A leader of an RSS-affiliated farmers’ union has said that both the Centre and state governments have failed to provide relief to farmers who have been suffering because of low prices of their produce.
“Farmers have been angry for a long time. The situation was about to explode anytime. The government could not understand it. Now the issue is completely politicised,” Prabhakar Kelkar, national vice-president of RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), told The Indian Express.
The remarks came amid farmer’s protests in Madhya Pradesh and the death of five farmers in police firing in Mandsaur.
“What you have seen in Mandsaur is just the reaction of a small fraction of farmers…. The governments (Narendra Modi’s and Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s) promised many things in the last three years. They did do something, too. But nothing is seen on the ground,” he said.
Kelkar said the state intelligence had “failed to see the calls on social media and give the right feedback to the government”. He warned that things had “gone out of control” and the unrest could spread to other states, affecting the image of the BJP and the PM. “Onions and potatoes are also lying with farmers. They will not be able to store them once monsoon begins. The anger will intensify. The government should start procuring the produce,” he said.
Kelkar’s remarks came on a day S Bhupinder Singh Mann, a leader of Bharatiya Kisan Union, another farmers’ body, wrote an open letter to the PM reminding him of his promises to farmers regarding MSP and a debt waiver. Expressing pain over the killing of farmers in Mandsaur, he wrote, “Instead of fulfilling the promises and listening to the protesting farmers, you chose to issue two full-page advertisements in newspapers by spending crores of rupees just to make false claims on achievements on agriculture and cover up your failures.”
BJP’s Kisan Manch chief Virendra Singh Mast justified the farmers’ protest, saying agitation was part of democracy. According to the MP, it was administrative failure that led to the agitation turning violent. “I have written to the PM and CM to consider procuring farm produce for midday meals, security forces and police forces,” he said.
However, Singh’s party colleague Hukumdev Narayan Yadav, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on agriculture, said those who were “taking up arms, indulging in violence, looting and destroying public property” were not following democratic practices. “It is not kisan andolan, it is ugravadi andolan”, which would not have been appreciated by Mahatma Gandhi, Ram Manohar Lohia or Deendayal Upadhyay, the MP said. “Their demands are just, but we cannot support violence.”
Yadav, the BJP MP from Madhubani who often takes up the causes of farmers in the Lok Sabha, asked the government to form a committee with agriculture experts and farmer leaders to draft a law that would enable the entire farming community to benefit from the loan waiver scheme. “The worst sufferers are small and marginal farmers, most of whom do not borrow money from banks but local sources. They also should get loan waiver,” he said.
He added that those “who still have not been able to digest the fact that ordinary people from backward communities like Modiji and Chouhan reached high positions” have “conspired” against them and misled the farmers to protest.
Hukum Singh, the BJP MP from Kairana who has been vocal on farmers’ issues, refused to comment on the current unrest.
Nityanand Rai, the BJP MP from Bihar’s Ujiarpur, asserted that both Modi and Chouhan have been “working hard for the welfare of farmers” and blamed the Congress for “putting oil into the fire” in Madhya Pradesh. However, he admitted that the Mandsaur incident should not have happened.