By Asia Samachar Team | INDIA |
Panjab witnessed its first first ever mahapanchayat as farmers up the ante in their battle against an unrelenting federal government to repeal three agriculture laws passed late last year.
Estimates of the people attending the event at the Grain Market at Jagroan ranged from 20,000 to 50,000.
Mahapanchayat is not a common scene in the Indian state of Panjab. Hence, today’s (Feb 11) gathering should mark yet another seismic shift on the ground support for the farmers cause.
Since Nov 26, the action has been focussed on protests at the multiple Delhi borders.
“This (mahapanchayat) usually happens in Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and other Jat belt areas, but never ever in Panjab,” an editor of a Panjabi newspaper told Asia Samachar. “The religious fringe is not finding foothold despite trying very hard. The same with politicians. None of them were on the stage.”
A mahapanchayat is a congregation of people from several neighbouring areas, led by local leaders in rural areas, explains Free Press Journal.
A panchayat is a village council to which elections are held routinely, and the leader is often called the mukhiya or sarpanch.
A massive mahapanchayat took place in Haryana, the state neighbouring Panjab.
In his speech at that gathering, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait warned the BJP-led federal government could face an exit at the next polls.
“We have so far talked about “bill wapsi” (repealing the farm laws). The government should listen carefully. What will you do if the youth call for “gaddi wapsi” (removal from power)?” he said, as quoted in the FPJ report.
The farmers are demanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi to repeal the three laws which they deem promotes the interests of large corporations at the expense of farmers.
The in-going mahapanchayats are mainly led by farmer leaders.
The Jagroan event today was attended by various leaders from the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) – which literally means Joint Farmers Front – which bands together over 40 Indian farmers unions formed in November 2020 to coordinate the farmers’ movement against the three farm laws.
Among them were Balbir Singh Rajewal, Surat Singh Dharamkot, Kulwant Singh Sandhu, Manjit Dhaner, Nirbhai Singh Dhudike and Harinder Singh Lakhowal.
On Feb 10, Rajewal told the gathering at the Kundali Singhu border that he farmers’ call for a ‘chakka jam’ on Sarutday (Feb 6) protest saw its observance at more than 3,000 spots nationwide.
Farmers’ unions had given a call for a three-hour nationwide ‘chakka jam’ protest, from 12pm to 3 pm, during which the protestors would block key roads to protest against the central government’s new farm laws.
“Modi may still view this as a Panjab and Haryana (driven) affairs, but it is a nationwide movement….We have farmers from the entire country. Some 2000 farmers walked to here from Maharashtra. Kerala, too. Some 1,000 walked all the way from Udissa. For them to walk all the way tells us what this morcha means to them,” he said.
“Outwardly, (Modi’s) government is behaving as though nothing is happening. But let me tell you. Internally, they are shaken.”
In the past 11 meeting between farmer unon representatives and ministers, he said they have gone through the laws and pointed out, clause by clause, all the flaws. “When the entire laws are flawed, what is the need to amend them. What need is there for the laws,” he said.
“This is the world’s largest movement. I’ve been saying this from the start, and I say it again: As long as the movement stays peaceful, victory will be yours. If you allow violence (hinsaa), then you will lose, Modi will win.” (Updated)
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