The Tractor March

A Different Republic Day Parade

Harsh Thakor

Aprotracted war of resistance is being waged by the peasant organisations on the border of Delhi protesting the three agricultural laws. In the manner of preparing for a great war a massive tractor march is being planned on Republic Day. Farmers are being mobilised under guidance of the BKU (Ugrahan) in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The iron feet of the rulers are reluctant to scrap any of the bills which is manifestation of the economic neon-fascism prevailing projected as neo-liberalism.

President Joginder Singh of Ugrahan feels the struggle has reached a higher stage or peak while secretary Sukhdev Khokri is very optimistic of the progression of the struggle. Some of the most positive words have been written by Surkh Leeh editor Pavel Kussa . A positive development is that the landless Dalit agricultural labourers of Punjab have joined the contingent in Delhi. The Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union and the Zameen Prapt Sangharsh Commitee have also mobilised agrarian workers. Student and youth contingents are continuously storming in like the continuous flow of river water. The peasantry of Punjab has struck the rulers in their very belly and won a great moral victory. A huge plethora of democratic section has revolved around this agitation like never before. A new saga in Indian people's movement continues to be written. In the history of resurgence of Indian peasantry such meticulous planning and organisation or such relentless courage ever been displayed. A crystallisation and polarisation has developed like never before galvanising every possible drop of water to prepare for the tractor march. It virtually looks like the farmers have created a new town at the border where they inhabit at the moment.

A massive parade is being planned on Republic Day on January 26th if the rulers continue to be defiant. Till now the peasant leaders have pledged that under no circumstances would they relent. Massive solidarity protests have been undertaken in Punjab and elsewhere amongst all sections of people. It is a remarkable phenomena .The January 26th tractor march promises to be India's greatest ever showdown or defining moment confronting neo-fascism. The flame of resistance will be lit at a crescendo on January 26th resembling the invasion of an army.

A blot in the book has been the accusations of leaders of the Kirti Kisan Union on the opportunism of the Ugrahan group form inviting leaders like Joginder Yadav to speak from its platform. They alleged that it was a contradiction of the Ugrahan group to allow political forces to utilise such a platform.

The leaders of Kirti Kisan Union alleged that it was Ugrahan who earlier opposed political groups from using the joint platform. to propagate views. The Ugrahan group, however, vociferously defended its stand summing up it was allowed to allow democratic voice to simmer at its optimum.

The farmer leaders especially Joginder Singh( Ugrahan) have displayed great mastery in understanding the connivance or conspiracy of the ruling party leaders with Corporates at every step and gauge their malicious objectives.

The tractors in processions remind one of the military tanks of the Russian red army. Above all the movement is taking an All India shape with the Ugrahan group being the principal architect of spearheading struggle to Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.  Noteworthy  that the basic unity of all the 32 participating Organisations has remained rock solid despite machinations of the saffron rulers.

For sheer expanding broad base of movement in neighbouring states the BKU (Ugrahan) played the most formidable role. Illustrating deep grasp of mass line it undertook political education of cadre when galvanising forces. The biggest role in ideologically confronting BJP fascism was initiated by the Kirti Kisan Union.No organisation made such sustained efforts to project the inter-relationship of the economic struggle for partial demands with the overall movement against fascism.

A notable aspect is that the traditional left parties like CPI and CPM have not been able to influence this struggle nor leaders of opposition parties like Congress or Aaam Adami Party.

A predominant weakness is the lack of integration of the working class or Industrial workers in the movement. There has hardly been sufficient intervention or solidarity by the Industrial proletariat .The main cause of this is the weakness or organised movement of industrial workers or hardly effective movements built by the working class. The neo-liberal economic policies have completely subdued the industrial proletariat.

Efforts must be made to build the broadest democratic front with workers, students, traders and intellectuals.

The focus of this movement must never be lost or diffused. The course of the movement itself will have a great bearing on the future course of political action in the country.

Major solidarity rallies have taken place in Bandra in Mumbai, in Kolkata and in Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh. Tremendous solidarity actions have been done in Canada.

