By Prarthana Mitra
2018 has been the year the agricultural sector revolted against the BJP government’s policies with a series of protest marches all over the nation. The latest demonstration, Kisan Kranti Yatra, was staged by thousands of farmers who began marching from Haridwar, Uttar Pradesh, on September 23, hoping to present their slogans and spirit in the national capital on Gandhi Jayanti. But their non-violent march forward faced brutal resistance from Delhi police on October 2, a day that is nationally recognised as a day for the downtrodden.
Here’s what happened
In an unexpected turn of events and largely shut out from mainstream media, the incoming mass of farmers were attacked with teargas shells and water cannons before they could enter Delhi, early on Tuesday. As the farmers entered Ghaziabad (National Capital Region), they were faced with yellow barricades and a contingent of police and paramilitary personnel.
Most of the protestors hailed from Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, and were involved in the sugarcane plantations which has been badly hit by high interest on farmers’ loans and an unabated increase in tariffs. Under the banner of Bharatiya Kisan Union, they have long since presented the government with a list of 11 demands, including lower diesel prices and electricity tariffs, loan waivers, timely payment for their harvest, and implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission. NCF’s report aims to create a system for food and nutrition security, sustainability in agriculture, enhancing the quality and cost competitiveness of agricultural commodities.
Naresh Tikait, the president of Bharatiya Kisan Union, informed the press that the government has accepted only seven of demands, but the protests will continue until the demands are met and farmers are allowed to enter the capital. A protestor spoke to Scroll from the site of protest, nursing his wounds and declaring, “Even if we have to bear bullets, we will wait till we can go to Delhi.”
Opposition parties have supported the farmers and strongly condemned the police action against them.
विश्व अहिंसा दिवस पर BJP का दो-वर्षीय गांधी जयंती समारोह शांतिपूर्वक दिल्ली आ रहे किसानों की बर्बर पिटाई से शुरू हुआ।
अब किसान देश की राजधानी आकर अपना दर्द भी नहीं सुना सकते! #KisanKrantiYatra
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) October 2, 2018
Preparations to block the agitators were in place from the previous day itself. The East Delhi deputy commissioner of police issued orders to impose Section 144 till October 8, to prohibit the assembly of more than four persons, citing a threat to law and order. The Delhi Police said in a statement that they had aimed the teargas and hot water cannons only at those farmers who tried to cross the barricades, pelted stones at the police and charged at them with sticks.
Even though BJP has granted most of the demands, critics are of the opinion that this would hardly be enough for them to regain the favour of farmers who form an enormous electorate. Earlier this year, there was a massive demonstration in Maharashtra organised by the All India Kisan Sabha, besides strong exhibitions of unity in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. As elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan draw nearer, the BJP might face larger difficulties in reigning in votes from the agricultural belt this year.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.