Madhya Pradesh farmers' stir: Mandsaur has slipped from national consciousness, but sons of soil aren't giving up

In all the brouhaha over the GST and the impending presidential election, the Mandsaur farmers' strike may have slipped from the national consciousness, but the farmers haven't forgotten.

AIKS members with the bereaved family members in Mandsaur. Firstpost/Debobrat Ghose

AIKS members with the bereaved family members in Mandsaur. Firstpost/Debobrat Ghose

One month ago, six farmers were killed in police firing at Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh. On 6 July, some national political leaders, 162 farmers’ bodies and thousands of farmers from 18 states will remind Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan of the promises he had made at the height of the agitation — to bring it to a peaceful end — but has since seemingly forgotten.

Farmers are outraged that the promises Chouhan made when he ended his 'fast' for farmer's relief have not been fulfilled. Thousands of farmers have vowed to begin a second round of agitation which they have named ‘Kisan Karz Mukti Yatra’ (Farmers’ Debt Relief Rally) on Thursday from Piplya Mandi which is just 21 kilometres away from Mandsaur town, the epicentre of farmers’ agitation which took an ugly turn and led to massive destruction of public property.

Farmers’ movement: Part deux

At 11 am, leaders from various non-BJP political parties, farmers’ bodies and activists will pay tribute to the six farmers killed during the agitation at Mandsaur. A public meeting and rally will follow.

The farmers’ rally —‘Kisan Karz Mukti Yatra’— has been divided into four phases. The first phase will begin on 7 July from Mandsaur. Farmers will visit various affected districts of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and and culminate at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on 18 July. The next three phases will be planned later.

“The objective of this rally is to create awareness amongst the farmers and draw attention of the respective governments on farmers' distress across four states. The government has turned a blind eye to farmers' suicides,” Jaswinder Singh, president of the CPM-backed MP Kisan Sabha told Firstpost.

Political parties have sought reply from Chouhan

“Shivraj Singh Chouhan virtually cheated the farmers by staging drama of ‘fasting’ and then not keeping the promises he made while breaking his ‘fast’. Whatever announcements he made after the agitation have not been implemented. Chouhan, who claims to be a farmer’s son himself, is actually following BJP’s policy of gradually handing over the farm sector to corporates. This will lead to a horrifying situation in future,” Badal Saroj, central committee member and state secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist), told Firstpost.

“There is a need for a mass movement across the country on farmers’ distress. This four-phase rally will finally culminate at Champaran on Gandhi Jayanti, 2 October,” he added.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Yogendra Yadav, president of Swaraj India — which will participate in the farmers’ rally at Piplya Mandi — has written an open letter to Chouhan (accessed by Firstpost), asking him why the state government has denied permission to farmers’ to hold the rally.

“Why does your democratically elected government functioning within the constitutional framework deny permission to farmers to gather peacefully and pay tribute to martyrs?” Yadav asked Chouhan in a letter.

To protest, Madhya Pradesh Congress has decided to hold a 'Jail Bharo Andolan' at Nayakheda in Mandsaur district on 6 July.

Demands made by farmers’ bodies

Barring right-wing farmers’ union Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, almost all other farmers' bodies such as the All India Kisan Sabha led by former eight-time Lok Sabha member from CPM Hannan Mollah, Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sangharsh Samanvaya Samiti (ABKSSS), a conglomeration of 130 farmers' organisation, Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathan of Maharashtra led by MP Raju Shetty, Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan led by BM Singh, Mahendra Singh Tikait’s Bharatiya Kisan Union, Swaraj Abhiyan, have presented a set of demands both to the Centre and the Madhya Pradesh government.

These include:

• Waiving farm loans (at all-India level).
• Implementation of MS Swaminathan Committee’s recommendation for fixing price of produce (at all-India level) as promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
• To shift the headquarters of the inquiry commission set up to probe police firing on Mandsaur farmers from Indore to Piplya Mandi.
• A sitting high court judge should head the inquiry commission.
• Chouhan must explain why he revoked the order issued by him that any mandi trader across Madhya Pradesh found guilty of purchasing farm produce from farmers below minimum support price (MSP) would be prosecuted?
• Initiate probe into onion scam in Madhya Pradesh mandis.

“Whatever announcements Chouhan made have not been implemented. Farmers are not getting price of their produce as per the MSP in any mandi. No action has been taken against offenders. Moreover, there’s scam in purchase of onion from farmers. We want a probe,” Singh added.

Will farmers be allowed to hold the 6 July rally?

After the arrest of farmer-activist Dr Sunilam on Wednesday, who was supposed to spearhead the movement at the local level, the chances of holding the rally and paying tribute to six farmers killed in police firing at Piplya Mandi have decreased.

“Initially, the district administration gave permission to hold the rally at the Krishi Upaj Mandi premises, but later withdrew their consent. We don’t know what will happen, but the farmers and the unions are standing firm,” said Shailendra Singh Thakur, state secretary of the CPM-backed Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU).

Sources say the Madhya Pradesh government has ordered collectors of Mandsaur and other districts to not allow farmers to hold rallies.  The state police has already made strict arrangements and have reportedly asked the farmers of Mandsaur, Neemuch, Ratlam and Ujjain to not participate in any rally.

"Mandsaur superintendent of police visited villages and warned farmers against participating in the rally. We were told that anyone found taking part in the rally would be booked under National Security Act,” a farmer from Barkheda Panth village in Mandsaur told Firstpost on the condition of anonymity.

Updated Date: Jul 06, 2017 10:49 AM

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