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The Tale of Muzaffarnagar Kisan Mahapanchayat

Earlier they made their presence in poll-bound West Bengal and now they held a Mahapanchayat in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar: does this mean that the farmers are not looking to miss even a single chance to grab the Centre’s attention to their protest? Or is there something more to it? Read to find more.

On 5th September, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha called for a Kisan Mahapanchayat in the Muzaffarnagar district of the poll-bound state of Uttar Pradesh, and lakhs of farmers reached there to mark their opposition to the three central farm laws. The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait, who is also a prominent face in the farmers’ protest claimed in his tweet that around 20 lakh farmers from Jammu & Kashmir to Kerala made their presence in the mahapanchayat.

When we look at a glance, the opinion of the common public seems to be divided on the farmers’ protest and the same we saw when mahapanchayat took place. The difference in opinion, controversies and fake propaganda are some of the aspects through which we will try to look upon this massive Kisan gathering at Muzaffarnagar.

Why Only The Poll-Bound States?

It’s been over nine months since the farmers gathered at the outskirts of the national capital and started their protest against the three central farm laws. Despite being called Khalistanis, Terrorists, Anti-nationals, Maoists and Naxalites, the farmers’ kept their protest alive and never looked back. The mainstream television media did its level best to defame the protest by channelling a particular side and just when the protest was going back into the darker side, the farmers decided to grab the attention and coverage on their own. 

As West Bengal was eyeing an intense election battle, a delegation of farmers’ union met West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and both sides shared a common opinion on the farm laws. This protest by farmers received massive support from the opposition leaders which gives a chance to those who oppose this protest to say that it’s nothing but a politically sponsored protest which has only a motive to bash BJP and PM Modi. 

However, thanks to our farm leaders who haven’t decided to contest elections yet and they are still believing in activism to resolve farmers’ issues. If the farm laws were passed by the central government, the farmers will ask questions to the ruling party BJP and prime minister Narendra Modi, because asking questions to Rahul Gandhi and Congress over farm laws will be of no significance. That’s another thing that the opposition sees any rising anti-government voice as an opportunity to slam the ruling party and make it an issue.

Our only motive is to cancel these three farm laws which are actually ‘black laws’ for the farmers of this country. Everything has a political motive and if BJP is in the Centre and they are not listening to our demands, then they have to pay the cost for it by losing in elections. The farmers and poor people of this country will defeat the BJP.

Rakesh Bains, BKU spokesperson said while in conversation with DU Beat.

So, the logic behind farmers opting for poll-bound states as a platform to protest is an attempt to gain attention from the ruling party and also to convince the rural population about how the current regime is not thinking about them. Thus, it will not be surprising to see farmers organising more such large-scale gatherings in other regions of Uttar Pradesh because everyone’s focus is on UP until the poll ends in the state.

Are Farmers United Against Farm Laws?

Since the very first day of the farmers’ protest, the pro-government side is claiming that only selected farmers are having issues with the new farm laws because the ‘original farmers’ are busy on their farms and don’t have time to come and protest. Well, it’s the fact that the protest is mainly Punjab and Haryana oriented, the reason being the farmers of these two states have the highest income from farming throughout the country and their understanding for the farm practices including MSP, APMC and other things is high enough. One can’t expect the farmers of Bihar to lead the protest because their annual income is the lowest in the country and also the APMC law was abolished by the Bihar government in 2006.

The central government data shows that only 6% of farmers of the country get the benefit of MSP and most of them are from Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh. A NITI Aayog report of 2016 claims that 100% of farmers of Punjab sell their crops on MSP rates. So it’s quite obvious why the farmers of these states are predominantly leading the agitation.

Meanwhile, this myth also got busted when the Kisan Mahapanchayat organized at the GIC Ground of Muzaffarnagar witnessed lakhs of farmers coming from 15 states of the country showing the unity of the farmers. The gathering was led by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) but a total of 30 farmers’ unions participated in the huge mahapanchayat. The visuals that came from the mahapanchayat on social media showed that over 500 langar services were going on there in tractor trolleys and over a hundred medical camps were also set up for the farmers. So is this huge agitation with so many resources and management possible without the farmers’ unity? 

We have plans to organize proper programmes in the upcoming days. Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) is leading us very well. The farmers from across the country are among us and if any opposition party extends their support to our protest, we will welcome them because that will strengthen our fight to dismantle the farm laws passed by the BJP government,

, said Rakesh Bains.

Fake Propaganda Against Farmers

Kudos to the will-power of our farmers who are still standing bravely against a system that holds grip onto the media, power, money, muscle, police and bureaucracy. As the farmers showed their unity and strength via Muzaffarnagar Kisan panchayat, the right-wing IT cell began its job of spreading doctored videos and clips from the gathering to manipulate the narrative. Among these, a 20-second video went viral on social media showing BKU leader Rakesh Tikait chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ from the stage. Along with the video, a narrative was tried to establish that the farmers’ protest is appeasing Muslims and propagating Anti-Hindu thoughts. 

Well, the reality was different from what was being shared on social media. Various fact check reports claimed that a trimmed clip was being shared on social media that contained only the ‘Allahu Akbar’ slogan. But in reality, the slogans of “Allahu Akabar” & “Har Har Mahadev” were raised at the same time to mark Hindu-Muslim unity.

Speaking on this Rakesh Bains added, “What BJP does is the politics of religion. They divide the country based on religion to grab votes. But, we the farmers of this country believe in the unity and that’s why he (Rakesh Tikait) raised the slogans of Allahu Akbar and Har Har Mahadev to mark Hindu-Muslim unity.”

The BJP’s Confusion Over Farmers’ Protest

After the beginning of the farmers’ protest, we saw two sides of the BJP leaders at the same time. On one side, union minister Piyush Goyal was seen on television channels claiming that the protest is hijacked by Naxal and Maoist elements, but on the other side, the union agricultural minister Narendra Singh Tomar held multiple rounds of talks with the same farmers whom other ministers were calling anti-nationals.

A similar situation of confusion was seen after the farmers’ organized their mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar. On 6th September 2021, the deputy chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Keshav Prasad Maurya said in his Hindi tweet, “The farmers of the state are with the BJP…”.

But, Varun Gandhi, a senior BJP leader and the Member of Parliament from Pilibhit constituency of Uttar Pradesh came in support of agitating farmers and tweeted by sharing a video clip from the Kisan mahapanchayat: “Lakhs of farmers have gathered in protest today, in Muzaffarnagar. They are our flesh and blood. We need to start respectfully re-engaging with them: understand their pain, their point of view and work with them in reaching common ground.”

Bains itemized, “BJP is actually divided into two parts- the first part is composed of people who support Modi’s idea of capitalism who want to work only for capitalists and businessmen. The second part is of the main core BJP who are still listening to us and taking our demands seriously. But Modi’s part is so strong and we have faced them when they called us terrorists, Khalistan and much more.”

This dual standard by BJP leaders shows that the saffron party has now got stuck in mid where they have to listen to farmers by standing strong on their side too. The farmers’ protest is getting stronger day by day and the energy with which the farmers union are leading this protest will surely let the central government rethink their stand on the three farm laws. 

Also Read: The Polar of Priority and Ignorance: Punjab and West-Bengal

Feature Image Credits: @RakeshTikaitBKU (Twitter)

Chirag Jha

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