Indian farmers marked the one-year anniversary of their successful protest against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's contentious farm laws on Friday, 26 November, with massive gatherings in Delhi, and other places.
Despite the repeal of the laws announced by PM Modi last week, farmers have announced that the protest will continue as several of their other demands have not been fulfilled yet.
The protest began with the "Dilli Chalo" program on November 26 last year. Since then, thousands of farmers have gathered at the borders of the capital New Delhi, in one of the biggest challenges for PM Modi since he came to power in 2014. The rollback of the laws comes just ahead of critical elections in states like Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
On November 19, 2021, Modi said, "[W]e have decided to repeal all three agricultural laws." The prime minister was referring to the three agriculture laws that were rushed through the parliament in 2020. During his speech to announce the rollback, Modi told the farmers that they "should return to [their] homes, fields and to [their] families. Let's make a fresh start." At no point did Modi admit that his government had passed laws that would negatively impact the farmers, who have spent a year protesting the laws thrust upon them.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SMK), the umbrella body of farmers' unions that is spearheading the protests, said in a statement:
"On November 26th 2021, the farm movement completed one year of its historic struggle with lakhs of farmers, joined by workers, youths, women and common citizens in nationwide programs. The day will forever be remembered as one of the greatest moments of a people's struggle in history. This day marked twelve long months of the farmers struggle, with numerous victories which seemed unlikely, and even impossible, with a will and determination to continue to fight for the unfulfilled demands of the farmers."
The farm movement stands as a testimony to the will of the common people to fight against an unrelenting government, and for a long time, will be remembered as an example of peaceful satyagraha inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian freedom movement," it added.
According to Dr. Ashok Dhawale, the national president of the All India Kisan Sabhaone of the key farmers' associationsand a leader of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), this is only the second time in the last seven years of his rule that Modi has been forced to make a humiliating climb down." "The first was in 2015, when he was forced to take back the Land Acquisition Act [of 2013], again as a result of a countrywide farmers' struggle."
Since Modi came to power in 2014, he has pushed an agenda to deliver Indian agriculture to the large corporate houses.
Why Modi Surrendered
Dr. Ashok Dhawale told Vijay Prashad chief editor of LeftWord Books that there are several reasons why Modi decided to repeal the three farm laws. The first has to do with the upcoming regional elections in the three key states that border India's capital, Delhi (Punjab, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh).
In recent months, the BJP saw its supporters dwindle in number during the by-elections that took place in the Indian states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Rajasthanin which the BJP did not perform well.
These six states in northern India where elections have either taken place or are scheduled to take place are in close proximity to Delhi and are the states from where many of the farmers joined the protests, which took place at Delhi's border. If the protests had continued, the leaders in the BJP felt that the party would see major attrition not only among the farmers and working class but also among sections of the middle class in India.
Between 1995 and 2018, 400,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide, 100,000 since Modi took office in 2014, Dhawale said. Their deaths are directly linked to the agrarian crisis in India produced by a combination of the withdrawal of state regulation and intervention on behalf of the farmers and the impact of the climate catastrophe.
Farmers know what they want, and they have said so clearly: price supports, loan waivers, withdrawal of electricity price hikes, repeal of the labor codes, subsidized costs of fuel, and so on. These issues, Dhawale said, "are at the root of the agrarian crisis and massive peasant indebtedness. They lead to farmer suicides and to distress sales of farmlands."
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