‘SKM is required even more than before’

A. M. Jigeesh | | Updated on: Dec 09, 2021

President of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) Ashok Dhawale believes that the 13-month-old farmers’ protests proved that people’s collective will can defeat any power

President of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) Ashok Dhawale played a crucial role in negotiating with the Centre on getting an assurance on the pending demands of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) such as dropping the police cases against farmers and a law to ensure minimum support prices (MSP). This doctor-turned-politician believes that the 13-month-old farmers’ protests proved that people’s collective will can defeat any power. Speaking to BusinessLine at the Singhu Border, he said the SKM will continue protests against the policies that exploit farmers. Excerpts:

The SKM said it is not ending the agitation, but suspending it. What is your next step?

This is the second victory of farmers’ agitation, which we have achieved today. The first was on November 19 when the Prime Minister announced the repeal of the three anti-farmer, pro corporate farm laws. Today, the Union Agriculture Ministry gave us in writing addressing the other demands we had made. This is a victory of very unprecedented order. No such agitation for more than one year of lakhs of farmers has ever occurred in the last 75 years of independence.

We are not ending the agitation, we are suspending the agitation. We will have to wait and see whatever assurances the Government has given today will be actually implemented. Especially, the two assurances regarding the withdrawal of police cases all over the country and the compensation to the families of more than 700 of our martyrs. We will meet again on January 15 to take stock of the situation and will decide our future course.

Do you think that the problems such as price realisation for crops can be addressed by the Centre’s new proposals? What are the future plans of SKM? Will you suspend Mission Uttar Pradesh too?

We do not believe even for a moment that all the issues of farmers have been solved with whatever happened today. The MSP issue has not been resolved yet. They have formed a committee. We have seen what happened with several committees, including the MS Swaminathan Commission. Nothing has happened on its recommendations. If something happens, very good. Loan waiver is a big issue. Four lakh farmers committed suicide in the last 25 years due to debt. So, SKM is required even more than before. Its utility has increased. The repeal of the laws has given tremendous confidence to farmers, workers and all sections of people that if you fight, you can win. We will certainly try to give an institutional shape to SKM. We will move in that direction. SKM has got a legitimacy all over the country. Our unity remained for one year. It cannot be undermined.

We will decide about the missions on January 15. I recently visited Uttar Pradesh. Farmers are extremely unhappy with the present Governments at the State and the Centre. They are not getting MSP for paddy, they face sugarcane arrears, shortage and black marketeering of fertilisers, high fuel prices. People know who is responsible. Whether SKM gives a call to defeat these governments or not, farmers know who is responsible for the crisis.

But what alternative you have to propose against the three farm laws which have been repealed?

AIKS believes that cooperative farming can help to stop the corporate invasion in agriculture sector. Cooperative agriculture production is an area where we have to focus now. Whatever profits these corporate houses are making from agriculture sector should be given as MSP to farmers. Corporate invasion is a serious issue so are the policies prescribed by the WTO. Free Trade Agreements are killing farmers. It is part of the neoliberal strategy and AIKS will fight it.

There is a miraculous change in the way farmers looked at their issues. Many farmers organisations were pro neoliberal. As a result of this struggle, they became much more radicalised. Farmers now think that corporates are the main enemy of India. Photos of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev, BR Ambedkar, Marx and Lenin are being seen during the protests. They know the importance of Left politics. Left took a responsible and pro active position in this struggle.

This struggle succeeded in getting all sections of peasantry and agriculture workers united. Poor farmers and middle farmers were the majority among the protesting farmers. 86 per cent of the farmers are owners of less than two hectares of land. Sections of rich farmers also joined the protests. They all came together against the corporate lobby and against a Government which was helping these corporate houses. The entire working class stood with us.

Published on December 09, 2021
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