Madhya Pradesh farmers' protest: By entering battleground of Mandsaur, CPM scored where Congress failed

The Communist Party of India (Marxist), almost a non-entity in Madhya Pradesh politics, has achieved what biggies with national recall like Rahul Gandhi, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Yogendra Yadav, Swami Agnivesh, Medha Patkar, etc, and even aspiring politicians like Hardik Patel couldn't.

The Left party managed to enter Mandsaur district of Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday afternoon, and reached out to the family of the farmers who were killed in police firing.

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

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

This was a silent success as opposed to the hyped failures of the other political stalwarts, all of whom had tried to enter Mandsaur at the height of the crisis — some with the intention to fish in troubled waters — but were denied entry by the local administration given the sensitivity of the situation.

How CPM scored an ace

It's all about the right intentions, claimed the party. "If you want to meet someone with honest intentions, you will manage it despite all odds. But if your intentions are to have photo opportunities and to get publicity on social media, you will not get the desired result. We just wanted to meet distressed farmers to know about their problems, and we did it," Badal Saroj, CPM's central committee member and Madhya Pradesh state secretary told Firstpost.

The CPM team — comprising former eight-time Lok Sabha member Hannan Mollah, who is also general secretary of the party’s agriculture wing All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), Rajya Sabha member Somaprasad, AIKS president Amra Ram, joint secretary Vijoo Krishnan, MP Kisan Sabha president Jaswinder Singh, and others — met the families of Abhishek Patidar and Chain Ram Patidar, who were both killed in police firing during an agitation at Pipaliya Mandi on 6 June.

Around the same time the CPM team was entering Mandsaur safely, Congress leader and Guna MP Jyotiraditya Scindia was stopped at the toll entry point by the administration and asked to go back. "The local CID had been monitoring every movement. We too were questioned when they saw us in a group. But instead of taking recourse to theatrics like others did, we maintained silence. Our aim was to meet the farmers in distress and get to the root of the problem," remarked Shailendra Singh Thakur, state secretary of the CPM-backed Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU).

"After the farmers' killing, leaders of Congress and Swaraj India from Delhi, and thereafter Hardik Patel all publicised their visits to Mandsaur in a big way but achieved nothing. Their intention was only to gain publicity through media," Thakur added.

Prior to this, on 8 June, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had also tried to enter Mandsaur with a large number of party workers coming by road from Rajasthan, but was taken into preventive custody.

Others, including Archana Chitnis, minister for women and child development in MP, met with a similar fate. "Earlier, there was curfew and now it's Section 144 in place. We can't let any political party or group enter Mandsaur and disturb the law and order situation here," a police official on duty said.

While in Mandsaur, after meeting the bereaved family and other local farmers, the AIKS team drew up some findings. They are as follows:

- Acute distress in the region caused by prices of crops crashing, and are about 60 percent below the corresponding prices for last year.
- Demonetisation and faulty policies, like import of wheat and pulses, led to this crash; despite a good harvest, prices dropped.
- Post-demonetisation, traders are paying 2 percent less on cash transactions to farmers at grain mandis.
- State government officials have not visited families of the victims. The local MP and MLA didn't even pay a courtesy visit though they passed through the area.
- The Mandsaur collector also reportedly said that it is impossible to pay Rs 1 crore as compensation to families of the dead, as announced by the chief minister earlier.
- Intimidation of farmers using threats of police cases was also reported.

Confirming the collection of data, AIKS said they will prepare a comprehensive report next. "We met families of the deceased, and spoke with farmers to know the root cause of this violent agitation. We have gathered data and are preparing a comprehensive report. AIKS has demanded an immediate end to this mockery of farmers' plight and for the payment of compensation. At least one member from the families of farmers killed should be given a government job, while their children's education expenses must also be borne by the state," said Jaswinder Singh.

He added that 16 July will be observed as a protest day by the AIKS, Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan, and hundreds of other organisations of the peasantry, agriculture workers and oppressed sections of society.

Besides the CPM team, the only other leader who succeeded in meeting Mandsaur's farmers on Wednesday was state chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. And, it goes without saying that Chouhan, as head of state, neither needs permission nor the has the administration the authority to prevent him from going anywhere within the state.

Updated Date: Jun 15, 2017 08:02 AM

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