March 1, 2021 - No. 12

Stand with Indian Farmers!

Striving of Indian Farmers to Decide
What Happens to Their Produce

Village meeting in Ganganagar, Rajasthan, February 2021

• Actions for Repeal of Anti-Farmer Laws Continue
United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Stands with Indian Farmers
• Letter of U.S. Farmers' Organizations

Stand with Indian Farmers!

Striving of Indian Farmers to Decide
What Happens to Their Produce

Mahapanchayat (enlarged village meeting) in Barnala, Punjab, February 21, 2021

The farmers' struggle in India is now entering its fourth month since hundreds of thousands converged on the borders of Delhi in December 2020.

Mahapanchayats (enlarged village meetings) of farmers are continuing in different parts of India. Mahapanchayats are convoked when there are serious issues that affect all the villages and communities. Panchayats, Khaps, Councils are very old forms which predate the modern colonial state and systems of party government. A speaker at one mahapanchayat pointed out that theirs dates back to the times of Raja Harshvardhan in the seventh century AD. Others recall that theirs are even older than that. In the late fifties in Punjab, mahapanchayats were held to prohibit dowry taking by the family of the groom. Their decisions were enforced for many years.

In these mahapanchayats the farmers in their thousands are discussing their resolve to keep fighting for the repeal of the anti-farmer laws and for providing minimum support prices with a legal guarantee. They are also discussing many other issues such as how the parties of the ruling elite, which claim to be political, have been dividing them on the basis of party, religion, caste and other divisive agendas. At one meeting, a young woman farmer said that in the old days, Brahmins used to say that one has to go through their mediation to have knowledge of God. Now, she said, political parties claim that you have to bring them to power to get anything done. They have become new Brahmins, and most of them are headed by Brahmins, she added.

Talking about Modi's coining of the word Andolanjeevi (professional agitator), one of the speakers had everyone in stitches saying that by Modi's definition, Hanuman was the greatest Andolanjeevi. It refers to the story of Ram, king of Ayodhaya, whose wife was abducted by Ravana, King of Lanka. Hanuman lit Ravana's tail and set fire to Lanka.

The most important demand that has emerged in this movement is Faslan De Faisle Kisan Karuga, the farmer will make decisions about his produce. Mahapanchayat after mahapanchayat is declaring this demand loudly. In Punjab, discussions on this demand have been going on for quite a while. In 2008 it was discussed at the World Punjab Conference held in Jalandhar. Around the same time this demand was raised in Gujarat with the call for community control of the resources of Gujarat. The Narmada Movement also raised it in the form of Hamare Gaon Mein Hamara Raj -- Our Rule in Our Village. In tribal areas it has emerged in the form of Pathalgarhi, also a demand that reflects the awareness and consciousness that is emerging that producers should make decisions about production and this should be the democracy at work.

Who decides and who sets the agenda have become central issues of the 21st century. The ruling elite and their cartel parties claim that they are entitled to decide what happens to all the natural and human resources of society. The parliaments, legislatures, judiciaries and governments are all there to implement an agenda of the ruling elite. People on the other hand are rising up, affirming their Right to Decide, which has been usurped by parties which have formed cartels to keep the people out of power in the state and the institutions of government. The declaration at mahapanchayats is that Faslan De Faisle Kisan Karuga represents a crucial demand of humanity that is marginalized from decisions that affect their lives. Farmers want to end this marginalization and affirm their Right to Decide.

The youth of India, sons and daughters of farmers and other toilers, have shown their mettle and have been in the front ranks with their parents and grandparents in this fight for what they are calling their Right to Be. The disinformation of the ruling elite and their media claims that young people have become addicts and/or careerists. The youth have completely smashed these lies. The lyrics of one of the songs that has come out of this movement celebrates the youth: Zindabad Ni Juaniye, Maan Tere Te Saara Hi Punjab Karda (Long live the youth, Punjab is proud of you!)

The cartel parties which form the official opposition are trying to torpedo the farmers' movement, joining the bandwagon of the ruling elite to divide it by holding their own rallies. They are giving fiery speeches inside the parliament and outside. All of a sudden they are remembering the farmers, against whom they have been acting for the last 74 years. But the farmers are not fooled by them. It reveals the fight amongst the different sections of the ruling elite, they point out as they stick to their demands.

The farmers' movement in India is inspiring farmers in Europe, Canada and other places. In France and Germany, farmers are protesting against the chemical farming promoted by the corporations which dominate what is called agri-business. They are raising the banner of sustainable agriculture.

Haut de page

Actions for Repeal of Anti-Farmer
Laws Continue

February 18, 2021. Rail Roko protest blocks the tracks in Mansa
Food is prepared by farmers for passengers whose trains are stopped by the protests

Throughout the month of February farmers staged many actions across India against the farm reforms mandated by global agri-business, demanding the withdrawal of the three agriculture bills pushed through by the Indian government in September 2020.

