New Delhi: Farmers protesting for the last six months against the farm laws brought by the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre have announced a “Defeat BJP: Mission Uttar Pradesh” campaign to be started ahead of the 2022 assembly elections in the state.
The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella organisation with over 500 farmers’ organisations, which is coordinating the protests, has said that it will be done by holding mahapanchayats across the state with anti-BJP slogans.
Since the farmers’ protest against the three farm laws began, there has been a political churn among farmers across the state, especially in its western districts such as Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Shamli and Saharanpur, to take on the BJP.
Farmers protest against BJP leaders in Western Uttar Pradesh
In February this year, Union minister and member of the ruling BJP party Sanjeev Balyan was forced out of a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Shamli district after farmers protested the meeting between the minister and Khap leaders and started shouting slogans. Balyan is also accused in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar communal riots.
He had gone to the village with the intent to “educate” farmers about the newly enacted farm laws, which have been heavily protested by farmers across the country with several thousands setting up camps at various Delhi borders. Locals say that Balyan’s popularity, which had roared after the Muzaffarnagar riots, is now starting to dip because of the anger among farmers owing to the new farm laws.
Rakesh Tikait, farmer leader and spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) from Uttar Pradesh, is also gaining popularity among the people of Western Uttar Pradesh.
‘Our protest will not fizzle out’
In January after the Republic Day tractor parade by the protesters and the subsequent police crackdown in Ghazipur, Tikait gave a passionate speech at Ghazipur border with tears in his eyes, which won the hearts of thousands of farmers from Western UP, who later joined the protest. He himself hails from Sisoli village in Muzaffarnagar.
On the other hand, people in Eastern Uttar Pradesh are also angry about the handling of the second Covid-19 wave by chief minister Yogi Adityanath. The situation is “ripe”, say farm leaders leading the protests as they announce “Defeat BJP: Mission UP”.
Rakesh Tikait said that farmers are not going to back down anytime soon until their demands are met. “The government should forget that our protest will fizzle out,” he adds.
‘BJP only cares for elections and votes’
Hannan Mollah, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) general secretary who is closely working with protesting farmers, tells The Wire that the government’s apathy has forced the farmers to campaign against the BJP.
“We are a farmer organisation facing the most inhumane, barbaric and fascist government trying to impose impractical laws over farmers. The government doesn’t care about our concerns, they only care about elections and votes. So we thought, why not defeat them electorally? As long as they are in power, they will not listen to us. They can only be cornered through elections,” he says.
He adds that farmers had already held maha panchayat in the states which went to polls, and three of them, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal successfully stopped the BJP from coming to power. He says that the “Defeat BJP” will not just continue in Uttar Pradesh but also in other states which will go to the polls in 2022 such as Uttrakhand, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.
However, Mollah adds that since the farmers’ organisation is not a political party, their role will end by campaigning against the BJP in the state. Speaking to The Wire, he says, “We are not contesting and hence not going to support any opposition party, however, we will try and convince the farmers to defeat the BJP. We have no affinity to any political party.”
He added that the people of UP are already indicating their anger towards the BJP by voting against them in panchayat polls, where the party faced a crushing defeat. He said, “Panchayat polls have been an indication that people are angry with the BJP, and we have to use that anger and keep that energy alive among people.” He added that the main task would be to educate farmers and help them understand why they shouldn’t vote for the BJP through small teams across the state.
“Even though the campaign hasn’t started yet due to Covid-19, our target to defeat the BJP is set,” he added.
Farmers must ‘channelise’ anger
D.P. Singh, another AIKS farmer leader and an active protestor at Ghazipur border, says that due to COVID-19, the union has not yet actively started the campaign against the BJP.
However, he believes that it is the right time to start the campaign as certain communities that were pro-BJP, such as the Rajputs, have voted against BJP in panchayat polls. He says that the way the farmers’ protests spread like wildfire is indicative of the fact that poor farmers are thinking about their future in the face of the three new law firms.
“Even farmers from Eastern Uttar Pradesh have joined our protests. The message of our protests, the anger has reached the lowest rungs of the society. They have at least started thinking that if private companies take over, what will happen to their farm products?” he asks.
He adds, “This thought has crept into the poorest of the people, so it means that our protest did the work in educating the masses. People have risen against the farm laws and are angry. Now it is time to channelise that anger and take action.”
Harinder Bindu, BKU Ekta Ugrahan woman wing head, says that women will also participate in the campaign against the BJP. “Whatever is needed, we will do it. The women will support whatever is necessary for these farm laws to go away,” she tells The Wire.
Letter to restart dialogue
On behalf of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), several farmer leaders, including Hannan Mollah, Joginder Singh Ugrahan and Yogendra Yadav, had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to restart talks between the government and the protesting farmers which had been stopped in the wake of COVID-19.
The letter was sent on May 21, a few days before the farmers’ protest would have completed six months. It also said that May 26 would be observed as “black day” by protestors. According to farmer leaders’ estimates, close to 20 crore people observed black day by flying black flags and wearing black bands.
“On the same day, your government at the Centre, the most anti-farmer government that this country has seen complete seven years in office. Farmers and organisations across the country are planning to observe this as a Black Flag day in protest against the utter inaction and callous approach of the government towards the farmers’ demands,” the letter reads.
Further, it says, “Mr. Prime Minister, this letter is to remind you that, as the head of the government of the largest democracy in the world, the onus of resuming a serious and sincere dialogue with the farmers lies with you. This is to reiterate that we remain firm on our core demands: repeal of the three anti-people Farm Acts and legal guarantee for every farmer securing MSP…besides protecting farmers from the adverse impact of the proposed Electricity Bill.”
There has been no response to this letter till the time of publication of this report.