There has been a split in the ranks of farmers over the decision to withdraw their agitation after a meeting with Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis late on Friday night.
A large chunk of farmers criticised the delegation which met the CM and claimed that the strike will continue. The backlash against leaders who were part of the delegation which announced the withdrawal of the strike has been so strong that many of them were forced to make a clarification that the strike has not been called off yet.
“If farmers think I have made a mistake, then I seek forgiveness from them. If they feel that the strike should continue then I am with them,” said Jayaji Suryavanshi, member of the Kisan Kranti Morcha.
Suryavanshi seemed to have drawn the maximum ire from farmers who burned his effigies. Visuals of the chief minister speaking into his ears during the marathon four-hour meeting on Friday created a perception that he had struck a deal with the government.
“This is a decision taken by children of farmers and not by politicians. We have told the state government that if it does not stay true to its promise in the next four months, we will not allow the government to function,” Suryavanshi had said soon after the core committee meeting with the CM in which the withdrawal had been announced. However, the backlash the decision received seems to have made many leaders including Suryavanshi rethink their position.
Many local farmers were unhappy that the committee decided to take a decision without taking into confidence farmers from across the state.
“The committee should have heard what the government had to say and then come back and shared the details with farmers. They, however, announced the withdrawal of the strike without any concrete assurances from the state or taking people into confidence. For us they are not a core committee but a ‘chor’ (thieves) committee and we will continue with the agitation,” Bhausaheb Shinde, a farmer from Puntamba in Ahmednagar district, which had become the epicentre of the agitation, said.
The Maharashtra Kisan Sabha has also criticised the decision to end the strike.
“The CM has spun a web around farmers. He has not given any clear assurance. If others want, they can withdraw from the agitation but the Maharashtra Kisan Sabha will continue with its agitation till we receive loan waiver for farmers,” said a leader of the Maharashtra Kisan Sabha.
Ajit Navale, general secretary of the Kisan Sabha, said, “The chief minister did not give a clear answer to any of our demands. The new October 31 deadline that has been declared is a farce— the 4-person committee will only announce its findings that day. No concrete decision regarding the waiver of loans or implementation of the Swaminathan report has been taken.”
“Fadnavis has said that the commission shall look into waiving of loans of farmers who have smaller lands. What about Vidarbha or Marathwada, where most farmers have 10 to 15 acres of land,” said Navale.
The Baliraja Shetkari Sanghatna also criticised the withdrawal and claimed that the government was attempting to create a rift between farmers.
“I was first invited to a meeting with the CM but was detained by the Pune rural police at Dehu Road police station. I was allowed to go only after the announcement of the strike being called off. This is an attempt to create a rift between farmers,” Sanjay Patil Ghanekar, leader of the Baliraja Shetkari Sanghatna, said.
Meanwhile, farmers in Nashik held a meeting on Saturday and decided to continue with their agitation including a state-wide bandh on June 5. The farmers’ meeting also heckled senior BJP leaders including Dindori MP Harishchandra Chavan and BJP MLAs from Nashik Balasaheb Sanap and Devyani Pharande when they tried to attend the meeting, forcing them to leave.
In spite of the strike being called off, protests continued in areas like Dindori where women farmers blocked traffic on Kalwan Dindori road. In Saigaon near Yeola in Nashik district, onion and milk were thrown on the road. Similar agitations took place in Jalgaon and Parbhani as well.
The decision to call off the strike seems to have had no impact on prices of vegetables which have kept on shooting up in cities like Mumbai. The wholesale price of capsicum jumped from Rs 60 on Friday to Rs 100 on Saturday. Carrot prices increased from Rs 40 to Rs 80, tomato from Rs 30 to Rs 80, brinjal Rs 40 to Rs 80. The price of a bundle of coriander jumped from Rs 100 to Rs 150.
Vashi APMC saw nearly 175 vehicles coming into the market. However, the bulk of them were from outside the state.
“The prices are still high. The decision to take the strike back was taken only late on Friday. The market will remain shut on Sunday. We need to see how farmers react on Monday to the strike call that has been given. Only then will we get a clear picture on when prices can stabilise,” Naresh Kor, a trader from Vashi APMC said.
Lok Sabha MP Raju Shetti said the people who negotiated with the government were novices and he would hold a meeting of all farmer leaders and groups in Nashik next week to chart out the course of action. The Shiv Sena also criticised the state government and claimed that the state, rather than trying to find a solution, had tried to create a rift between farmers.
“Rather than trying to sort out the problem, the government seems to have tried to create a rift between farmers. They are just prolonging taking a decision. This is nothing but running away from the problem. It has been the Sena’s long-standing demand that there should be complete loan waiver for farmers,” Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said.