Maharashtra farmers reach Mumbai to protest at Azad Maidan
Travelling for more than 200km over the past two days, thousands of farmers from across Maharashtra reached Mumbai on Sunday evening for an agitation against the contentious three farm laws and in solidarity with farmers protesting at the Delhi borders. The farmers have announced a morcha to Raj Bhavan after a public meeting at Azad Maidan on Monday.
Ruling parties – the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress – and other political parties, including Aam Aadmi Party and communist parties, have announced their support to the agitation. Key leaders namely NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray and state Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat are likely to join the sit-in protest at Azad Maidan on Monday. This is a part of agitation being undertaken under the banner of Samyukt Shetkari Kamgar Morcha (SSKM), which aims to intensify the farmers’ struggle in capital cities across all the states. Many social and political outfits and labour unions have joined hands under SSKM to support the protest.
The farmers who started their vehicle march from Nashik on Saturday and took a break at Igatpuri at night had to face many traffic jams to reach Azad Maidan in Mumbai. According to the organisers, farmers from as many as 21 districts have joined the march from Nashik. Many even walked down the Eastern Express Highway to reach Azad Maidan.
Although the SSKM has announced its morcha from Azad Maidan to Raj Bhavan on Monday, the police department is unlikely to allow them to step them out of Azad Maidan to march towards Raj Bhavan. After the morcha, the organisers have planned to hand over the memorandum demanding the repeal of these laws to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. “Our main demand is to completely repeal these farm laws and enact a law guaranteeing Minimum Support Prices (MSP) across the country along with the withdrawal of Electricity amendment bill,” said Ashok Dhawale, convenor, SSKM. He said the agitation will conclude with the hoisting of the national flag on January 26.
“We are not giving permissions as it is Covid-19 period,” said senior police official of the Azad Maidan police station who declined to come on record. There are indications that rally will be allowed till Metro Cinema only. The police have stepped up security at Azad Maidan. “We will deploy extra support in the form of 100 officers and 500 police constables who will be present to maintain the law and order situation. Nine platoons of SRPF have been provided and drones will keep a watch,” said Mumbai spokesperson and deputy commissioner of police S Chaitanya.
In Thane, the Shiv Sena unit led by state urban development minister and leader Eknath Shinde organised refreshments and medical check-ups for farmers. Sikh community has organised a langar for the farmers for all three days at Azad Maidan. Ajit Nawale, convenor, SSKM, said the proposed morcha was a message to the Central government. “This will be the message to the Central Government that urban population has joined hands with the farmers to oppose the laws and they need to withdraw it,” said Nawale. He said even after January 26, the agitation will continue. “We will decide on the future of the agitation and will agitate till our demands are met.”
Rajesh Pinjarkar, who owns three acres in Chandrapur, called it a conspiracy. “We might get good price in the beginning but after that they will take over our land and make us contract workers there,” said Pinjarkar. Leelatai Valvi, who travelled from Nandurbar for 17 hours to come to Mumbai, said the whole aim of these laws was to enslave them. “These are black laws meant to snatch our livelihood and hand over our land to multinational companies,” said Valvi.
Recently, labour unions marched in south Mumbai and held a rally in Azad Maidan in favour of the farmers. Prominent farmer leader Raju Shetti and social activist Medha Patkar had addressed the rally.