Editor of Surkh Rekha Pavel Kussa has in analytical depth refuted such a movement being dubbed as 'Naxalite' by the state and how the ruing classes are trying to suppress the agitation by branding it as a Naxalite inspired insurgency. In no uncertain terms he defended the Naxalites as a democratic revolutionary force who were struggling on behalf of the oppressed.

A very significant aspect is how this movement could create a major base for all-round movement against privatisation.

It is also important to educate the peasantry on the relationship of its struggle with the political struggle of tribals or Adivasis in forests against corporates.

Above all a base has been built for creating new political cadres into the democratic revolutionary movement, particularly amongst the youth. It would be most fascinating and of great importance how such an economic struggle takes political shape in the coming days.

For one thing, this farmers' movement is no ordinary movement. Every passing day, this movement is growing mightier, as farmers from the length and breadth of India are marching towards the border of national capital.

"This movement has been witnessing some never seen before phenomenon:

"Retired army personnel coming out on the streets in support of the farmers."

"Mandeep Singh (Punjab Cricket Team Captain) participating in a sit-in demonstration with a portrait of Bhagat Singh."

"Eminent scientist refusing to accept award from the present government, in solidarity with the farmers' movement."

"Many farmers' associations of prominent political parties and their conglomerations are part of this movement. Influential leaders from these unions like Hannan Mollah from CPIM have only been able to play second fiddle in this movement. The resolute farmers have rejected advice from prominent co-ordination committee leaders to return back to their homes from Haryana Punjab border."

"Have you ever heard farmers observing "Human Rights Day"? Yes, this movement has witnessed voices raised in condemnation of the illegal detention of worker's activist Sudha Bharadwaj, Andhra's revolutionary poet Varavara Rao, Social Activist father Stan Swamy and several other political and social activists arrested under the draconian law called UAPA.

People have often seen demonstrations and movements condemning any government and its policies. Farmers of this movement have given a call to boycott all products of  Adani  group and Reliance Group, including usage of Reliance JIO Connections. Can one recall of any movement from the last decades which has been so focussed and resolute?"

Quoting BKU (Ugarhan) president Joginder Singh , "Our struggle is reaching the peaks after a journey of several months. Over fifty warriors have drenched it with their blood. This phase of struggle needs to be very clearly understood in order to stand up and move it further in this glorious struggle."

"The current phase is that after many unsuccessful claims about the struggle, the government has been forced to accept the depth of the struggle and take the road to talk. The pressure of the struggle now is on the government to protect the right to struggle. Farmers are being destroyed in Dharuhera (Riwari) shows where the police are still pouring tear gas balls and the farmers are also being stopped. The government's apathy towards deaths during the Delhi Morcha is also a disgraceful violation of basic human rights."

"The government is now looking to destroy the struggle through weapons of talks. Amendment proposals actually want consent for laws which direct means farming wants to stamp people for large corporates entry into crop marketing. Organizations have jointly extinguished this move of government and have refused to get trapped in it. Now the government finally wants to create an atmosphere of disappointment in the struggling people by showing the stubbornness of not abolishing the law during talks. Wants to create confusion between struggling people, organisations and their supportive parts."

What is heartening is the massive support received from the people of Haryana .Another very significant step is the support of agricultural labour. The government is looking to take advantage of this feelings of chaos or loneliness. While at present it is important to understand that these protests have become a tip of serious political harassment to the Modi government. These strikes need to combine the actions of different oppressed sections at other places. The emerging of struggle centres within the states is an important necessity especially along with these protests. The headache should remain for the BJP leaders and the corporate families should not be allowed to sleep in peace. The ban against corporate families needs to be speeded up...."

Quoting an excerpt in an article by Dr Paraminder Singh ,a former professor of Guru Nanak Dev University in the Tribune "The most important aspect of this farmer's movement is related to the passage of true democracy to the principles and behaviour of democracy. It is necessary to refer the two waves evolved in India to explain this aspect. These were the waves: 1974's Jai Prakash Narayan's wave and not very long ago Anna Hazare's wave. Without others in weaving and strengthening these waves, the organisation power of the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh, its ideology and access played a role in expanding and strengthening itself. Also, one of the aim of these waves was to replace the ruling party to another party or group of parties; as the Bharatiya Janata Party took the most advantage of the Anna Hazare movement . I dissolved communal poison but today's farmer movement has no such agenda as the base of the farmers and other working people is different. This is based on the same way that the movement is purely secular and free from all kinds of tuasab. The movement is not aimed at giving political power to a particular party or group of parties, so the movement is not inspired by politics but the politics of this movement is to increase its tax on the basis of their strength. That's why the politics of this movement has the possibility of actually making the democratic rights of the people deeper and wider."

