New farm laws slammed at farmers’ convention in Mumbai; Governor skips meeting with delegation

Published : January 27, 2021 08:37 IST

All India Kisan Sabha national president Ashok Dhawale, one of the main convenors of the protest at the Azad Maidan. Photo: All India Kisan Sabha

Around 15,000 farmers, activists and workers participated in the Mahapadav, in solidarity with the farmers protesting on the outskirts of Delhi. Photo: All India Kisan Sabha

Sharad Pawar, Nationalist Congress Party chief, addressing the gathering at the Azad Maidan. Photo: All India Kisan Sabha

Close to 15,000 farmers from 21 districts of Maharashtra have made their way to Mumbai to protest against the Centre’s contentious new farm laws. The three-day Mahapadav at the Azad Maidan concluded on Republic Day. Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari skipped his scheduled meeting with a farmers’ delegation that wanted to present a charter of demands. Koshyari had left for Goa.

The All India Kisan Sabha’s (AIKS) national president, Ashok Dhawale, said: “On learning that Governor Koshyari, in spite of having given an appointment to the Samyukta Shetkari Kamgar Morcha [SSKM] delegation, had left for Goa, the people got angry. A unanimous decision was taken to publicly tear up the memorandum prepared for him. The public meeting then dispersed amidst great enthusiasm with the resolve to broaden and intensify the struggle against the farm laws and the labour codes and for a Minimum Support Price [MSP] law.”

The rally, organised jointly by over 100 different organisations of peasants, workers, agricultural labourers, women, youth, students, and social organisations, was held under the banner of the SSKM. Dhawale said the rally was particularly significant because of its political representation. “It was the first time after many years in Maharashtra that all political and social forces opposed to the BJP came on one platform.” 

Among the noted speakers was Sharad Pawar, Nationalist Congress Party chief and former Maharashtra Chief Minister (also former Union Agriculture Minister).  He lashed out at the Centre: “Has the Prime Minister even asked about the farmers who have been camping in the cold and rain for more than two months. Is Punjab Pakistan? Punjabis fought for our freedom. Is this the way to treat them ... They are our people and I condemn the way this Government is reacting to the issue.”

On Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Pawar said: “I have never seen a Governor behave like this. He has the time to meet Kangana [Ranaut] but not farmers. It was the moral responsibility of the Governor to come here and meet you.”     

In a statement to the media, the AIKS said: “All the speakers flayed the Modi Government for its pro-corporate farm laws and labour codes, and came down heavily on the BJP Government's crony capitalist connections with the Ambanis and the Adanis. Many leaders called for intensifying the boycott of their products and services. They also demanded a law guaranteeing a remunerative MSP and procurement.”

“We will continue our fight. This government has no regard for farmers and is not interested in us. We have to make them interested.” said a farmer at the protest. Mumbai thus witnessed scenes reminiscent of the long march in early 2018 that thousands of farmers had undertaken from Nashik to Mumbai. Waving red flags and carrying protest banners, they had trooped down the Kasara Ghat, snaking through the highway leading to Mumbai.

At the ground, sanitizers were distributed and attempts were made at social distancing.  Given the numbers, it was hard for the organisers to ensure COVID 19 safety protocols. Mask-wearing, however, was observed by all.

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