Farmers stir UP poll cauldron, give clarion call to uproot BJP in 2024 as well at Muzaffarnagar Mahapanchayat

Lakhs of farmers turned up at GIC ground; BKU leader Rakesh Tikait underlined it was no longer an issue of farmers but about saving the nation and the Constitution

Farmers stir UP poll cauldron, give clarion call to uproot BJP in 2024 as well at Muzaffarnagar Mahapanchayat

Ashlin Mathew & Tasleem Khan

It was just farmers as far as the eye could see. More than 2.5 lakh farmers had gathered at the Government Inter-College (GIC) grounds in Muzaffarnagar, just months before the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in 2022. One could not see the edge of the crowd even from atop the dais. The police had erected barricades around 4 km before the venue to stop vehicular traffic.

Farmers from various parts of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala had come. Tractors, buses, cars were difficult to count. The Mahapanchayat had been called by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a conglomerate of 500 farmers’ unions.

The GIC ground holds a significance in the 9-month long farmers’ agitation. It was from this ground that the agitation had got a new lease of life on January 26 this year after the Red Fort incident. The farmers of western Uttar Pradesh, cutting across castes and religion, had spontaneously poured in into this ground after Rakesh Tikait had cried helplessly at Delhi’s Ghazipur Border on seeing his movement crushed by the wily government.

From here, the farmers departed towards Delhi and by the morning it was a different sight altogether at the Delhi border. The movement, which thousands of farmers claim is the question of life and death for them, had been retrieved from the brink.

Farmers stir UP poll cauldron, give clarion call to uproot BJP in 2024 as well at Muzaffarnagar Mahapanchayat

On Sunday, again the GIC ground was teeming with people, thousands of them wielding green, yellow and red flags. It was a successful show of strength by the farmers. And it certainly rang alarm bells for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the coming UP Assembly polls.

The political overtone was hard to miss, though the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) had on Friday asked political parties to refrain from election campaigning, terming it an "anti-farmer conspiracy", ahead of its September 5 rally.

All the participating farmers slammed BJP governments’ policies and highlighted how they had broken their promises to the farmers and now they wanted this government removed.

The rally also laid to rest speculations about BKU spokesperson Rakesh Tikait’s influence in western Uttar Pradesh. The crowds erupted when he stood up to speak. Tikait too upped the ante by saying that it was no longer an issue of farmers but about saving the nation and its Constitution.

Projecting a unified face, Tikait said that in this country and in Muzaffarnagar, “we will raise both Allahu Akbar and Har Har Mahadev” slogans.

Farmers stir UP poll cauldron, give clarion call to uproot BJP in 2024 as well at Muzaffarnagar Mahapanchayat

In 2013, Muslim members of the Bharat Kisan Union led by founding member Ghulam Mohammad Jaula, had walked out after BKU chief Naresh Tikait had allegedly made an inflammatory speech with his brother, Rakesh, in attendance at the Mahapanchayat. Naresh Tikait has denied making such speeches.

Jaula and the senior Tikait had hugged and made up at another Mahapanchayat in 2020, a few days after Rakesh Tikait had made his teary appeal from Ghazipur border requesting farmers from Uttar Pradesh to join the protest.

Being the most prominent Muslim farmers’ leader in western UP, Jaula was seated on the dais. He did not address the gathering, though, he asserted that it was due to his frail health.

Tikait continued, “For nine months, we have been protesting, yet the PM hasn’t spoken a word to us. We are now here for Mission UP and Uttarakhand.” He added that the BJP-led Union government was selling all the national assets and in the end there will be nothing left.

He reminded all those gathered that the BJP had promised Rs 450 per quintal for sugarcane, but the Yogi Adityanath government hasn’t hiked the sugarcane rates. “When we demand a fair price for the crops from the government, they say we are playing politics,” pointed out Tikait.

SKM leader Darshan Pal called for the Bharat Bandh on September 27, and added that the next Mahapanchayat will be at Lucknow at a much bigger scale.

A young farmer at the Mahapanchayat said that with Rakesh Tikait announcing these slogans, it will be difficult for him to reverse it anymore.

Farmers stir UP poll cauldron, give clarion call to uproot BJP in 2024 as well at Muzaffarnagar Mahapanchayat

The firebrand president of BKU (Rajewal), Balbir Singh Rajewal remarked that they thought they wouldn’t play politics, but this government only understands votes. “We will teach them a lesson they understand. ‘Vote pe Chot’ (Attack their vote bank,” sloganeered Rajewal.

He highlighted that they have given the Haryana government until September 6 to reverse the transfer of Karnal SDM Aayush Sinha who had ordered the police to break the heads of the farmers. One of the protesting farmers had died due to the injuries sustained in the police attack.

Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav said that the government is looting the country and dividing people on religious line.

BKU(Chaduni) leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni from Haryana said politics is the essence of this movement. “Is there is Mission UP, then there should be Mission Punjab.” The state of Punjab also goes to election in February 2022.

One of the first speakers, farmer leader VP Singh reminded everyone that it was from here that BJP began its winning streak in 2013. “Now, we will reverse the mistake,” asserted Singh.

Agreeing with the farmer leaders were the farmers who had come from the neighbouring districts. “There is a wave against BJP. Most people are fed up of communalism. There are no jobs for your youngsters, our crops are not getting a good price. These are our worries,” said Mukesh Singh, a sugarcane farmer from Muzaffarnagar.

Samyukt Kisan Morcha farmer leader Ruldu Singh Mansa said the mission for 2022 has begun. “Even if Modi now withdraws the three farm laws, we will fight till 2024. All the issues - price rise, increasing cost of fuel and LPG - will not disappear. We are here for communal harmony,” Mansa stressed.

One of the youngest leaders of the movement, Abhimanyu Kohar said all those on the ground were not Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs or Christians. “We are all farmers and farm labourers. Our ‘achhe din’ will begin only when BJP is removed,” the 26-year-old asserted.

“This is a new type of actual movement. This is not just about trade unions or farmer unions, but there is a groundswell with a new political consciousness. People who are assembled here are questioning the entire system,” said professor Manjit Singh, who is also a social activist.

The enthusiasm of the farmers, especially the youngsters, is an alarm bell for the BJP that always attempts to discredit political opposition, but has not succeeded in discrediting the farmers’ agitation so far despite its best attempts.

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