Updated: September 19, 2021 10:31:23 pm
Exactly a year ago, on a balmy September day in 2020, a total of 30 farmers’ unions had met in Moga to raise their voice against what they termed were three unjust and contentious agricultural reform laws passed by the Parliament. The farmers had then strived to launch a struggle against these laws together.
On Sunday, exactly 365 days since that Moga meeting, the number of farmer unions has multiplied manifold — there are 32 from Punjab alone and more than 50 who have joined forces — as has the ideologies and thoughts. The only thing that doesn’t seem to have changed is their desire for change — the one common factor that has managed to bind all these protesting factions together. The unions stressed that they are all on the same page when it came to repealing the three contentious farm laws and matters of MSP.
“We all have different ideologies, thoughts, and maybe working styles even. This was the reason why all the 32 unions were working separately. However, thanks to the Central government for passing the three farm laws in Parliament last year in haste. It helped us come together and struggle for a united cause. Even after a year, there is no rift between us now,” said Manjit Singh Dhaner, senior vice-president of BKU-Dakaunda while talking with The Indian Express on Sunday.
Buta Singh Burjgill, president of BKU-Dakaunda, added, “We do have our difference of opinion. We discuss them in our meetings. But on the matter of farm laws and seeking MSP for all crops, we have no differences at all. We had never imagined that we will get together. But the farm laws made us realise that there was strength in our unity. The government cannot stand to see us all united and hence they continue playing divisive politics. However, they haven’t succeeded till now in creating a rift.”
The farmers’ unions last year had started their protests by launching a ‘rail roko’ protest from October 1, 2020, onwards.
They later also marched in thousands to the borders of Delhi to lay siege at its borders, even as the Central government hurriedly invited them for talks to sort out the issues. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha was formed later to include and represent all farm unions from across the country in meetings with the administration.
“The Central government keeps on saying that it this is a protest of Punjab and Haryana. But we disagree. This has turned into a nationwide protest against unjust farm laws now. No one has stepped back despite internal differences on various other issues,” said Veerpal Singh Dhillon, senior vice president of BKU-Kadian.
The protests so far, though largely systematic and peaceful — barring a few incidents of violence, the highlight of which was the Republic Day tractor parade clashes last year — have seen their own share of rifts among various groups.
The Lakhowal unit of Bharatiya Kisan Union was ousted from the group of 32 farm factions from Punjab after the union had publicly announced that they will file a writ petition in the Supreme Court on the farm laws issue. Later Lakhowal union president, Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, had announced that they will not file any petition. The union was suspended for a certain period of time and accepted back only after the completion of their suspension period.
Two more unions — Azad Kisan Union (Doaba) and BKU (Krantikari) — had also been suspended for a week after the Republic Day violence episode, after allegations emerged against them they strayed from the pre-decided path and went on to the Outer Ring Road on Republic Day with their tractors. However, later, after an internal inquiry, the unions were taken back in the fold.
“Differences have erupted a number of times. But we have managed to work through them and remained united. We have no issues on working together on the issue of the three farm laws and MSP even in the future as this is our common fight,” said Manjeet Singh Kadian, president of BKU-Kadian.
BKU-Ugrahan, the largest farmer union, and the Kisan Mazdoor Sangrash Committee (KMSC) initially were not part of the 32 farm unions protesting the three contentious laws. These two unions followed all programmes being announced by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha but refused to be a part of the union. They later, however, decided to become a regular member of the SKM.
Farmer unions of Punjab observed September 19 as ‘ unity anniversary’ at all the 108 protest sites in the state. Jagmohan Singh Patiala general secretary of BKU-Dakaunda said, “More than 600 of our farmer brothers have died in the one year since we started this struggle against the three farm laws. We are united at all the 108 protest sites in Punjab. The struggle started from Punjab and later became a nationwide stir. We pay tributes to our farmer members who died during this struggle.
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