Nearly two years ago, kisans of Punjab, Haryana, UP and other parts of the country came together in a massive protest action on the borders of the capital, Delhi. The determination of the kisans to fight for their just demands, in the face of the efforts of the central government to discredit the struggle, has been a source of inspiration to the people of this country and world over. The central government withdrew the three anti kisan laws in November 2021, and give an assurance to the kisans that their other demands would be fulfilled. However, a year after that, most of the assurances given to the kisans remain unfulfilled. The kisans are continuing to wage struggle for their fulfilment.
On November 17, Mazdoor Ekta Committee organised a meeting on the theme ‘Kisan Andolan – Challenges and the Way Forward’. The invited speakers were Com Hannan Mollah, General Secretary, All India Kisan Sabha; Dr Sanjeewani, Joint Secretary, Kamgaar Ekta Committee; Shri Harpal Singh Sangha, President, Azad Kisan Committee, Doaba (Punjab); Com Krishna Bhoyar, National Secretary, All India Federation of Electricity Employees; and Dr B Seth, retired professor. Workers, kisans and women activists from different parts of India and abroad enthusiastically participated in the meeting and enriched the discussion with their experiences. The meeting was conducted by Santosh Kumar.
Com Hannan Mollah congratulated MEC for organising the meeting on this very important subject. He described the various stages of the struggles of kisans in India, from the period of the anti-colonial struggle, up to the present. He described the struggles against landlessness and the zamindari system..
Com Hannan Mollah explained that the struggle of kisans for land and against feudal and economic exploitation took on a more organised and all-India character with the formation of the All India Kisan Sabha in 1936. He cited numerous examples of these struggles, such as the struggle of Adivasi kisans in Worli, Maharashtra against indebtedness, the Tebhaga struggle in Bengal and eastern Bihar, the kisan struggles in Punjab, Kerala, Assam and many other regions, including the historic Telangana struggle.
Com Hannan Mollah pointed out that in the decade of the 90s, with the adoption of policies dictated by the World Bank, the integration of Indian agriculture into the world market has been increasing, and the crisis of agriculture has been systematically growing more acute.
Coming to the present stage of the kisan andolan, he said that the firing upon and killing of kisans demanding a fair price for their produce, in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh in 2017 gave a great impetus to the struggle. The Modi government passed in Parliament the three anti-kisan laws in 2020, at a time when all popular protests were banned due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Nearly 500 kisan organisations across the country came together in one common struggle, under the banner of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) around a common set of demands. The struggle which went on for more than a year, including the protests at the borders of Delhi, was unprecedented in the history of the world. It forced the Modi government to withdraw the three anti kisan laws. But the promises the government made before the kisans when the protest was withdrawn have not been fulfilled, so the struggle continues, concluded comrade Hannan Mollah.
Dr Sanjeewani pointed to the important lessons from the kisan andolan, the unity and resolve and meticulous organisation of the protest, which has served as an example for fighting people all over the world. It is the domination of the big Indian and foreign monopoly capitalists over agriculture and the entire economy, which is responsible for the crisis in agriculture as well as for the insecurity of livelihood of the workers, she said. Workers and kisans are faced with a common enemy. The real rulers of our country are the big monopoly capitalist houses – the Tatas, Ambanis, etc., she explained. They will continue to be the rulers and to set the agenda for the whole society, even if the political party in government is changed by elections.
Dr Sanjeewani gave the example of the Electricity Amendment Bill against which lakhs of electricity workers are protesting. This bill is designed to enable the big corporate houses to make fabulous profits by taking over the resources set up by the state electricity boards, for a pittance. Despite so much protest, the government is refusing to withdraw the bill, she said, showing very clearly that it serves the interests of the big corporate houses, not of the people. Pointing to the way forward, she said that workers and kisans have to unite and take up the struggle for their immediate demands, with the perspective of replacing the agenda of the capitalists with a people’s agenda.
Shri Harpal Singh Sangha said that the kisan andolan succeeded in making the Modi government take back the three anti kisan laws. His organisation had mobilised the kisans for the protest action at the Delhi borders, and remained as part of the protest till the very end. He spoke of the united struggle of the kisans and the militant role of the youth in the protests at the Delhi borders.
Countering suggestions in the media that the leadership of the kisan andolan is divided, Shri Sangha said that the movement today stands united around the demands of MSP, punishment for the guilty of murder of kisans in Lakhimpur Kheri, compensation for the families of kisans who died during the agitation, government assistance for stubble management, compensation for crop failure and cattle disease, etc.
Com Krishna Bhoyar said that the strength of the kisan protests was the firm unity of all the kisan organisations around a common set of demands. He highlighted the struggle that the electricity workers are waging to force the government to scrap the Electricity Amendment Bill 2022. Electricity supply cannot be looked at as a source of profit, he said, pointing to the negative experience of the people of Mumbai with private electricity distribution companies. The bill will have grave consequences for kisans and workers, it will destroy the state electricity boards and lead to increased tariffs for consumers. Com Bhoyar called upon all participants in the meeting to join the All India rally of electricity workers to be held in New Delhi on 23rdNovember, and lend their support to the struggle of the electricity workers.
Dr B Seth clarified that the kisan andolan has not ended. The struggles of kisans in Punjab, Haryana, UP etc. over the past few months are testimony to this. Dr Seth described the rail roko agitations and gherao of the Punjab Chief Minister, the struggle of kisans in Azamgarh against acquisition of their land for construction of an airport and struggles over other demands. The promises made by the government to the kisans at the time the protests at the Delhi borders were withdrawn, have not been fulfilled, he said. Refuting the claim that changing the government in power through elections can solve the problems of the people, Dr Seth pointed out that the big corporate houses spend many crores to ensure the electoral victory of that political party which is most capable of pushing through the corporate agenda. Elected representatives are not accountable to the people. We need new mechanisms to enable people’s control over their elected representatives, he said, such as people’s right to hold their elected representatives to account and to recall them.
Following the presentations of the main speakers, many of the participants gave their views on the points raised by them.
Concluding the discussion, Santosh Kumar thanked the speakers and all the participants. He emphasised the fact that several speakers had raised, that workers and kisans have a common agenda. That agenda is to reorient the economy, in order to fulfil the needs of people rather than the greed of the capitalists for greater private profits. That agenda is to empower workers and kisans to take the crucial decisions affecting society and become its real maaliks.