The crowd at National Capital borders kept swelling as farmer unions protesting the Centre’s three laws prepared to mark seven months of their sit-in agitation.
Several programmes were held a day before ‘kheti bachao, loktantra bachao diwas (save agriculture, save democracy day)’ is scheduled to be observed on Saturday, June 26.
Members and sympathisers in States and Union Territories have been asked to congregate at points identified in their respective capital cities. They will then proceed together on a ‘rosh (protest/resentment) march’ towards the Governor/Lieutenant Governor Residence on foot.
“A protest letter addressed to the President will be handed over to Governors in States and Lieutenant Governors in Union Territories,” said Abhimanyu Kohar of Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), a joint platform of unions organising the protests.
The 28-year-old national coordinator of Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh (RKM) is hailed as being the youngest member of SKM national committee.
SKM is an umbrella organisation of some 40 farmer unions, many of which in turn comprises several smaller organisations. The RKM too is an association of more than 60 farmers bodies.
“The President is the First Citizen and the guardian of Constitution; we will request him to direct the (Union) government to address our problems,” added Kohar.
On June 30, SKM intends to commemorate the Santhal rebellion of 1855. Also known as ‘Hool’, the rebellion was held in present-day Jharkhand against the East India Company as well as then zamindari system.
Said Yudhvir Singh, general secretary, Bhartiya Kisan Union (Tikait), “I’ll be going with a delegation to meet Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Anil Baijal. My colleague Rajesh Chauhan will lead a team in Lucknow who will try to hand over a memorandum to Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel.”
Rajesh Chouhan is the vice-president of BKU (T). Rakesh Tikait, who has since emerged as the posterboy of the ongoing agitation, told outlookindia.com earlier that he would be staying at his ‘morcha’ in Ghazipur.
On Saturday, the SKM will also commemorate the death anniversary of Sahajanand Saraswati, who started the Kisan Sabha movement in Bihar some nine decades ago. Speakers at a webinar on Friday, June 25, offered tributes to this founder of the Kisan Sabha who had mobilised peasants on their occupancy rights against the zaminders in 1929.
“It is also the anniversary of the illegal, anti-Constitutional, anti-people, anti-India ‘Emergency’ that was declared by the Congress government led by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi,” said national general secretary of Swaraj India, Avik Saha, adding: “We want to tell the Prime Minister (today) that the country is protesting against this undeclared Emergency.”
Similar words were echoed by Ashok Dhawale, president of the Left-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), saying that “protests are being termed as sedition”. He claimed that anybody raising their voices are being jailed.
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is planning an outreach programme, where office bearers of the party’s Kisan Morcha will get on ground to explain government schemes to people.
They will also be listening to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Mann Ki Baat' accompanied by farmers in villages. Party national president J P Nadda recently held a meeting of the farmers’ cell where the ongoing agitation was discussed.
“From the ‘Mandal’ to the national level, office bearers of BJP Kisan Morcha will go to villages and listen to ‘Mann Ki Baat’ along with the farmers,” tweeted BJP Kisan Morcha president Raj Kumar Chahar on Friday.
The exercise will begin with the forthcoming episode on Sunday, June 27, at 11 AM.
Some see the farmers’ stir likely to affect state elections scheduled to be held early next year, especially in Western Uttar Pradesh. The Kisan Morcha has however ruled it out claiming that farmers are with them and have full faith in the leadership of the Prime Minister.
Protestors are sitting at Delhi’s borders in solidarity against the Centre’s three agricultural reform laws since November 26 last year.
The increase in their numbers followed SKM’s new schedule – drawn to allot specific days to selected districts who send groups of farmers to the protest sites.
For example, the Ghazipur Morcha has divided each month into 10 parts where representatives from a cluster of blocks will spend at least three days and move when the next group of supporters arrives.
While the numbers help boost their morale, concerns are being raised over the spread of Covid infection as they huddle together.
However, union leaders claim there has been no such outbreak at any protest site.