To press for their demand of complete loan waiver, the implementation of Swaminathan Commission’s recommendation and waiver on electric bills, etc, a group of farmers held at least two live “funerals” in Yavatmal on Friday. The massive police mobilisation tried to prevent the farmers’ agitation in the form of symbolic “live funerals”. At the two “funerals”, the police swooped down on them and seized the material. The agitation was planned under the banner of Shetkari Hakka Sangharsha Samiti by farm activists Chandrakant Wankhede, Vidarbha statehood leader and former MLA Waman Chatap and Prahar Sanghatan chief and Achalpur MLA Bachchu Kadu. The Congress, however, criticised the agitation and decided to keep away. Former MPCC president Manikrao Thakre, who was supposed to participate, also decided to skip it.
In a massive operation, the police erected checkposts at all the roads leading to the city to prevent the entry of agitationists from across the district. Vehicles were being checked not only at Yavatmal but at all the tehsil towns in the district. Wankhede and Chatap were detained before they could enter Yavatmal. But Kadu managed to sneak out, along with his supporters, by bus.
Thousands of people managed to congregate despite the crackdown at Yavatmal police station and held a meeting where the leaders condemned the “state repression”. The agitationists had arranged for 100 live funerals” but the police seized all the material before it could be taken out.
Wankhede told The Indian Express, “It was unprecedented repression in the history of farmers’ agitation. The government has proved that farmers are their greater enemy than Pakistan and China. But we did manage to hold the symbolic protest and later a public meeting sending a strong signal about how agitated the farmers in the state are.”
Wankhede added, “The loan waiver announced by the government is deceitful because it waives only Rs 1.5 lakh. The conditions imposed are unjust. Anyone with a four-wheeler, which may include a tractor, is not eligible. The Rs 10,000 assistance to buy inputs has also not been paid so far. The fact that farmers turned out for agitation despite the repression is an indicator of their displeasure and the government should take note of it.”
Wankhede rapped the Congress for issuing a release against the agitation. “Shivajirao Moghe issued the release only betraying his party’s indifference towards farmers. Manikrao Thakre also shied away. But young leaders like Devanand Pawar (Congress) and Pravin Deshmukh (NCP) defied the party line to participate,” Wankhede added.
Asked about the format of the agitation, Wankhede said, “Why did the state government bother? Farmers are dying anyway, so what’s the big deal?” Yavatmal district, incidentally, is known for the maximum number of farmers’ suicides in the state.