THE NASHIK police on Tuesday refused permission for the All India Kisan Sabha’s (AIKS) second “long march” from Nashik to Mumbai, starting February 20. However, AIKS leaders said that they would go ahead with the planned march and thousands of farmers are expected to turn up for the protest.
The police, meanwhile, said while they would not allow a procession, the farmers could hold a protest in Nashik. “We have allowed them to hold a sit in protest, where they can use loudspeakers and give speeches. We have, however, denied them permission to hold a march,” Nashik City Commissioner Ravinder Kumar Singhal said.
The AIKS march is against what it claims is the government’s inaction in fulfilling promises that it had made to farmers after the first long march held last year. They hope to cover a distance of 180 km on foot in eight days, and on reaching Mumbai on February 27, the farmers plan a march towards the state Assembly, which will then be in session for the state budget.
Watch video: Why farmers in Maharashtra are protesting
Some of the demands that the AIKS has made this time around include a proposal that the state block all the water from rivers that runs into the ocean and divert it for farmers’ needs. It has also demanded that this water should be used for Maharashtra and not diverted to Gujarat. Further, it has sought expedition in the process of providing land titles to landless farmers under the Forest Rights Act.
It is also seeking a complete loan waiver for farmers, the implementation of Swaminathan Commission recommendations and Rs 40,000 per acre relief for all drought-affected farmers. Its charter of 15 demands included 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. The AIKS has also demanded that the government should give land belonging to various temples in Maharashtra to the farmers for plowing.
In March last year, around 40,000 farmers had undertaken a march towards Mumbai to stage a protest outside the state Legislature against the government’s response to the distress in the farm sector. The farmers’ “long march” had been called by Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, which is affiliated to the CPI(M).
The protesting farmers were subsequently given an assurance in writing by the state government that their demands, including clearing pending appeals in connection to applications for titles to forest land, would be accepted.
The AIKS had on February 5 said that it wanted to take out a second march, which would reach Mumbai on February 27 to coincide with the state Assembly’s Budget Session. “A year has passed, but the government has not executed the promises it made. There is dissent among farmers,” the AIKS had said in a statement.
When contacted, AIKS president Dr Ashok Dhawale said: “Last time when we held a march, not a single untoward incident had taken place. I do not see any reason why they should deny permission this time. By denying permission to a peaceful agitation, they are throttling democracy. The AIKS is determined to carry on with the march irrespective of the police order.”
“Farmers in Maharashtra will not rest until the major issues that are being taken up in the second long march are resolved,” he added.
With hundreds of farmers expected to take part in the gathering from adjoining districts in Nashik, the police have started making preventory detentions. On Monday evening, the Dhule police had detained leaders of the Satyashodhak Shetkari Sabha, who were planning to take part in the march. “The police were keen that we should not take part in the march and instead speak to the collector. We were detained for several hours,” said Kishore Dhamale, a leader who was detained.