A terrible gloom has settled over India.
Another person to stand up firmly against the venomous Hindutva - Gauri Lankesh - taken from our side of the ledger. These are vicious times, the count of those dead from Comrade Pansare (killed by 'unidentified assailants') to Pehlu Khan (killed by the cow fascists) to the lynching of Baban Musahar and Murahu Musahar in Bihar's Rohtas district (killed by anti-dalit mob violence).
What are these times, these times of great violence and pain?
Will these also be the times when people rise up and disobey fascism, overthrow the fascists?
News comes from Rajasthan, a state ruled by the BJP, that the farmers have decided to disobey the government. Afraid of the farmers' protest, the BJP government imposed section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code - namely to prevent any kind of assembly. The government also banned the Internet.
The Kisan Sabha says that some of their members have been forcibly detained.
But this did not stop the farmers. They had launched an indefinite Mahapadav Gherao of the District Collectorates beginning at the start of this month. Hundreds of thousands of farmers took to the streets. Their mission; Kisan Sabha in Every Village; Every Kisan in the Kisan Sabha.
The farmers held a mock funeral for the Chief Minister of the state - Vasundhara Raje:
This movement has grown from the earlier victorious struggles against an increase in the price of electricity. The BJP government, then, withdrew the price hike. The massive solidarity in this struggle is heartening - it includes all sections of society from Adivasis to Students to Dalits to small traders.
What outrageous demands have the farmers written on their placards? They want the government to honour the Swaminathan Report recommendations. That National Commission on Farmers (2004-2006) was chaired by Professor M. S. Swaminathan and it was empaneled in response to the spate of farmer suicides (every thirty minutes, an Indian farmer commits suicide, a death that results directly from the neo-liberal agricultural policies being pursued by the Indian government). The key recommendations of the Commission that the farmers want implemented are:
- fix the Minimum Support Price at least 50% above the cost of production with assured procurement.
- provide loan waivers for agricultural workers, poor and middle farmers.
- provide pension of Rs. 5000/- per month for agricultural workers and farmers above the age of 60.
- employment for the unemployed.
- effective crop insurance.
- protection of crops from stray cattle and wild animals.
- right to trade in cattle.
For a summary of the Swaminathan Commission, see here.
One of the signature problems of modern India is that media just does not care about the farmers and their issues. These are not reported, for a host of reasons as my dear friend P. Sainath continues to insist (as he did recently in Chennai).
These are brave farmers, carrying the Red Flag, pushing against a government that has decided not to listen to the farmers. Government officers have been shut down, the Kisan Sabha reports, as 'farmers have been gathering with their tractors, carts and vehicles in District headquarters'.
Please pass on word of this struggle, which has received scant notice in the national media - let alone the international media.
Meanwhile, I am in the midst of editing Archana Prasad's superb new book - Remembering the Warli Struggles: A Contemporary History of Adivasi Struggles in Dahanu and Talasari, which will be out very soon from LeftWord Books. Archana is part of our Communist Histories Group and is a fabulously meticulous and honest scholar, whose books are a treat to read but not so much as this one - which is going to be a real classic. It tells the story of the Warli struggles, led by the Kisan Sabha, from the 1940s to the present in the words of the Adivasi comrades who have built their movements under the Red Flag against great pressure. Just look at this picture below, from the 2008 Martyr's Day Rally in Dahanu. It tells you that the story in India is not over. The struggle is not anywhere near over:
Nor yet over either for the students of India. The United Left platform swept the Jawaharlal Nehru University student union elections last week, and the Student Federation of India (SFI) won the student elections from Assam to Kerala, with Rajasthan in between.
In fact, the student elections in Rajasthan show that even in this BJP-ruled state, the Left can make inroads. The left-wing SFI won the president's post in twenty-one colleges. This is a triumph.