On February 6 farmers across India stopped railways and blocked highways for four hours to protest against the anti-farmer laws that the government has brought in to steal the lands of farmers to give to the corporate houses. For travellers on trains and roads they organized Langar (community kitchens) so they would not feel discomfort. 

On February 18 farmers again gathered at railway stations across the country and blocked train tracks as part of a four-hour nationwide rail roko protest against the farm laws.

February 23 was the celebration of the anniversary of the birth of Chacha Ajit Singh, uncle of Bhagat Singh, leader of the farmers' movement against the British in 1907 called Pagdi Sambhal. The events also honoured Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, another leader of the farmers at that time. That movement led to the repeal of British anti-farmer laws. 

February 24 was observed as anti-repression day by farmers all across India to protest the arrest and terrorization of farmers, their leaders, supporters and children by police and other agencies of the state. 

February 24, 2021. Anti-Repression Day protest

February 26 was celebrated as Young Farmers' Day. On this day, young farmers and other youth ran the show at the protests demanding the repeal of the anti-farm laws. As of this date the farmers' protests on the Delhi borders have entered their 93rd day and protests have spread to all parts of India. Gatherings and rallies are taking place in different parts of the country. Some farmers are planning a tractor march to Kolkata and have held mahapanchayats in Bengal. On February 27 the anniversary of Guru Ravidass was celebrated.

February 26, 2021. Yuva Kisan Diwas, Young Farmers’ Day, is marked at the Singhu
Border of Delhi

Meanwhile, villages have declared that they will look after the fields and farming needs of those who are at the protest camps at the Delhi border. Harvest combine operators have announced that they will harvest crops for those who are at the protest. Farmers are ready for the long haul. They have announced that if need be they are ready to forego one crop.

Those in the Punjab film and cinema industry have announced that they will call on their fans to take part in the dharnas (sit-in protests) for the coming summer months. Other organizations have pledged to donate generators and coolers. The expression of social love from all quarters and directions is tremendous. It is so powerful that it is felt by the diaspora thousands of kilometres away.

Two young women, Nodeep Kaur and Disha Ravi, jailed for supporting the farmers, declared that they will not stop supporting them, no matter how much pressure is put on them. Both have now been released on bail. People across India are saluting their courage and spirit. Several young farmers arrested on trumped up charges were also released on bail. Some of them recounted a tale of torture and threats by police, trying to extract confessions that they were hired by someone to attend the protest. They said that they told the police that they came of their own volition and will go back to the protest no matter how much the police torture them. They stated that after they are released they are going straight to the protests.

A woman farmer whose 20-year-old son was shot and killed by police during a protest a few days before, said that she, her family and all farmers will fight to the end. She called on the youth to join with their parents and grandparents with double the vigour. Times are calling for great sacrifices to save their lands, hearths and homes.

At the protests very informative discussions are taking place. One of the speakers pointed out how India was forced to sign the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and how the World Trade Organization has pressured the government to remove the Minimum Support Prices. The World Bank has also threatened to recall a loan if these farm laws are not passed.

Another farmer described Contract Farming. He said through this the corporations will control the price of inputs, as the farmers will sign the contract to buy all the inputs from the corporations and will sell their produce to the same corporations according to the terms of the contract. If there is any dispute, there will be no legal recourse. The corporation will buy the produce at one price, store it and sell it back to them at a price 20 to 30 times higher. The example was given of potatoes. The company buys potatoes at 5 rupees per kilogram, but sells a bag of chips which uses only one potato to the farmers for 20 rupees, which is equivalent to them paying 200 rupees for a kilo of potatoes. Another farmer gave the example of cauliflower, saying that Ambani pays 5 rupees a piece but after storing and packaging sells them back at 200 rupees a piece.
One of the farmers also explained the new Water Act. Underground water on the lands will not belong to the farmers. It will be contracted out to corporations for "cleaning" as it has been "polluted by the farmers." So they will have to pay the company a license fee to get water from their own land for drinking or irrigation.

Farmers also pointed out that they were fooled by all the institutions and parties about the Green Revolution and now they are suffering from its consequences such as poisoning of land and water, indebtedness and suicide. This time they are not going to be fooled, they said.

In the U.S., more than 85 farmers' unions have come out in support of the farmers' struggle in India. In a recent statement, they supported all the demands of the Indian farmers, recounting their own experience with the same corporations and pointing out how the federal government's policy had brought ruination to farmers in the U.S.

In Pakistan, inspired by the farmers' movement in India, farmers have carried out a tractor march against high prices. For a long time small and marginal farmers have been protesting in places like Ukara against their immiseration.

The ruling elite in alliance with their foreign mentors and allies see India as a land full of resources that need to be extracted, packaged and sold on the world market for maximum profits. They do not see it as a land of more than a billion people with legitimate claims on society that need to be fulfilled. The corporate interests covet the land without acknowledging any obligations. The neo-colonial Indian state and government are facilitating this land theft, no matter which party is in power. Just like land theft in Europe, the Americas, Australia and Africa, the ruling elite is using the state to steal the lands of hundreds of millions of farmers with the anti-farm corporate laws. Farmers describe them as their Death Warrants.

