100 Days of an Abnormal “Farmers” movement

Sandeep Banerjee

05.03.2021 marks the 100th Day of the sit-in of nearly or more than half a million farmers and workers is an unthinkable affair in recent past. It will not be irrelevant if we look into history to understand its uniqueness.

In the past, we have seen bigger and longer peasants struggle in the late 1940s like the glorious Telangana and Tebhaga movements. In the 1980s, when the revolutionary peasants’ movement subsided or was subsiding (except some flares, e.g., in some districts of undivided Bihar and Andhra) and when ‘national’ movements were rising (in Assam from late 1970s,  Jharkand movement, Punjab movement or Khalistan movement, Gorkhaland movement, Boroland movement, and etc) we have been seeing a different kind of Farmers or so-called Kulak movement led by the capitalist landlords (a term coined perhaps by prof. Utsa Patnaik) and rich peasants. We saw not only different kinds of slogans (related to remunerative prices of crops / higher MSP, and lower inputs prices / input-subsidy) but also different forms of movement (rasta-roko, rail-roko, along with sit-in/seize/satyagraha etc, naturally which were not like transport workers strike or 1974 railway-strike), and all those started in a big way in 1983 Nashik Movement led by Sharad Joshi and then, Mahendra Singh Tikait. These ‘roko’ forms also entered toiling peoples’ movement as a ‘last resort’ to make the deaf govt. administration hear the voices of workers or for some urgent local demands, for example by Kanpur Cotton Textile workers in 1989. Under Mahendra Singh Tikait’s leadership we saw very long protests: 77-day Ghaziabad protest in 1992, 1-month seize of Lucknow in the same year, 110 days Rajabpur Satyagraha, to mention a few.  Demands were: more compensation for land, cheaper electricity, fertiliser subsidy, higher MSP, loan waiver etc.  

This very scrappy sketchy 250-word ‘history’ points to transition of peasant- movement to ‘farmers movement’ mainly in the interest of capitalist landlords and rich peasants, which got increasingly focused to two demands: (1) remunerative prices (Swaminathan Commission recommendation = 150% of cost of production) and (2) Farm Loan Waiver. The very decorative movements of recent years, like the CPIM of AIKS led Nashik to Mumbai Kisan Long March in 2018, the BKU (Tikait) led Kisan Kranti Yatra of 2018, the 2018 Dilli Chalo by Yogendra Yadav led umbrella body AIKSCC, the much-hyped 2017 Tamil Nadu Farmers protest in Delhi by an organisation which supports the crazy idea of River-Linkage, all fall in this category. (Why these protests, even the CPIM led Maharashtra Long March also serves interest of capitalist landlords and rich peasants and UNABLE TO SERVE poor and middle peasants is a different question and it was dealt with in several articles by this author like “There are ‘farmers’ and farmers” in Countercurrents, Apr 13, 2018, Everybody forgot the question of wages of agricultural labourers, the question of land for the landless, anti-usury movement and all such ‘old-fashioned’ words that were still in vogue even in early 1980s.

But what started mainly in Punjab villages in August-September 2020 and converged to Delhi border points (Singhu and Tikri) on Nov 26, 2020 and their continuing protest for 100 days at a stretch, including A Tractor Rally in Delhi on Jan-26, which is continuing even after death of more than 260 fighters and arrest of hundreds… is really a unique one. Here, the demand that came in the forefront is repealing of the three agriculture laws enacted by the govt, this got more highlight than MSP as was proved by several rounds of talks between farmer leaders and govt. negotiators.

Some important points: (1) These three Agri-laws are not only totally anti-peasant (poor, middle, rich peasants) and anti-farmer (farmer in the sense that who owns and operates/manages a farm depending on labourers), but also against all toiling people, as the Law 3 implementation will increase prices of essential commodities (outside the new govt. definition of essential commodities). (2) Moreover, movement to repeal these laws is definitely a movement against corporatisation and also anti-imperialist (by defying the W.B.-I.M.F. dictum for agriculture). No political parties that enjoyed governmental power or vies to enjoy that (including the CPI, CPIM etc lefts parties) cannot and did not do any ‘movement’ in real sense that may hurt interests of foreign and/or desi corporate bodies or foreign and desi capitalists. (3) ‘Luckily’ the present movement could not be controlled by such political parties; the farmers unions and labourers’ bodies independent of those conceived this movement and are main driving force of this movement. they are in control of this movement. (4) Farmers and labourers of many states like Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Western-UP, Uttarakhand now control large farmer-labourer assembled forces at different borders. Of course, there are also some from Maharashtra, but anyway, leaders like Hanna Molla of CPIM or Yogendra Yadav are not able to dominate or rein in the movement. (5) BKU (Tikait) and likeminded unions also made this demand, repeal of farm laws, their central demand and did not insist on focusing Swaminathan Recommendation and loan waiver like they did in their previous movements.

One particular farmers’ organisation, the BKU (Ekta Ugrahan) took some extra steps that must be appreciated. For example, in the first phase of the sit-in, they observed one day as ‘Human Rights Day’, and demanded release of all political social activists who are imprisoned with false allegations. Recently they conducted a weeks-long agitation-propaganda explaining to the Punjab toilers how imperialism is linked with these farm laws and why our struggle must be anti-imperialist. They staged a big workers-peasants united rally where more than two-hundred-thousand workers and peasants after weeks of preparation. The farm labourers’ union explained to the workers the need of workers-peasants unity in this and future struggles. They could show in some of their programmes that jawan-kisan unity is not just a slogan.   

But sadly, and it is the most important point now, the states where the masses of peasants and workers are mainly under the domination of the parliamentary parties and not the so-called ‘independent’ farmers organisation, e.g., Bengal, Andhra, Tamil Nadu, there those parties did not yet take the concrete steps for organising masses towards anti-Farm-Acts movement like Punjab and Haryana. They issued only statements in media. CPIM chief even wrote in his article to make new farm laws after repealing these ones after discussing, even with concerned corporate capitalists! (For example, you may see

It is really a matter of shame for those once connected with revolutionary movement in Bengal that they could also not stir the masses by agitation-propaganda, WB did not see any move like boycotting Adani-Ambani shops/pumps including boycotting Ambani’s or Reliance’s JIO as farmers in Punjab did as token gestures against corporatisation of agriculture, the laws, and steps taken by Adani, Ambani etc capitalists. Even Tata is perhaps now eager to take on ‘Big Baskets’ that supply not only grocery products but also fish, meat and etc at doorsteps. The big ‘Brigade Meeting’ on Feb 28 by the alliance of CPIM etc Left parties with Indian National Congress and a new outfit named ISF led by a Pirzada did not raise or emphasise the slogan of repealing the three anti-people farm laws! They did/could not say that if voted to govt. power they would never implement those laws in WB (agriculture being a state subject)!     

The onus is now on communist revolutionaries and there are toiling people who want to fight, who are disenchanted with the parliamentary parties. Election result will not and cannot show this. To clarify to thousands of toiling masses what the three farm laws really mean and what the consequences would be is not impossible, why this matter more than all the electoral speeches, promises and jibes of all parliamentary parties. We must try to explain that no-vote-to-bjp is not the only important task now, but there should be agitations, movements by the toiling masses against the farm laws, and these are also very important now, why toiling masses should try to design steps however small against these farm laws, why toiling people should not put any faith on parliamentary parties and so on so forth.

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Mar 6, 2021

Sandeep Banerjee

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