Indian agricultural workers demonstrate against anti-farmer laws

Women show their support for the farmers

Agricultural workers across India will protest today and tomorrow, January 7 and 8, in solidarity with the ongoing struggle of farmers against the contentious farm laws.

As part of the call given by All India Agricultural Workers’ Union (AIAWU), president A Vijayaraghavan and general secretary B Venkat have appealed to the agricultural workers to hold protests at the village, panchayat, block and district levels as well as at the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme workplaces.

Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and recently joined by farmers from Maharashtra, have been protesting against the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act at five borders of the national capital for over a month.

The AIAWU leaders said in a statement: ‘Farmers, tenants, agricultural workers and other people living in connection with the agricultural sector have joined the struggle.

‘The central government, however, is campaigning against the peaceful agitation. They even try to mislead the country using the media.’

Vikram Singh, joint secretary of AIAWU, declared: ‘Agricultural workers, since the beginning, have been involved in the movement.

‘It may be a surprise for many as it is a general perception that several contradictions exist among farmers and the agricultural workers. It is also true to some extent.

‘Recently, these contradictions reflected in the state of Punjab and Haryana in the form of wage rates for paddy plantation.

‘However, if one looks at the composition of protesters at the protest sites on the borders of Delhi, a large number of agricultural workers are participating in the struggle.

‘The basis of this unity is the impact the three laws would have on this section of society.

‘This needs immediate discussion as the three farm laws, clubbed with the electricity amendment bill will change the lives of more than 144,329,833 (Census 2011) agricultural workers in India.’

Farmers and agricultural workers have been together in the battlefield against the farm laws across the country.

In places like Kerala, it has transformed into a people’s movement. Kerala Samyuktha Karshaka Samithi, a joint platform of farmers’ organisations in the state, launched a relay protest on December 12 at Martyrs’ Column in Thiruvananthapuram.

The continuing protests have drawn huge support from all sections and on December 23, the Samithi launched relay protests at all district centres across the state.

Meanwhile, the BJP-led Centre has been trying to dismantle the struggle by dividing the farmers, but the farmers have stayed united.

In fact, the ongoing struggle is intensifying with more and more sections of the society joining with farmers.

The number of protesters has increased at Singhu, Gazipur, Tikri, Chilla and Shahjahanpur borders. The opening of toll booths and boycotting of Reliance Mobile Tower continue across the country.

On Tuesday, December 29, massive rallies were held in Bihar’s Patna and Tamil Nadu’s Thanjavur as part of the ongoing struggle.

The rallies were held under the banner of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC). On December 30, such rallies were held in Hyderabad and Manipur.

As part of intensifying the struggle, the farmer unions held a ‘tractor march’ from Singhu border on December 30.

Also, the farmers held a nationwide protest on January 1, New Year’s Day. The farmers have urged the public to take a pledge to support their struggle and demand the repealing of the three farm laws.

Around 600 farmers from Rajasthan tried to break through the barricades in Haryana’s Rewari on the Delhi-Jaipur highway on Sunday to march towards Delhi.

The police lobbed tear gas shells and chilli grenades to stop them. Members of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), a joint front of farmer unions, said the group of farmers was acting on its own and the unions did not approve of their action.

The incident came as farmers’ leaders and government Ministers were set for yet another round of talks on Monday this week in a bid to break the impasse over the controversial farm laws, whose repeal has been demanded by farmers who continue to hold sit-ins around Delhi’s borders in pouring rain and biting cold.

Farmers belonging to Rajasthan’s Hanumangarh and Sri Ganganagar districts, owing allegiance to a local group of farmers and workers, broke through the first layer of barricades in Rewari around 4pm to march towards Delhi, but the police managed to stop them near Masani village.

This group had managed to break through the barricades at the Haryana-Rajasthan border last Thursday and travelled several kilometres towards Delhi before settling down.

‘They were settled close to the first layer of barricades and managed to break through it, but a second layer was put at some distance to stop them. The police had to resort to tear gas shells and chilli grenades to stop them,’ said Abhishek Jorwal, Superintendent of Police, Rewari.

SKM members said the farmer leaders were trying to speak to the group and convince them to protest peacefully.

Aastha Modi, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Headquarters, Gurugram, said a Rapid Action Force company and a substantial number of police personnel under the supervision of two Assistant Commissioners of Police were deployed at Kapdiwas to stop the farmers.

She said that traffic headed towards Jaipur was being diverted at a couple of points on the Delhi-Jaipur highway in the district.

Rudra Bhanu Solanki, a motorist, said that he saw some farmers near the National Security Guards camp in Manesar.

Lending strength to the farmers sit-in at Shahjahanpur in Rajasthan on Delhi-Jaipur Highway around 4,500 farmers in more than a thousand tractors-trolleys under the aegis of Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta (Ugrahan) reached the protest site on Sunday.

Ahead of the talks, the Working Group of All-India Kisan Sangharsh Co-ordination Committee (AIKSCC) made an appeal to the Union government to not be insensitive to the farmers in its ‘blind commitment to serve corporates and crony capitalists’.

In a press statement, the AIKSCC said the success of Monday’s talks depended on the repeal of the three controversial farm laws.

‘There has been much speculation about the procedure for repeal of the Acts. The AIKSCC clarifies that it can be done by an Ordinance followed by a Parliamentary repeal and the Constitution provides for the government and Parliament to make as well as repeal laws,’ the statement read.

The AIKSCC said that farmers at Delhi were braving the extreme cold conditions and heavy downpour, but the mood at all camps continued to be of high spirits.

Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee president Kumari Selja said the anti-agriculture black laws introduced by the BJP government are threatening the agriculture sector.

‘Today, farmers and labourers are in danger and if they are in danger, the country cannot progress. This act of the BJP government will be written in black letters in the history,’ said Selja, addressing the farmers in Haryana’s Palwal district.