It shimmered the flame of revolutionary democracy and exposing the -neo-fascist policies of the rulers. In genuine people's language in level with their political consciousness the leaders addressed the rally, explaining the futility of parliamentary elections and how people should reject all promises. Arguably one of the most encouraging and positive events in the revolutionary democratic history of Punjab and India. It thoroughly exposed the absolute farce of the so-called democracy which is morally semi-fascist and wears a garb of being a liberal state.

The sustained struggles of the past like the protest in Ludhiana against the frauds launched by a bank which issued false payment cheques to the peasantry, series of protests against debts and suicides of farmers, 50 day protest in Bathinda for demands of compensation for suicide victims and loan waiver, protests of dalit agricultural labour for right to plots and be awarded minimum wages and panchayat land played an important role in the success of this event during the elections. Such protests and conferences were held at district and state level including many in joint fronts with other revolutionary peasant or agricultural labour organizations.Common Desdemona for dalit agricultural labourers were for 5 marlas to be awarded to every dalit labourer family, employment for more than 100 days a year and compensation for suicide and compensation for damaged crops.For landed peasantry principal issue was cancellation of debts, compensation to all families of suicide victims. The organizations with great precision and planning connected the immediate to the overall political demands. The mutual support of the landless agricultural labour to the struggles of the landed peasantry and vice versa played a vital role.

The conference urged the people to sharpen their day to day class struggles and the people's organisations and have no faith in the rotten parliamentary system. Around 10000 attended the meet. Perfectly illustrated the bridge between the immediate demands and overall political alternative. An event of great qualitative success in exposing the fraudulent parliamentary democracy prevailing today and in encouraging people to tread path of revolutionary resistance. The content of the speeches testified the semi-feudal character still prevailing in agriculture in Punjab, and that the land relations were not capitalist. Example of mass line practice and arguably nowhere in Punjab or India do we witness such level of revolutionary democratic practice or galvanisation of peasantry in open mass work during elections. The farmers and agricultural labourers had literally found a new road distinct from that offered by the ruling class parties and parliamentary system on the journey back home.

The protesters, including farmers, farm labourers and family members of farm suicide victims, also took out a march. The leaders addressing the rally requested the people to launch protracted or consistent struggles on issues of debt waiver, farmsuicides, drug abuse and unemployment. They accused the political rulers of dividing the people on religious lines and hoodwinking them for electoral victories, instead of giving a genuine alternative to the people for solving their problems. They linked the people's problems and issues with the neo-fascist economic and political agenda of the Narendra Modi led govt in the Centre explaining how in essence the ruling Congress in Punjab was no different and blessing Hindutva and all the economic policies the BJP endorsed.

In the front of the rally women participants displayed garlanded photos of their husband farmers who were suicide victims as a result of debt.

Inspiring speeches by Jhanda Singh Jethuke, Laxman Singh Sewewala, Joginder Singh Ugrahan, Sukhdev Singh Khokri and Harbinder Bindu.

Harinder Bindu, leader of women's wing of BKU in depth exposed how women were literally enslaved by the imperialist culture. She gave vivid examples of women being exploited in advertisements and sold as commodities.

Joginder Singh Ugrahan, state president of the BKU (Ugrahan) said, "All major political parties have let the farming community down for decades. The agricultural sector is in dire straits today. Distressed farmers burdened under debt are forced to committing." He said, "We demand that government land must be distributed equally among farmers and interest on farm loan must be abolished. For the growth of the agriculture sector, investment from the government sector is a must. Besides, facilities of irrigation must be increased and adequate arrangements to meet the storage of farm produce must be made. There is a need for an agro-based industry, cheaper power, transportation, water and regular jobs. Privatisation must be stopped."

Laxman Singh Sewewala, Secretary of the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union (landless workers organisation) stated that people had to play a major role in exposing the ruling class politicians and build up their own sustained struggles.

Sukhdev Singh Khokri, secretary of the BKU (Ugrahan) narrated the influence of imperialist culture and how it was strangulating democracy. He elaborated how a genuine pro people culture should be created. In detail he summed up how the TV, films and social media were literally reduced to stooges of the rotten, dirty imperialist culture having a profound influence on shaping the thought process of the broad masses.

BKU leader Jhanda Singh Jethuke Jethuke summarised the victory of peasant struggles in regions like Chatewada on issue of debt and Halwala where a Special Economic zones construction was thwarted.

Most touching moment witnessing the aftermath of the event with the vehicles carrying the participants reminiscent of thousands of blooming red roses on a journey or many contingents of an army battalion marching. The unity of the landed Jat peasantry with the dalit agricultural labour community here had great significance to the long term interests of the agrarian revolution wedging the caste gap between them.The farmers and agricultural labourers had literally found anew road distinct from that offered by the ruling class parties and parliamentary system on the journey back home.

Cultural activists interspersed the speeches with songs and readings of great poetic depth reaching the core of the soul of the audience as though it was playing in their hearts.

Vol. 51, No. 51, Jun 23 - 29, 2019