THE kisan tractor march on
Republic Day in Delhi was a remarkable and unique mass action. At no time had
the capital of India witnessed such an extraordinary protest which involved
over one lakh tractors and tens of thousands of people. There may have been
bigger rallies in the past but not such a massive protest action.
The overwhelming number of tractors and protestors participated in the march,
along the three designated routes, starting from Singhu, Tikri, and Ghazipur
border crossings. However, a few misguided elements deviated from these routes
and made their way along the Ring Road to the Red Fort. The act of hoisting the
Khalsa flag was a provocation. One outfit, the “Kisan Mazdoor Sangarsh Samiti”
which gave a call to go to the Ring Road, is not part of the Samyukta Kisan
The significance of this mass
mobilisation and peaceful protests cannot be undermined by the actions of some
fringe elements. The BJP, the tame corporate media and certain opposition
politicians have condemned the Red Fort intrusion in a manner meant to
discredit the kisan movement and the farmers union. It is necessary, therefore,
to put things in perspective.
This unique mass mobilisation was
possible as people and tractors came from every village in Punjab, from large
parts of Haryana and the districts in the Uttar Pradesh bordering Delhi along
with contingents from different parts of the country.
From the outset, when the three farm
ordinances were promulgated in June, there was a rising groundswell of protests
in Punjab and Haryana. There has been a spontaneous response to the five
month-old struggle led by a coalition of farmers’ unions which goes far beyond
the influence of these organisations. The participation of ordinary kisans and
their families and whole village communities has given an elemental force to
the movement which is not within the control of any organisation or leader.
That is why the effort to blame the
farmers’ unions and their leaders for some of the untoward actions of some
misguided elements is motivated by the desire to discredit the movement. It
will be soon evident, who were the forces behind the efforts to mislead a small
section of the protestors. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha has firmly condemned these
elements and reaffirmed their commitment to continue the movement peacefully.
It is also a dishonest ploy to talk
of rioting and violence. Even the misguided protestors were only seeking to
make a point by entering the city. There were no attacks on public or private
property, looting of shops or any physical violence against ordinary people,
except the vandalism in the Red Fort. There were a few clashes between the
police and the protestors when the former tried to control the movement of
those who deviated from the routes prescribed.
With the focus on events in Delhi, it
should not be forgotten that the protestors moving from Palwal in Haryana to
the Delhi border were set upon and beaten badly by the Haryana police at the
Sikri border even though the police had given them permission to go upto the
Delhi border. One protestor, a 23 year-old young man, died after a teargas
shell hit him frontally which led to his tractor overturning and killing him in
the process. The Delhi police also disabled and damaged a number of tractors of
For a full two months, the peaceful
protests have been going on at the border points involving thousands of men and
women, who have braved the cold and inclement weather, determined to see the
repeal of the three farm laws. The adamant and unreasonable attitude of the government
of refusing to withdraw the laws had led to the situation where the farmers had
to organise the tractor march on January 26.
What we saw in Delhi on Republic Day
was a display of people’s power – something the BJP rulers are scared of. The
attempts to disrupt the peaceful protests and to discredit the farmers’ unions
will be stepped up in the coming days. The farmers’ organisations will have to
unitedly rebuff such attempts.
The Delhi police, under Amit Shah’s
home ministry, have filed FIRs naming nearly 40 leaders who have been
negotiating with the government. This is a devious move considering the fact
that these leaders were leading the tractor marches on the three designated
routes. The Delhi police commissioner while holding the farmer leaders
responsible was silent about Deep Sidhu, the man with the BJP connection, who
instigated and led the mob at the Red Fort.
January 26 saw tractor marches and
kisan rallies in various state capitals and district centres. It was preceded
by the big kisan rally from Nashik to Mumbai. There have been kisan and
peasant-worker rallies in Kolkata and Chennai last week. The kisans, who are
heroically continuing their protests at the borders of Delhi, are not alone.
The movement will continue with renewed determination.
The budget session of parliament
begins on January 29. The Modi government should move to repeal the three laws
in parliament. The opposition must unitedly press this demand.