While allegations of farmer protests being politically fuelled continue to fly thick and fast, farmers unions taking part in the agitation say that they have been extra careful about keeping politicians at bay.
The unions further point out that out of total 31 farmer outfits involved in the agitation, at least 23 have no political affiliation at all, and the remaining ones that are inclined towards SAD, Congress or Left have not allowed any political party to share stage during the agitation.
Farmer leaders said that all big farm outfits in Punjab have no political affiliation. These include – BKU (Ugrahan), BKU (Dakuanda), Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, BKU, Krantikari Kisan Union, BKU (Doaba), Kisan Sangahrsh Committee Kot Budha, Azad Kisan Sangharsh Committee (Punjab), Kisan Sangarsh Committee (Punjab), Jai Kisan Andolan, BKU (Sidhupur), BKU (Qadian), BKU (Rajewal), Majha Kisan Committee, Lok Bhalai Insaaf Welfare Society, Indian Farmers’ Association, Doaba Kisan Samiti, Doaba Kisan Sangharsh Committee, Ganna Sangharsh Committee, Azad Kisan Committee Doaba, among others.
The rest are mostly affiliated with Left parties, barring a handful that are affiliated to SAD and Congress.
Prof Kesar Singh Bhangu, professor of Economics at Punjabi University Patiala, said: “Unlike earlier years, now there is no space for political parties in the entire farming belt of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Rather, political parties have been trying to find space in the farmers unions’ protests, but they haven’t been able to as the farmers’ movement is apolitical in nature and is dominated by the non-political farm leaders because of which this movement could gain huge support from common man”.
Bhangu, who had conducted several studies on farm issues, further said that even if few farmer organisations have some inclination towards Left they are just splinter groups working as pressure groups and have nothing to do with the political parties as they are not here to contest any elections.
“Even such groups are not allowing any political leaders to interfere in their movement and have kept politicians at a distance from their crusade against farm laws,” said Prof Bhangu.
“Every political party have their farm wings, but even such wings are not part of the farmers’ ongoing protest for past several months. Such wings can hold their separate protest, but they are not part of 31 farm organisations that are mostly apolitical in nature and even if any political party wants to show solidarity with farmers they can do it from outside. Farmer leaders are not allowing them to be the part of their protests,” said another expert on farm issues Prof Gian Singh.
He added that protests are being led by known farmer leaders who have dedicated their entire life farm issues and now even women and youth too have joined the movement.
Prof Bhangu pointed out that these farm outfits have a proper record of their fund collection and they have not been accepting any donation from religious or political organisations.
“We do not accept any donation or fund for our union from any religious body, NGO, commission agents, pesticide dealers, pesticide companies, any fundamentalist organisation. Our funds are donated by the members of our own organisation, farmers, common men and printed bill copy is provided to every donor. The audit is done after every six months and the detailed lists of these are pasted in the villages openly so that there is no doubt in anybody’s mind,” said Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan)’s general secretary, Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan. Ugrahan group is the largest farm union of Punjab.
He added that in 2009 when there was a huge protest of farmers in Chandigarh against the dis-bundling of the then Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), large number of hired buses and vehicles, which ferried farmer activists across the state to protest sites, were damaged by the police during lathicharge and teargas shelling and at that time on a special call in the villages the union collected over Rs 23 lakh fund from its members and farmers.
“Back then, Rs 19 lakh compensation was paid to them by our organisation and remaining Rs 4 lakh was left in the union fund. If anybody tries to go against union norms for fund collection and usage, we remove them from the union immediately,” he said.
Experts said that even while sitting at Delhi borders, farmers are not accepting any help being extended by political parties and even political workers visiting the sites are only allowed if they come without party flags.
“A new trend is being seen now in Punjab’s villages where the leaders of different political parties have started removing party flags from their vehicles in this ongoing stir of farmers while they are moving around. Earlier, carrying party flags on their vehicles was a matter of prestige for them,” said a senior BJP leader of Punjab requesting anonymity.
“The beauty of the movement of farmers is that it has become a movement of common man now because of its apolitical nature and people of all walks of life are supporting them and it may spread across the country soon if Union government does not listen to the genuine demands of the farmers,” said Prof Bhangu, adding that now political parties must stop doing politics on the issue and undermine the farmers’ genuine struggle.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines