Consistent campaigns, joint movements for land rights have started yielding wide-ranging results

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Excerpt from the resolution adopted by Bhumi Adhikar Andolan (BAA) at its recently concluded national convention at Ranchi, Jharkhand (June 29-30, 2017):

The BAA had been emerged in the wake of the promulgation of the land acquisition ordinance on 31st December 2014 by the BJP led NDA Government. The political context in which the ordinance had been declared was crucial. The 16th Parliament election in April –May 2014 has brought a rightward shift in the political scenario of the country with the BJP acquires absolute majority and formed the Government. The opposition parties have become feeble and scattered with the Congress, the main opposition party got only 44 seats and the presence of the Left Parties and the various Socialist parties also remain weak.

Being an agrarian economy the interests of the peasantry could be protected only by comprehensively reversing the excessive rightwing neo liberal economic policies being implemented in the last quarter a century which is the root cause of widespread peasant suicides, indebtedness and large scale migration. However, in the context of lack of political consciousness and organized strength among farmers to influence the political process there was panic among the progressive peasant movement how to prevent the authoritarian move when the Land Acquisition Ordinance was brought by the Narendra Modi Government.

However, the aggressive move by the NDA government itself had paved way for unity of various mass and class organizations of peasants, workers, Dalits, Adivasis, fishing community and all dependent on land for their livelihood, when the Left and Democratic forces working among the peasantry and rural people took initiative to bring them all together. The massive struggle in the Parliament Street on 24th February under the leadership of the collective of mass organizations had succeeded to gather the national attention. The significant achievement is the emergence of unity of left and democratic peasant and social movements to unleash a widespread resistance movement. More than three hundred organisations and federations of farmers, workers, adivasis and individuals joined this country wide mobilization and in the process and the platform adopted the banner, the Bhumi Adhikar Andolan- BAA.

Parallel to this united peasant movement, there were many other streams of movement under the leadership of different farmer’s organizations and also by political parties. The parliamentary party members in opposition together organized a march to Rashtrapatii Bhawan. Various political parties organized protest rallies and Gajendra Singh, one farmer from Dhousa, in Rajasthan, hanged himself at Jathar Manthar which shocked the entire country. All these developments especially in the wake of the forthcoming crucial assembly election in Bihar compelled the PM to backtrack and give up move to call joint session of the Parliament to pass the bill and instead he announced to send the Bill to the Joint Parliamentary Committee.

The BAA on the basis of charter of demands of the peasantry and agriculture workers had participated on 2nd September all India workers strike the call given by the united trade union platform in 2015 and the workers extended their unreserved support to demand of the peasantry to withdraw the land acquisition ordinance.  The strike was historic in which around 15 crore workers participated. This was a positive step towards consolidating worker –peasant alliance, a vital development to influence the political process at the all India level.

In the background of mounting resistance all over the country against the NDA Government, the Prime Minister was compelled to declare that his government will not re-promulgate the Land Acquisition Ordinance.  It was a resounding success as far as the peasantry and working class are concerned and BAA has given call to observe victory day all over the country. The Bihar election result in which the BJP got defeated was another emphatic blow against the NDA government and a resounding reply of the people against the Land Acquisition Ordinance. All these gains proved that through unity and issue based struggles it is possible to challenge the anti-peasant policies of the Central Government.

In between a conclave of RSS was held at New Delhi in which the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues also attended to take stock of the political development. However, after that event there was a sprout of violence based on communal hatred and religious intolerance starting from Dadri and frequent incidents such as Una, Jammu, Alwar, and lynching of Jharkhand, Assam, West Bengal etc.  The lynching and unleashing violence on innocent people belongs to minorities, Dalits and other backward sections on the one side and the criminal silence of the administration under the Prime Minister over such heinous acts was a clear indication of the efforts of the communal forces to break the growing unity of the peasantry and the working class. This trend is continuing unchecked till the day, the latest being the murder of Junaid a Muslim boy in a running local train in Haryana.

The first ever National Workshop of BAA on 19, 20 November, 2015 at New Delhi took the stock of the achievements of the joint platform and arrived at the conclusion that we have to expand the movement at the state level and further to ground level and rally all the sections of the society including Dalits, Adivasis, Minorities and all other marginalized sections under the alliance of peasants and the workers. In this regard, some initiatives were undertaken to organize joint platform in Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, west Bengal, Karnataka, Orissa, Maharashtra, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh etc though all are not under the banner of BAA.

The first all India Convention of BAA was held on 16-17 July, 2016 at Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Ahmedabad in which around five hundred activists from 15 States representing 65 organisations and various action committees attended. The convention resolved to organize a March to Parliament on 10th August 2016 and then meet Rashtrapathi requesting him to ensure withdrawal of the infamous Land Acquisition Bill from the Parliament. The convention demanded that the Modi Government withdraw its decision to allow 100% FDI in agriculture and E Platform which facilitates corporate loot of peasantry by integrating agriculture market all over the country which were announced in the successive Union Budget 2015-6 and 2016-17.

The resolution demanded the Parliament to review 25 years of implementation of Neo liberal reforms that had intensified the acute agrarian crisis and peasant suicides in the country. The resolution also supported the all India strike of workers called by united platform of central Trade Unions on 2nd September, 2016 and call upon the peasantry to organise agrarian strike in solidarity to the same. This strike has become a resounding success with the participation of more than 18 crore workers and the involvement of the peasantry and the rural people was very much apparent through the massive mobilizations in the countryside and the paralysis of the rural transportation system due to widespread road blockade.

The Union Budget 2017-18 also carried forward the most dangerous policy of declaring the intention of the Central Government to bring Model Contract farming Act to be adopted by all The State Governments. The constituents of the BAA have severely criticized the intention of the Government which will convert the peasant households as the contract agents of the Multinational agro business and agro processing industrial houses.

The intervention of BAA in the campaign struggle against the murder of Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer worth mention. The issue was taken up jointly by all the BAA constituents and many delegations visited Jaisinghpura, in Mewar region of Haryana the native village of Pehlu Khan. A mass Dharna was oragnised by the BAA at Jantar Manthar on 19th April 2017 which was attended by the mother and children of Pehlu Khan. The BAA platform had provided the opportunity for six national political parties including CPI, CPI ML, SUCI, CPI (M), JD(U) and NCP t come together against the excessive communal violence being unleashed by the BJP-RSS combine.

This campaign helped to interpret the cattle slaughter issue successfully as an agrarian issue devastating the economy of peasant agriculture rather than a communal issue and raised the demand that the enactments made by various BJP ruled State Governments to ban cow slaughter must include provisions to obligate the State Governments to pay market price to the farmers for their cattle wealth. Also in order to save the standing crop from the menace of stray cattle, the State Government must procure and maintain all stray cattle without burdening the public with any additional cattle cess.

The Central Government order of banning cattle trade for the purpose of slaughter has led to widespread alienation among the peasantry especially the small and the poor sections since 50% of the animal wealth belongs to this section and the income from Animal Husbandry has been 26% of the agrarian GDP and 7.65% of the GDP. Though the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has stayed the order the impact of the move is apparent all over the country.

The cattle trade and transportation have been badly affected and the price of the cattle has come down heavily distressing the peasant households all over the country. The impact on the tannery, meat processing and traditional meat retail market sectors are enormous that provides employment and income to lakhs of people especially those belongs to Dalits and minority sections.

The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and Narmada Bachavo Andolan have been consistently undertaking the eviction of ten thousands of households in the Narmada Valley without proper resettlement, rehabilitation and adequate compensation. This struggles helped to bring the attention of the country towards the intensifying deterioration of environment and high-level corruption and plunder of public assets including water and land by the corporate forces involved as part of the mega developmental project of which the estimate has been currently enhanced to Rs 90,000 crore.  The tall claims of the authority of providing irrigation to 18 lakh hector area has been slashed to around 2 lakh hector area. Even after 30 years the work of 30% of canals are not completed. The largest beneficiaries of the project are the Coco Cola Company that gets 30000 liter of water per day and the Car manufacturing companies those get 60000 litter of water per day.

The Supreme Court verdict on 8th February 2017 has proved the merit of Narmada agitation of more than three decades since it declared compensation to the tune of Rs 60 lakh to the land holding households and Rs 15 lakh to landless households in the Narmada Valley who have to vacate from catchment area. Though the SC judgment is  particular that compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement must be completed by the authority before the eviction of the households by 31st July 2017, the State Government without undertaking this responsibility is hell bent up on eviction by the declared date.  In order to protect the rights of the people, the NBA has organized a massive campaign of Rally for the Valley Jatha on 5th -7th June which was attended by many of the BAA constituent members and was successful to mobilize thousands of project affected people. 40,000 households of 246 villages in the States of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat are under the threat of eviction and this convention has to resolve the future action to resist the authoritarian and inhuman attitude of the Government.

The Saharanpur incident of unleashing terror up on Dalit sections by killing people, burning down their houses and looting by the upper caste sections backed by the police and administration under the newly elected BJP Government of Uttar Pradesh has been deplored by all sections. This is an example of how to perpetuate terror among the public and to foment communal and caste polarization to serve political interests of the ruling classes. Dalits in the country are under constant fear and sufferings that needs to be addressed by the BAA.  The right to land and livelihood is the fundamental issue of Dalit sections to overcome the social oppression and that could be resolved only by undertaking the task of agrarian revolution. Keeping this angle as the centre point the BAA has to undertake meaningful initiatives to rally the Dalits with the peasantry to forge larger unity of all marginalized sections.

The amendments of Chhota Nagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act 1908 and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act 1949 by the BJP-led State Governemnt of Jharkhand have paved the way for uncontrolled corporate loot and plunder of adivasi and Moolvasi land, livelihood and question their existence. These amendments empower the Govt. to grab land for “Non – agricultural purpose” to make commercial use of land which was prohibited till now. It will also adversely affect the pro-people provisions of the PESA Act 1996, FRA 2006.  The continuous objection of people of the state has been attempted to thwart by using brutal force.  Seven tribal farmers were killed in police firing by the BJP led State Government. Standing with peoples’ movements at Jharkhand, BAA has to rally the tribal people along with the peasantry since resolution of the tribal question is possible only through resolving the larger agrarian question.

The large scale consolidation of right wing political forces under the leadership of RSS-BJP combine using the communal and caste based polarization backed by the corporate funded Media, together with the division of secular votes has helped them to win the assembly election of Uttar Pradesh and Uttharkhand. However, in Punjab the BJP- Akali Dal alliance got routed and lost power. In Goa and Manipur though the BJP has formed Governments it did not enjoy the majority support of the people. In Uttar Pradesh the newly elected Government has declared loan waiver scheme for farmers that denote the importance of the agrarian question which cannot be ignored by the ruling classes.  The agrarian question is going to remain as a major political issue all over the country influencing the all India political process and consistent and united struggles will only help the peasantry to safeguard its interests.

The consistent campaigns and joint movements jointly and independently by the peasant organizations have started yielding wide ranging results in the form of sprouting massive and spontaneous peasant struggles and protest actions across the country. The success of Rajasthan peasant movement in forcing the Government to withdraw the hike in electricity bill was significant. The experience of the joint struggle in Maharashtra is a remarkable positive example, which filled confidence among the peasantry.

The constituent organizations of BAA have played the leadership role in the Maharashtra joint struggle. This struggle brought the importance of minimum support price and loan waiver as two major demands. Thus the appropriation of surplus created by the peasantry by the market forces has been made the main issue of debate and exposed the pro corporate economic policy of the Governments. The impact of this struggle is widespread and the State Government was compelled to announce Rs 34000 crore scheme of loan waiver. Another achievement of this struggle is the agreement made on the milk price based on the formulae in the ratio of 70:30 for dairy farmers and milk processing societies respectively.

The Maharashtra movement has triggered massive peasant struggles in other states too. The Mandsaur police firing on 6th June 2017 and murder of six farmers in Madhya Pradesh have shaken the consciences of the entire country. There were struggles and protest actions all over the country. Based on five demands The BAA has called for protest day on 16th June   by joining hands with other peasant platforms that have emerged in the background of the ongoing struggles. The demands are-

  • Implement MS Swaminathan Commission recommendation of fixing MSP as 50% above cost of production to all crops and guarantee purchase centres.
  • Comprehensive loan waiver to the peasantry.
  • Withdraw the anti-farmer notification of the Central Government banning cattle trade in the cattle market.
  • Resignation of Shivaraj Singh Chouhan the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh.
  • Comprehensive implementation of MNREGA linking with agriculture.
  • In the state of Assam, Power Grid Corporation of India must compensate 40000 families affected by Bishwanath Chariali Azra transmission line of 800 KV. On 16th December 2011 Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project which was started by ANPC had to be stopped after mass movements by many organizations. But the Central Government now is plotting to start work on the project.
  • The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 proposed by the Central Government to be canceled immediately.
  • The river linking project should be canceled.
  • The massive Inland Waterways project which was notified by the Indian government through National Inland waterways Act,2016 in April 2017, Bhumi Adhikar Andolan strongly opposes these destructive projects.
  • Support and participation of the proposed trip to the National Fisheries Forum (NFF).
  • Proposed Adani Power Plant to be canceled in Gonda (Jharkhand). All the portesting activists locked in the jail should be immediately released.
  • Stop illegal mining; ensure the transfer of utility right to the generations of the affected people and implement the Supreme Court Directives in the Goa Foundation case: The ill-effects of illegal mining are destroying the banks and beaches along the banks of the river. It is contaminating water sources, water bodies and destroying both ecology and economy. The unbridled mining and the model of economic development contributes to climate change and is destroying nature and earth. There is a need to stop mining in areas which are out-of-reach , dense forests and climate-sensitive forest areas.
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