By Harsh Thakor*
History was literally made at the Barnala grain market in Punjab on February 21 in a conference staged jointly by the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) or BKU (Urugrahan) and the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union (PKMU), protesting the three farm laws.
The venue resembled an Ocean in full flow with an impact: Two lakh people thronging in the venue. The grand rally in Barnala encompassed 20.66 acres. Never in the Punjab have organizations jointly galvanized both the landed peasantry and the Dalit agricultural labour in such huge numbers, who literally flooded the venue. In spite of the setback on Republic Day, the agricultural community rejuvenated itself like a phoenix from the ashes.
The meticulous and painstaking work of the organizations was reminiscent of spider spinning a web. For over a week the two organisations toiled through staging village level conferences and rallies in preparation. It could penetrate all the toiling sections, weaving a common thread Their class-mass approach sowed the seeds of the success of the Barnala rally.
Around 700 people volunteered to make the event blossom, working meticulously day and night. They revealed the tenacity of volunteers for an army battalion paving a path for the soldiers. Given the scale of their event, BKU said it had deputed around 300 volunteers for the smooth movement of vehicles and parking, and 400 more volunteers for securing the stage and serving water and tea to those attending the rally.
Regretfully, some organisations like Kirti Kisan Union ,Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda) and Krantikari Kisan Morcha, boycotted the gathering, reflecting sectarianism within the farmers’ revolutionary.
One wonders whether it was meant to belittle the work of the BKU (Ugrahan) rather than credit them
In in interview, Punjab Khet Mazdor Union secretary Laxman Singh Sewewala touched upon the miserable plight of the Dalit agricultural labour and how today the allegedly fascist agenda of the BJP was stripping them of all their rights. Even if the numbers were comparably much smaller, a major theme of the event was on the enslavement of agricultural landless labour by the corporates. But the Dalit agricultural labour has not sufficiently integrated with the landed Jat peasantry in the democratic movement.
Addressing the gathering BKU ( Ugrahan) state president Joginder Singh Ugrahan said where there is a need to increase the participation of agricultural labourers and other categories, in this struggle, at the same time there is need to strengthen the non-religious character of this struggle and to it protected from the interference of the opportunist political parties.
Commenting upon the incidents of January 26, Joginder Ugrahan said, the Modi government tried to label the farmer struggle as a struggle of some specific community by using some indifferent forces penetrated in the farmer struggle and tried to put it under the attack of communal-nationalism, which is successfully defeated by the people of our country by the power of their unity.
He demanded that judicial inquiry should be conducted about the death of Navreet Singh on January 26, the culprit police officers should be punished and proper compensation to the family should be provided. He appealed to the farmers and farm labourers from Punjab to reach the Delhi borders in large numbers for the February 27 rally against the Centre’s agriculture laws. In Ugrahan’s view, the ongoing farmers’ agitation is not just against the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre but also the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Sanyukta Kissan Morcha leader Balbir Singh Rajewal, calling it a historic struggle, said, to make it successful, the unity should be achieved by overcoming the differences of caste, religion and regions. He claimed that the farmers who are sitting on the borders of Delhi will write a new script of victory with their patience and sacrifice.
PKMU state president Lachman Singh Sewewala said, the issue of farmer laws will be a great harm to the employment and livelihood of agricultural labourers. These are aimed to end the Public Distribution System is a part of the attack on the food security of our country.
State vice-president Jhanda Singh Jethuke said, this struggle should become a struggle of all toiling people of Punjab, in which everyone should participate, demanding from the Punjab government to fulfil its promise to repeal the Contractual Farming Act implemented by the Badal government. He also demanded that the government should repeal of the anti-farmer amendments in the Agriculture Produce Market Committee Act, 2017 and promise to abolish the farmers’ and farm labourers’ debts.
BKU (Ugrahan) women wing leader Harinder Bindu said women greatly contributed this agitation. She appealed women to reach Delhi in large numbers on the Women’s Day celebration of March 8.
A resolution passed at the rally said that the this struggle “has become a wall in front of the Modi government which wants to loot our agricultural corporations”, calling January 26 “a crucial turnaround when the government found a way to execute these impure schemes.”
Commenting on the Red Fort events, the resolution said, “The government wanted to portray our struggle as a religious conflict”, underlining, “The wrong act of hoisting religious flag on Red Fort gave the government an opportunity to give communal agreement to our struggle.”