Hannan Mollah, Vice-President of All India Kisan Sabha and former MP
Hannan Mollah, Vice-President of All India Kisan Sabha and former MPAyanabha/The Mooknayak

‘Delhi-Chalo’ March is RSS-backed Protest and Launched by BJP’s Brokers, Alleges SKM Leader

“This is purely a government-sponsored protest,” alleges Hannan Mollah of the AIKS — one of the major constituents of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM).

New Delhi: Farmers’ ‘Delhi Chalo’ march has been raising a lot of eyebrows. Constituents of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (an umbrella body of various peasant unions that had spearheaded a 13-month protest in 2020-21 against three agricultural laws) are questioning the motives behind the ongoing demonstration when there is already a call for ‘Gramin Bharat Band’ to be held on February 16. 

The Mooknayak to Hannan Mollah, former member of parliament and the vice president of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) —  one of the major constituents of the SKM, to understand their issues with the agitation led by farmers from under the banner of Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Apolitical). 

Describing the protest a “farce”, he alleged, “The new leaders are misleading the people. They are using SKM’s name for clout.”

“They are not Samyukta Kisan Morcha. Five-hundred different organizations together formed the platform, named it as the SKM and added the word ‘apolitical’ for a differentiation,” he added.

“By the end of the farmers protest of 2020-21, SKM’s two national-level leaders — Jagjit Singh Dallewal from Punjab and Shivkumar Sharma (popularly known as Kakaji from Madhya Pradesh) — left the SKM and decided to form a splinter group,” he said, calling them “RSS-affiliated brokers”. 

He alleged the government is not talking to the SKM even after so many efforts, but engaging with this group just because they are RSS-affiliated and “brokers” of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“The government is letting them protest. We have been sitting in the national capital for three years, but the Centre never talked to us. What have these groups said or done that Union ministers flew all the way to Chandigarh to negotiate with them?” he asked, referring to the meeting that took place between the ministers (Piyush Goyal, Arjun Munda and Nityanand Rai) and the protesting farmers late on February 12 evening

Dallewal, convenor of the non-political faction of the SKM, and Sarwan Singh Pandher, coordinator of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, were among the participants of the meeting.

The meeting was inconclusive, after which the leaders decided to continue their march to the capital the next day (February 13).

The CPI(M) leader very explicitly mentioned their “game plan”. “If the government accepts a few of their demands, they will do it following talks with these new leaders. And in this way, these brokers will get the limelight, and the government will be bowing down before their own team members and not us. This is a way to undermine our original protests,” he alleged.

He said it is “purely a government-sponsored movement to just show to the people” that the government is democratic and engages with the voices of dissent. 

“They know around 500 organisations are a part of the actual SKM, and they cannot defeat us. Therefore, they are scared of us,” Mollah asserted.

He clarified the SKM has no issue with the protest as long as it is raising the issues of farmers, and not making efforts to broker with the government on peasants’ behalf. 

“Everyone has the right to protest. It is just that they are using SKM’s name with a small addition. This splinter group is identifying itself as ‘non-political’. How can such a platform be non-political?” Mollah asked.

The group, he said, is staging the protest just to give out a message that they are agitating before revealing that their “done-deal”. 

“Protests should always take the help of the common people to make it effective and impactful,” he added.

Feb 16th ‘Grameen Bandh’

The SKM and the Central of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) jointly have called for a ‘Grameen Bharat Bandh’ and a ‘National Industrial Strike’ on February 16 to launch a nationwide campaign against farmers and workers’ woes. 

“If all goes as planned, it will affect millions of citizens and bring their causes to the notice of the state and Central governments,” he said, adding that farmers and labourers will not work in the farms and factories respectively since morning.

He said the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act) workers will also take part in the protest by staying away from work that day. 

“Everyone will be mobilised at one point in their village. Local markets will observe a shut down as well. By 12 o’clock, the demonstrators will go to their nearest national highways to obstruct the transportation,” he disclosed.

National Strike Faces Police Resistance

No demonstration can be free from state’s resistance. “Several local leaders from the SKM have been detained/arrested from Rewa, Gwalior and Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh so that they cannot mobilise people ahead of the proposed strike,” he said, adding that many leaders have also been put under house arrest in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh as a preventive measure.

With a hint of sarcasm, Mollah commented, “We have always heard the saying ‘innocent until proven guilty’. But right now, the prevailing situation in the country points to the exact opposite. You are kept in the jail cell for multiple years even if your guilt is yet to be proven. Even if you prove your innocence, the forces will still not let you walk out.”

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Farmers’ Movements at a Glance

Taking a stroll down the memory lane, the former MP talked about the nationwide farmers protests of 2020-21. The demonstrations, which took place all over the nation, forced the government to scrap three farm laws in November of 2021.

Mollah remembered, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that his government was taking the laws back and issued a public apology, but we were still not okay with that. We reiterated our other demands, which are equally important to be addressed.”

The protest was not called off but postponed as soon as the contentious legislations were taken back.

“We continued with our protest for another 11 days so that our other demands could be met. At the end, through a written letter, they (the government) promised us to look into other issues, which we were and are raising. We still have not ended the agitation but put a temporary halt to it,” he explained.

Delving deep into the issues, he said farmers continue to commit suicide every day because of debt burden on them. “So, farm loan waiver is among our major demands. You (the government) can waive off loans given to big corporate houses but cannot write off farmer’s lendings. Why?” he asked.

Another demand, he said, is related to a legal guarantee for the minimum support price (MSP). “Farmers are being forced to sell their produce at half or one-third of the price they should get as per the Swaminathan Commission’s C2+50% formula (1.5 times the cost of the produce). Every year, they incur huge losses because of which they have to take loans, he said.

He said it was not the SKM, which had recommended the MSP but the government-appointed panel. 

PM Modi, he said, on multiple occasions in the run up of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, had promised implementation of the commission’s recommendations. “But just months later after winning the elections, through an affidavit, he declared that it will not be possible for the government to implement it due to alleged ‘market destruction’,” he pointed out.

SKM’s other demands include electricity bill waiver, compensation to families of 750 farmers who lost their lives during the 2020-21 agitation, taking back the 40,000 cases registered against the protesters and a strict action against those who were involved in the Lakhimpur Kheri case wherein four farmers were crushed to death by SUVs, one of which was allegedly owned by Union Minister Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’ and being driven by his son.

The government has allegedly not so far paid any heed to the demands. “Lakhs of protesters assembled at Ramlila Maidan in April 2023, seeking an answer to the demands, but no one listened once again. So, we took the fight to a more grassroot level. We decided to gherao governors of 25 states on November 26,27 and 28 of the same year,” he said.

From states, the SKM then went to the district level. On the evening of January 26, 2 lakh people from over 500 districts came out in tractors to protest. Still nothing happened. “That is why we decided to go deeper and conduct a village level protest,” he explained.

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