Quoting Punjabi journal Surkh Leh editor Jaspal Jassi "Although in a limited sense the ongoing dialogue between government and peasant representatives is significant . It indicates moral victory of struggling peasantry over the rulers of the country. Ruthless and dishonest propaganda against peasant struggle has got the initial beating it deserved. Those who were being dismissed as khalistanis, urban naxals, foreign agents and what not are now invitees for table talk as representatives of peasants."

"However beyond this initial though significant point of success lies a largely grey area of deceptive moves and misleading presentations on part of the central government.

The dialogue process is not voluntary on part of the government. It has followed failure in deflating the tempo of struggle through false propaganda, adamant attitude and cunning moves."

"The massive show of struggling peasant power along with widespread public support and sympathy proved too large to be ignored. The government is now on the table. It is still aiming at getting approval to the essential content of anti people farm laws and the draft electricity amendment bill from peasant representatives .The offer for so called amendments is a camouflage to facilitate such approval. Any amendment to specific clauses is bound to remain harmless to the actual thrust of the laws."

The renowned writer Arundhati Ray arrived in the Delhi Morcha on January 9th to show solidarity with the farmers' struggle and addressed the people from the stage of BKU Ekta (Ugrahan).

Addressing thousands of people who joined the rally including a large number of women, she said '' this struggle cannot be defeated because it is a struggle of living hearts, the whole country has hopes with you because the fighting people are in Delhi.... they are not going to lose. '' She said that there is no such struggle in the world matching the intensity as it is on the border of Delhi today., and it is destined to re-write political history. Arundhati Ray linking the farmer s' struggle with the tribal people, summerised how the corporates looted the tribal community of their land. She said this movement taught the country the meaning of unity. Governments tackle various pressed phases / sections alone but are afraid of the unity of Dalits, tribals, women, farmers, labourers. All governments get votes from the people and then fulfil the interest of Ambani, Adani and Samraji multifunctional companies. The world-famous author said the country has seen the concepts of those books that were being taught so far through the movement. She narrated the tyranny of Operation Greenhunt in the forests of Bastar unleashed on Maoists to tear part democratic aspirations of Adivasis.

During this time addressing the rally, BKU Ekta (Ugraha) state president Joginder Singh Ugraha discussed the importance of involvement of farm workers in the current farmer's struggle. He said the new agriculture laws will hit the farm labourers most. He insisted that the support of farm workers is needed to bring the struggle to the decisive victory.

Punjab Farm Labour Union State Finance Secretary Harmesh Malri said that his organisation is trying to build Punjab's farm workers as an important struggling force in the movement.

Addressing on behalf of the Naujwan Bharat Sabha, Sukhbir Khemuana said that the youth played an important role in this struggle. He said that to further enhance this role, the youth must fight for the views of Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

Though the tractor march by Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) has been suspended as of now, a tractor march by BKU Ugrahan along with farmers of Haryana was organised on January 2 from Tikri to Shahjahanpur border via villages.

Their slogan was 'Pind Jagao…Pind Hilao', so as to reach out to more and more villages of other states of India.

(Harsh Thakor is a  political commentator based in Mumbai who regularly tours different parts of India, particularly Punjab and also Telengana, Uttar Pradesh and Kolkata, to report democratic events and movements. Regularly write for 'Frontier Weekly', 'Otters War Room' and earlier for blogs 'Democracy and Class Struggle', 'Naxal Revolution' and Anti-Imperialist Camp. 'Main area of writing is on 'Massline in India".,'Maoism and International movements, 'Peasant movement in Punjab')

Vol. 53, No. 30, Jan 24 - 30, 2021