Struggle for Existence

The other day Rakesh Tikait, the leader of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) said the Centre should not treat the on-going farmers 'agitation like last year's protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) at Shaheen Bag in Delhi. Despite the government's refusal to find any valid reason in farmers' demands while resorting to coercive methods to silence the voice of rebels, the movement continues and will continue. It is the writing on the wall which the Modi government doesn't see. The Centre is trying to ban the gathering by taking advantage of the recent surge in Corona virus pandemic. But protesters are following all COVID-19 protocols and they will follow them in future. So said BKU leader Rakesh Tikait. If need be they will continue the agitation till 2023. Then there is general election in 2024. Whether Modi's Party—Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) can afford to antagonise such a huge population before the coming parliamentary poll is anybody's guess. No doubt the second wave of the Corona virus pandemic in the country is clearly worse than the previous one. It seems more infectious. This time more Indians are also getting infected. But young Indians are not yet eligible to get COVID-19 vaccine. In truth 75 per cent Indians must be vaccinated to avoid the coming catastrophe. Instead the government is utilising Corona as an excuse to suppress popular mass movements.

Shaheen Bag emerged as the united symbol of anti-CAA protest movement, motivating hundreds of thousands of people, particularly poor people—mainly women across the country. The pro-longed sit-in strike that started in December 2019 attracted international attention. But the Delhi Police forcefully closed the protest site on March 24, 2020, a day before a nation-wide lock-down was imposed in view Corona.

While addressing the media persons Mr Tikait reiterated their oft-repeated stand that 'farmers will not go back home till these laws are repealed…this agitation will not end'. Their demand is simple: 'the three agricultural laws should be rolled back and a new law is to be specifically framed for minimum support price MSP)'.

The hard fact is that the farmers are ready to talk again but Modi's government is not showing any interest in resolving the crisis through negotiations. The Centre says the new laws will free farmers from middlemen. But the farmers think otherwise. It is now a widely accepted fact that the laws will weaken the MSP mechanism and leave them at the mercy of big corporates, both domestic and foreign. Indian agriculture will be ruined by big business, the backer of Modi government. Modi's farm laws are inhuman and they are all about how to hasten the process of corporate accumulation.

The agitating farmers are in a mood of do-or-die situation because they see this last-ditched battle as a struggle for their continued existence as farmers.

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Vol. 53, No. 43, Apr 25 - May 1, 2021