WHILE FARM agitations are not new in an agricultural state like Punjab, this is the first time in its history that all farmers’ unions — big and small — have come together in protest — in this case against the Centre’s three farm Bills.
As many as 31 farmers’ organisations, which have different ideologies and leanings, are to fight collectively against these Bills, and the first agenda on their common programme is the ‘Punjab Bandh Call’, slated for Friday (September 25).
Among these 30, there are around 18 (including 10 big ones) organised groups which conduct proper elections at the block, district and state levels to appoint their office-bearers. These organisations have quite a large base and also have village-level units. Their memberships vary from 10,000 to over a lakh across the state.
Around a dozen of these are small organisations currently having their base in just one of a couple of districts with around a few 100 members only.
Interestingly, majority of these farmers’ organisations are offshoots of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), led by renowned farmer leader Mahinder Singh Tikait from Uttar Pradesh. In Punjab, Ajmer Singh Lakhowal was the president of BKU then. This was the single largest farmers’ organisation in Punjab till the early 1990s, while there were some other smaller Left-leaning farmers’ groups as well.
In the 1990s, some BKU leaders in Punjab looked towards politics, due to which others broke away from the group due to ideological differences.
“BKU Ekta, led by known farmer leader Pishaura Singh, was the first group to part with BKU in the early 1990s. BKU Ugrahan was formed in 2002 and then BKU Dakaunda was formed around 15 years ago,” said BKU Dakaunda General Secretary Jagmohan Singh, adding that around a dozen farmers’ organisations were formed after parting from BKU and few of them got split further.
“Though there are several farmers organisations which lean towards one or other political party including SAD, Congress AAP and Left parties, it has happened for the first time in the history of Punjab that all farmers organisations got united to protest against agri Bills and ‘Punjab Bandh’ call on September 25 is their first common programme. We hope that in the future all these organisations work together on farm issues,” said BKU Ugrahan General Secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan.
“In 1990 a Karja Mukti Morcha was organised on farmers’ issues at Chandigarh and the residence of the Governor was gheraod for two weeks by the BKU and other small farmers’ groups. That time, a few pro-Left farmers groups could not come along with BKU, but this time, all are participating together to fight against the anti-farmer Bills,” said Jagmohan Singh.
Dr Darshan Pal of Krantikari Kisan Union Punjab and member of the working committee All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), said that it is a positive step taken by all groups as it will boost the protest manifold across the state. He said that at an all India-level too, around 250 farmers’ organisations have united under the AIKSCC banner in their respective states.
Former economics professor Gian Singh said, “It is a great move by farmers’ organisations which used to organise their separate protests earlier, to have come together for a common cause.”
The AIKSCC, which has around 250 farmers organisations as its members across the country, has calls upon all farmers, peasants, agriculture workers, tribals, fishermen, rural traders as well as trade unions, political parties and democratic forces across the country to join the movement.
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