Lessons from Sikar: a passionate, disciplined and successful Agitation
On the 12th of September, the farmers in Rajasthan succeeded in making the government surrender to their key demands. Their victory was achieved by a non-violent protest that drew popular support from all sections of society. The farmers in the Sikar district of Rajasthan had started this struggle in the middle of July under the banner of All-India Kisan Sabha, an organization associated with the CPI(M). The farmers had a list of 11 demands which they wanted the government to accept. These demands included a complete loan waiver, lifting of restrictions on the cattle trade, implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission report, as well as protection of minorities and Dalits. After a continuous, peaceful and disciplined agitation that lasted for 13 days in Sikar town, the government surrendered. There is a great deal to learn from this successful movement by the farmers.
In past decade, the northern belt of India has seen some major protests. From the Gurjar Andolan in 2008 to the movement for the reservations for Jats in 2016, this area has a history of unsuccessful protests. All of these protests either turned violent or after the first few days of initial enthusiasm got over, the protests died too. There is also the issue of some of these protests narrowed by their own vision, seeking benefits for one community or the other rather than for society at large. In the case of Jat protests in 2016, the protests became violent and lost focus. The protests lacked a proper planning, and in some ways, they were scattered. The violence that took place scared the locals, and the whole movement faced opposition from many caste groups in Haryana. On the other hand, in Sikar district, the All-India Kisan Sabha has mobilized a large number of people for its agitation. It was this popular dimension of the struggle that forced the government to give in to their demands.
The success of the Sikar uprising raises an important question for those involved in social change: how was the All-India Kisan Sabha able to achieve this momentum, win popular support and then force the government to accede to its demands? This movement should be studied so that farmers and other groups who have been protesting for their rights can replicate the success of the campaign. The All-India Kisan Sabha has been involved in such actions and movements for the past forty years. We have so few good studies of its work. More is needed. We hope scholars will take the time to document the methods of the All-India Kisan Sabha in successful struggles such as at Sikar.
In this agitation, the Kisan Sabha demonstrated how to organize a struggle. The Kisan Sabha leaders – Amra Ram (the President), Pema Ram and others – had the pulse of the people because they are of the people. Neha Mishra, who covered this agitation for the Newsclick.In, shared her interaction with the locals. She writes,
"The leaders had lived with the other protesters day and night, eating with them, being a part of their struggles and lives. Everyone had a personal story about them, of how well they knew them. It is quite difficult to bring out in words, the love that people had for the Kisan Sabha and its leaders."
Amra Ram, Pema Ram and others led by example. Even when they were in Jaipur for the negotiations with the government, local leaders made sure that the movement remained peaceful and on track. When the protests started in mid-July, only a few Kisan Sabha leaders and farmer activists joined the agitation. In a matter of a few weeks, the protests spread through the whole district. The leaders of the Kisan Sabha went around the villages of Sikar district to convince people to join their cause. As the demands drafted by the All-India Kisan Sabha concerned almost all sections of the society, the movement soon had a mass appeal; both men and women joined in high numbers. They faced a real challenge in Sikar town. But, even there they got the support of the locals.
Around 50 unions marched in solidarity with the farmers. The local media covered and supported the agitation. This mass support was achieved because the people involved in the agitation displayed excellent order. In contrast to other movements in North India, no violence marred this agitation. Protest songs and passionate speeches defined the struggle. It was because of their spirit and passion that the people of Sikar town joined the rural agitation. In a separate article, which must be read by all, Neha Mishra reported on the chronology of the events in the movement in Sikar. This article illustrates how the agitation by the farmers, led by the All-India Kisan Sabha, was able to win the support of people from all sections of society.
The left organizations have been at the forefront of numerous such movements this year. The All-India Kisan Sabha had a role to play in the farmers' struggle in Maharashtra and Mandsaur. Vijoo Krishnan, the joint secretary of the All-India Kisan Sabha, writes that the farmers’ protests have provided the basis to build a broad consensus for a struggle against the policies that have caused agrarian distress and the loot of forests, land, and resources. The Kisan Mukti Yatra has already been through several states and will culminate in a Kisan March to Parliament on November 20th. At a time when the anti-people economic policies of the government are destroying the livelihoods of workers and peasants, the red flags are out in the streets with other visions of India in mind.
These movements rarely find any space in the mainstream media platforms. Instead, the political pundits love to talk about how the left has lost its ground; The TV channels, which work as the hired propagandists for the central government, keep on trying to malign the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala as well as trying to hound left-oriented student organizations. Their narrative is designed to take the attention away from the failed governance model of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government.
In such times, it is important to hold governments accountable for what they had promised in their manifestos. The successful agitation, both in Sikar and Maharashtra, are important because farmers have defeated the BJP-led governments. In Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP is in the government, farmers were shamelessly mocked by the Yogi Adityanath government by giving a loan waiver in the range of 1 paisa to 10 rupees against a loan of 1 lakh rupees. No such mockery was allowed in Rajasthan by the farmers. They fought to get their eleven points accepted by the government - and they did.
Image Credits: Newsclick.in