The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), which is planning to undertake a second “long march” of farmers from Nashik to Mumbai beginning February 20 to press for their demands, has claimed that the state government is trying to disrupt the march by arresting its leaders.
“In Ahmednagar, a large farmers’ convention was held on February 13 to prepare for the march and a memorandum was submitted to the district collector. Nowhere was there any breach of peace. All necessary police permissions were taken. But just for organising this convention, police cases have been lodged against AIKS state general secretary Dr Ajit Nawale and attempts are on to arrest him. It is crystal clear who is behind these steps,” the AIKS said in a statement on Saturday.
In March last year, around 40,000 farmers had undertaken a march towards Mumbai to protest outside the state Legislature against the government’s response to the distress in the farm sector.
For farmers, no respite in sight
As the state plunges into an unexpected early drought year, its third agricultural drought in six years, there is an increasing restlessness amongst the farmers. Even as the agrarian economy takes hits, many farmers feel that there has been little by way of policy to make farming more farmer-friendly. A self-defeating cycle of losses has made farmers angtsy.
The “long march” had been called by Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, affiliated to the CPI(M). The protesting farmers were subsequently given an assurance in writing by the state government that their demands would be accepted.
These demands included clearing pending appeals in connection to applications for titles to forest land.
“A year has passed, but the government has not executed its promises. There is dissent among the farmers,” the AIKS had said in a statement on February 5 when it announced the second march, which would reach Mumbai on February 27 to coincide with the Legislative Assembly’s Budget Session.
On February 13, the AIKS had held a farmers’ convention in Ahmednagar to prepare for the march. It had also taken a march to the collector office to submit a memorandum, following which a case was filed against the organisers, including Dr Ajit Nawale.
“The AIKS condemns this act of the government as an attempt to crush a democratic and peaceful satyagraha struggle. The AIKS warns that such repressive attempts of the government will not succeed in stopping the long march. The government should realise that farmers’ issues can be solved by accepting their just demands and by implementing them,” the AIKS statement said.
The Ahmednagar police, meanwhile, maintained that cases have been lodged against AIKS members for flouting rules. “It is true that they had permission to hold their meeting. However, they did not have permission to hold a morcha (march). That day another morcha was being held in the city and we had explicitly asked these people not to carry out a morcha. They undertook the morcha despite us denying permission and subsequently, cases were filed against the organisers. We will take action as per rules,” Ahmednagar SP Ranjan Kumar Sharma said.
The AIKS, however, said that even if its leaders are arrested, it will not back down from its proposed march. “Farmers in Maharashtra will not rest until major issues that would be taken up in this second march are resolved,” AIKS president Dr Ashok Dhawale said.
The demands that AIKS has raised includes immediate drought relief, debt waiver, MSP at one-and-a-half times the full cost of production, a pro-farmer crop insurance scheme, increased pension as well as ration and food security.