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Thursday, March 04, 2021

Explained: What is leading to massive gatherings at mahapanchayats; what is its relevance

The Kisan Mahapanchayats have suddenly became rallying point for the ongoing agitation showing the undercurrent among the farming community and the support they are enjoying from other sections of society.

Written by Sukhbir Siwach |
Updated: February 13, 2021 12:48:21 pm
Farmers gathered during the Kisan Mahapanchayat at grain market at Jagraon near Ludhiana on Thursday. (Express Photo by Gurmeet Singh)

Punjab’s first Kisan Mahapanchayat in Ludhiana’s Jagraon Thursday drew a massive gathering of farmers. It was in continuation of similar gatherings at the mahapanchayats in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan in past couple of days. The attendance at these panchayats shows the growing support to the ongoing agitation against the three farm laws.

What is the message of Kisan Mahapanchayats?

The attendance at these events establishes that the ongoing agitation against the agri laws has taken centrestage in social as well political scenario of those states where these are being held. “These kisan panchayats are laying a strong foundation for a long agitation. They show that all communities have joined the ongoing stir,” says Rishi Saini, a political observer from Haryana. In the way, people are turning up at these panchayats, the participation in the farmer agitation may grow in coming days. These also show the intensity of the opposition to agri laws amid a feeling in the farming community that the corporates will grab their land after they are implemented.

A professor of history at Chandigarh’s Panjab University, M Rajivlochan, says a feeling that some injustice is being done to the farmer is main reason behind participation of a large number of people in the agitation. “Sometime some issues touch the heart of people very fast even if they don’t have any logic. People take it as an inner call to participate in it. The leaders of the agitation have projected an image in which even those people who are not associated with farming, feel that the farmers are facing injustice and we should stand by them. In this scenario, a large number of people who are not even associated with farming have become part of this agitation. Everybody feels they are fighting for justice,” says Rajivlochan, who has studied political movement and community formation in contemporary India.

What is the relevance of Kisan Mahapanchayats?

The Kisan Mahapanchayats have suddenly became rallying point for the ongoing agitation showing the undercurrent among the farming community and the support they are enjoying from other sections of society. It is easier for the farmers of neighbouring areas to gather in large numbers at these events as it requires lesser time and resources in comparison to going to Delhi borders. Large gatherings at these events have significance at a time when the leaders of ruling the BJP-JJP in Haryana are not able to hold public meetings in the state. The BJP leaders are also facing stiff opposition in neighbouring Punjab.

“This is normal human tendency where people want to be a part of a large and moral grouping. All of sudden, the panchayats seem to be something which are fighting for a just cause. Just 4-5 years back, many people used to criticise khap panchayats alleging they are spreading casteism. For a just cause, people remain ready to sacrifice time and money or face police lathicharge, if needed,” says Rajivlochan.

How can the mahapanchayats impact the politics?

In long term, it is not necessary that the huge gatherings at kisan mahapanchayats will turn into a vote bank for a specific political party. But at the moment, these events have pushed the leaders of the BJP-JJP alliance in Haryana into a corner. If such events continue to draw large gatherings in future too, they will create more problems for the leaders of saffron party and it’s allies. They will feel the isolation more as in several villages, people have decided against inviting the BJP-JJP leaders to even social functions. Some people have even started getting printed logos and slogans on the marriage cards in support of farmers. “If the current momentum continues for long, it would be difficult to do politics for those who don’t stand by the farmers in the region,” says Rishi Saini, who has closely monitored several movements in the country.

How do Kisan Panchayats boost morale of agitating farmers?

Such events give sense of belonging to the farmers as they feel a large number of other people too are involved in this struggle. After attending such events, the farmers inspire fellow villagers to join the agitation. Probably, that’s why one after another kisan panchayat is receiving overwhelming response in different areas.

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Founder director of Haryana Academy of History and Culture, KC Yadav says kisan panchayats have brought different sections of society closer. “Muzaffarnagar riots have been forgotten because now a bigger issue has come in front of them. People of different communities sit there together. Such panchayats keep social relationship alive,” says Yadav, who earlier taught history at Kurukshetra University and has authored several books on history and culture of Haryana. “Khap panchayats have played both roles- offensive and defensive- keeping in view the requirements in a particular time period. Earlier too, on the call of these bodies people from 50-100 villagers used to gather whenever they realised any danger to them,” he adds.


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