“A lot of people have been calling since yesterday to understand the West UP churning, specially in the context of yesterday’s Mahapanchayat at Muzaffarnagar. Given the absolute paucity of time in my life nowadays, I may not be able to to write a very detailed note. I will attempt something in the days to come. However, some very quick observations-
Images by Apal Singh & Vidhaat Raman
by- Nakul Singh Sawhney
1. Don’t let anyone let you believe anything else- What happened yesterday at Muzaffarnagar, was in the truest sense, historic. I don’t think a bigger turnout of farmers has been seen in the entire world. The ground where the rally took place had less than even 1/10 th of the total farmers that attended yesterday. All of Muzaffarnagar city was flooded with farmers yesterday. It was incredible. The numbers were so huge that many couldn’t even make it to the venue.
2. Listen to Tikait’s speech very carefully. His speech was a lot more than just the three farm laws. He starts with how everything is being privatised, then spoke about the state of the average cop, issues concerning workers, how pensions are being withdrawn, and how ‘Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s constitution is being destroyed’. Finally, finished it with the old BKU slogan, Allahu Akbar- Har Har Mahadev. Clearly, he made overtures to people beyond just farmers. Clear attempts at reaching out to a constituency beyond just farmers.
3. Almost every Hindu Jat you speak with in West UP today says it no uncertain terms- 2013 was a big mistake. A clear admission of guilt. BJP is slightly clueless of how to handle the situation. They tried observing a big memorial meeting for Sachin and Gaurav on August 29 in Muzaffarnagar (both were two Jat boys. It was with their murders in 2013 that BJP whipped up communal frenzy in the region). The memorial was a flop, only attended by BJP functionaries.
4. Many Muslims organised a lot of langars and other forms of Seva for the farmers going to Muzaffarnagar. Even mosques made arrangements for people’s accommodation, where Hindu and Sikh farmers also stayed at night. This has further cemented ties between the two communities. Many many farmers in the region are talking about the hospitality extended by Muslims. They are clearly touched.
5. Lots of RLD posters and banners all over West UP along with SKM and BKU banners. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. The best part about SKM is that they’ve adapted to local social and political dynamics very well. While no elected representative was allowed to address the gathering yesterday, but RLD has mobilized people in a big way. RLD is gradually becoming a movement of sorts. The good thing is that RLD is not trying to hijack the movement, and only supporting it from the outside.
6. Unlike Haryana and Punjab where massive efforts have gone in to mobilizing women for the movement and women have been encouraged to speak and perform on stage as well, this element is entirely missing in West UP. The deeply patriarchal and feudal gender dynamics of West UP continue to be largely unaffected by this movement.
7. Small efforts have been made to reach out to Dalits and other working class OBC’s to ally in this movement. Not to the extent that Punjab and Haryana have made. ‘Kisan-Mazadoor Ekta’ is a slogan that they are still struggling to truly realize.
8. Finally, is this curtains for BJP in West UP, specially in seats where Jats and Muslims are in big numbers? Not at all. But a huge dent for sure. Still some months before the elections and I don’t put anything past the BJP. Moreover, while youth among OBC castes like Sainis and Kashyaps (who’ve been known to be BJP voters) are angry because of unemployment etc. But if the opposition is not able to consolidate that anger, it’s still advantage BJP. The aandolan did try and reach out yesterday, specially in Tikait’s speech. Moreover, East UP is hardly touched by the aandolan.
9. Jat farmers are fast returning to the farmers party RLD. BJP continues to have some presence even now, but is fast diminishing. The kissan aandolan is proving to be much more than just the demand to revoke the three new kissan laws. It has become the biggest movement to, not just save, but even deepen our democracy. It has changing dynamics in Punjab, Haryana and West UP in ways that we can’t even imagine.
by Amandeep Sandhu
This is purely my take on the outcomes of the Muzaffarnanagar Mahapanchayat yesterday.
1. Deepening of public consciousness and demonstration of people’s strength against draconian regime. Whatever the media tells you, hides from you, there was a Jan Sailab – people’s flood at the rally yesterday. Samyukt Kisan Morcha in its press note says 10 lakhs or 1 million people attended the Mahapanchayat. Independent sources place the number higher at 15 to 20 lakhs. Know that there was a jam 20 kilometers from the venue. Many attendees would have not been able to reach the venue. Overall, it was a huge demonstration of people’s discontent with the incumbent government.
2. Call for unity against all attempts to divide farmers: wo todenge, hum jodenge – (they will try to break us, we will stand united.) Given the backdrop of Muzaffarnagar 2013 there was a clear indication that farmers will not be polarized. The farmers have realised Sangh’s game plan and have resolutely decided to not let the poison affect their lives. Jats and Muslims, Gujjars and Sikhs attended the rally. The double utterance from Baba Tikait’s time came into play: Allah Hu Akbar – Har Har Mahadev. Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal and Wahe Guru Ji Da Khalsa, Wahe Guru ji Di Fateh resounded on stage.
3. Mission Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand launched: daam nahin to vote nahin – no fair price, no vote. The purpose of the Mahapanchayat was to signal to the regime that with state elections less than 5 months away, BJP which has not upheld its promises needs to note that people will not repose their faith in the party again. The specific promise to which BJP was subjected was sugar cane price promised to be made Rs 450 per quintal and release of Rs 12,000 crore to farmers as past payments. The larger issue raised were the demands for the last 9 months: repeal Farm Laws, implement Minimum Support Price.
4. SKM to take steps to activate resistance to ‘India’s Sale’ in all states – Haryana body with 19 unions formed; similar efforts in Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and other states on. The Mahapanchayat raised issues of sectors beyond agriculture. They mentioned Labour Codes, Fisheries, sale of Public Sector Units, privatisation of roads, railways, and such. The SKM will start building solidarities to save these national assets.
5. SKM declares September 27th as Bharat Bandh; solicits cooperation from all trade unions, from across industries, traders and the Opposition. SKM reiterated its demand to penalise Karnal SDM over instructions to ‘break people’s heads’ else stood by its decision to gherao Haryana mini–Secretariat September 7th.
I think the Mahapanchayat was a huge success. The farmers have sent out a message, now it is time for middle class across the country to wake up, join the efforts. 17 Mahapanchayats are planned in Uttar Pradesh in coming weeks. The battle for the country has moved from Panjab and Haryana to the Hindi heartland. I know we all grew up listening to stories of the freedom struggle, finding our heroes, and now are becoming increasingly disappointed and despondent on how the values are eroded, the country is being broken and sold out. Seeing the proceedings, I felt, why do we not switch our minds? Instead of lamenting, why do we not see this as an opportunity to fight the oppressors, throw the neo-colonialists out? That is what the farmers have been doing for the last not only 9 months but many years.
Time for us ‘spectators’ to jump into the battle. May we find the will and strength to do that for ourselves, for our next generations.