The Indian government is fighting a war of attrition, disinformation, diversion and deception. It is hoping that the farmers will get exhausted and run out of steam. In the last 70 years it has used communal violence and a left-liberal alliance to attack the struggles of the people at each crucial juncture. Whether in the 1960s, during the Emergency in the 1970s, in the 1980s and 1990s, the left-liberal alliance -- calling itself secular -- has saved the ruling elite. Now the left-liberal parties such as Congress, the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) have lost all credibility. The Aam Aadmi Party does not have a national presence. The BJP has discredited itself and splits in the ranks abound.

What weapon will the ruling elite use next to attack the farmers' movement that has become a broad people's movement against the ruling elite and their foreign mentors? Some analysts are suggesting that the ruling elite will have still more recourse to "politics" of assassination, criminalization, repression, anarchy and violence after the Bengal and Tamil Nadu elections in April. People have to be very vigilant, they say. Others are suggesting that whether the people's movement wins or is suppressed, the central state has become a huge vacuum cleaner to siphon resources, and a prison of all the nations, nationalities and peoples of India. It will collapse in the next couple of decades as a result of the people's struggle, giving rise to several autonomous and independent states in the subcontinent, as took place following the collapse of the Soviet Union. This will give rise to a federation or confederation of South Asia. One thing is certain: the situation engenders possibilities for great transformations and empowerment of the people, as well as devastation and destruction on an unprecedented scale if the issue of how to activate the human factor/social consciousness in the form of a human centred raison d'état and government remains unsolved.

Haut de page

United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Stands with Indian Farmers

In a statement issued February 12 the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada states that the union "proudly stands in support of Kisans and farm workers across India in their call for sustainable and equitable agricultural laws that promote food security and workers' rights in the country."

The statement goes on to say:

"Over the past few months, Kisans, farm workers, journalists, and supporters across India, including trade union activists, such as Nodeep Kaur, have been abducted and aggressively assaulted for simply exercising their rights. They have been protesting three new bills that the government passed undemocratically, which aim to deregulate farming and will effectively crush marginal farmers, known as Kisans.

"Additionally, the new farm laws will steer farm workers into greater poverty. Even with guaranteed crop prices, farm workers were already unable to earn fair and living wages for their labour. In fact, the reforms will impede farm workers' ability to exercise their right to freedom of association and further violate international labour standards that India has committed to as a member of the International Labour Organization.

"In response to the demonstrations, state police instigated violent attacks against protestors. Kisans, journalists, and union activists who have been abducted by police are being tortured and sexually assaulted in prisons. The Indian government has since introduced internet blackouts and social media crackdowns to prevent journalists from covering the events.

"UFCW Canada stands united with national and international labour advocates, such as the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tourism, Tobacco, and Allied Workers' Association (IUF)'s, for progressive agricultural reforms in India that also protects the rights of farm and migrant farm workers' rights in the country.

"As an organization advocating for food workers' rights, we denounce the violent attacks against protestors and adamantly express our support for Kisans and farm workers in India and their collective and urgent calls for justice."


Haut de page

Letter of U.S. Farmers' Organizations

An open letter written by 87 farmers' organization in the U.S. supports the fight of Indian farmers. The letter says of the Indian farmers:

"Their rallying cry is to repeal the three unjust laws that were passed without their knowledge or consultation. We extend our solidarity to countless farmers who are peacefully and boldly standing up for their rights and dignity, with other farmers from across the globe."

The farmers' organizations point out that one of the key demands of the movement is for farmers to receive a Minimum Support Price (MSP) -- currently assured for just a few crops -- for all produce, including vegetables. The organizations point out that this is an important means of ensuring farmers get a fair price for their crops. They state:

"The U.S. has been a key opponent of India's limited use of MSP at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The U.S., with Australia, Canada and European allies, has claimed that India's MSP distorts trade."

The letter further states:

"[The] Reagan era furthered the farm crisis through deliberate federal policy changes, with systematic erosion of parity prices and other deregulatory efforts. "Get big or get out" has been our government's mantra. Farmers with the means to consolidate have been rewarded for growing monoculture commodities. Tribal nations and traditional producers as well as small farmers who have always practiced or shifted to diversified agroecological farming have effectively been subsidizing the U.S. agriculture sector. It is rare for these food producers to make a living without supplemental income. Unsurprisingly, farm suicides in rural America are 45 per cent higher than in the rest of the population. [...]

"While the U.S. agricultural sector receives inordinately large support compared to many countries, access to that support remains inequitable. In particular, Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian-Pacific and other people of colour producers, who lack secure land tenure and are concentrated in vegetable and small-scale cattle sectors, have been excluded historically. Support flows to larger agri-business farming operations instead of the independent family farmers whose voices we amplify. [...]

"We have great respect for the unified struggles the farmers and farmworkers of Samyukt Kisan Morcha have built, and we stand with them."


Haut de page

(To access articles individually click on the black headline.)



Website:   Email: