By Dr. Gyan Pathak
September 26, 2021 will mark the completion of 10 months of farmers’ agitation against Modi’s three controversial farm laws, and the next day on September 27, there will be Bharat Bandh. The call is given by Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), at a time when the political corridors are being haunted by the farmers’ voice, particularly in poll bound Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. It is signaling a defining era in Indian politics, since politics without farmers seems not possible.
Muzaffarnagar Kisan Mahapanchayat held on September 5 had achieved a remarkable feat, not only in the sense of number of farmers participated, but also in the sense that they were united, shedding their traditional divisions in terms of caste and religion, the two factors which has been exploited by the political parties for a long time. It has made the farmers a significant vote bank. Lakhs of farmers had participated in the event with putting their caste and religions behind.
It should be noted that Muzaffarnagar is in western Uttar Pradesh where farmers were united behind under the leadership of Chaudhary Charan Singh in the 1970s. However, with emergence of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati in the state politics in 1980s and 1990s, the farmers were by and large divided into castes, and were further divided into Hindus and Muslims when the BJP started its communal politics resulting into demolition of Babri Mosque in Ayodhya in 1992. Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 had further sharpened the division, which benefited the BJP at the cost of all other political parties in the state. The BJP has been dreaming to repeat its gain this time too, but the Muzaffarnagar Mahapanchayat has shattered their hope, since the distinction of Hindu farmer and Muslim farmer was seen nowhere. The distinction of castes among farmers was also not visible during the event, though the beneficiary political parties of the caste divisions had also their tents welcoming the farmers.
Only one month ago, Samyukta Kisan Morcha, had launched ‘Modi Gaddi Chhodo’ movement on August 9 commemorating ‘Quit India Movement’. Only a few weeks ago farmers have organized a parallel parliament during Monsoon session of the Parliament of India in Delhi, which was supported by almost all political parties barring the BJP. Even BJP MP Varun Gandhi and Apna Dal, BJP ally in Uttar Pradesh, have been talking in support of the farmers, which indicates how much backlash they are anticipating. SAD, BJP’s ally in Punjab, had quit the NDA much earlier in last year when Punjab farmers had become restive after the three farm laws were enacted in September 2020 during the COVID-19 crisis.
The agitating farmers have now become more combative, and they have also launched “Remove BJP Mission 2022” to unseat BJP from Uttar Pradesh. The mission is gaining strength against the BJP in all poll bound states. It has now escalated in the full span from Western Uttar Pradesh to Eastern Uttar Pradesh. It will have political repercussion, which is being felt by all political parties. The BJP has the greatest stake not only in Uttar Pradesh, but also in the Lok Sabha election 2024, since the state sends 80 MPs in the Lok Sabha, which is the largest among all states of the country. It has made the BJP leaders more concerned, and the most concerned is the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. There is precedence before him – more the political polarization on communal lines, ie polarization of Hindus in favour of the BJP, greater the benefit for the party. That is why he never fails to mention Ayodhya and Mathura, which he even mentioned during an event meant for releasing the record of achievement of four and half years of his government. Ceasing of divisions of farmers on religious lines may prove costly for the BJP.
Only a fortnight ago, SP leader Akhilesh Yadav was reported planning on his old M-Y formula, ie Muslim Yadav consolidation in his favour, however, it has now been reported that he is trying to rise above the caste lines. “In the new SP, M-Y stands for Mahila (women) and Youth. We are addressing issues in a larger perspective now and are not shackled by casteins,” the SP president Akhilesh Yadav has reportedly said in an interaction with media persons. It is clearly the impact of the newly emerged unity among farmers shedding their caste preferences. In a bid to criticize the SP and the BSP, Yogi Adityanath had said recently that the BJP does not play caste politics, while Akhilesh Yadav has said that farmers’ issues have been totally ignored by the BJP and the youth were deprived of jobs. “These issues will be the poll plank in the upcoming elections,” he emphasized.
Bharat Bandh call on September 27, has an additional significance, in which other than the farmers, worker’s unions, trade unions, employees’ unions, students’ unions, women’s organizations, transporters’ associations, etc are also participating. SKM representatives are trying to reach various sections of society to get their support across the country against the anti-farm and pro-corporate farm laws, while campaigning against the BJP at the same time in all poll bound states. More mahapanchayats and rallies are being organized to make the Bharat Bandh a success.
All efforts by the BJP government to crush the farmers’ agitation have failed, despite police actions and deaths of hundreds of agitating farmers in the last 10 months. Thousands are on sit-in protests on Delhi borders since November 26, 2020. They faced all hardships of winter, summer, and rains. They were not deterred even by the COVID-19 restrictions at its peak. Now the restrictions has been relaxed which has given more opportunity to the farmers to organize and demonstrate, and to show their unity, pushing the traditional caste and communal politics towards a new direction. (IPA Service)