Farmers protesting the three new laws in Rohtak on July 13. (Manoj Dhaka/HT Photo)
Farmers protesting the three new laws in Rohtak on July 13. (Manoj Dhaka/HT Photo)

Protesting farmers to intensify stir in poll-bound UP

  • The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, the platform of farm unions leading the protests, has drawn up tailored plans to entrench their protests in the political bellwether state, where elections are due next year.
By Zia Haq, New Delhi
UPDATED ON AUG 01, 2021 01:06 AM IST

Farm unions protesting three agricultural laws enacted last year are pivoting towards poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, where they will organise a statewide movement against both the Union’s and the state government’s farm policies, leaders behind the agitation said.

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, the platform of farm unions leading the protests, has drawn up tailored plans to entrench their protests in the political bellwether state, where elections are due next year.

The farm unions, which are currently protesting in and around the national capital, will pitch their tents in various sites in Uttar Pradesh, similar to ones at sites along the boundary of Delhi such as Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri, according to leaders of the movement that was launched last November against the three contentious laws.

The Uttar Pradesh front will be led by the Bharatiya Kisan Union’s Rakesh Tikait. On July 26, Tikait and senior leaders of various farm unions that make up the umbrella Samyukt Kisan Morcha announced in Lucknow a programme to intensify the agitation in Tikait’s home state, Uttar Pradesh.

“We will have permanent sites of protests like in Singhu border. We will hold a series of ‘mahapanchyats’. We will kick off our campaign with a ‘mahapanchayat’ on September 5,” Tikait said.

The farm unions will not just demand the scrapping of the three agricultural laws, but also go into issues related to farmers in UP, a large producer of wheat, rice and sugarcane.

“Uttar Pradesh had promised to procure every grain of wheat and rice. But figures for procurement till July 16 are available. The state produced nearly 30 million tonne of wheat. Only about 6.2 million tonne or just about than 18% of it was procured,” said Yogendra Yadav, a key leader behind the protests.

Under Tikait, the farm unions hope to propel their protests in Uttar Pradesh, giving it the shape of a regional uprising. The unions will have permanent protests in Lucknow, aside from various places in western Uttar Pradesh. Tikait has built a groundswell of support for the agitation by raising local farm issues such as the problems of pending payment from millers to sugarcane growers, aside from the larger demand of scrapping the farm laws.

The Tikaits belong to the Baliyan khap, a dominant clan among the Jat agrarian community in western UP, most of which is made up of sugarcane growers. They voted overwhelmingly for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, and the 2017 assembly elections.

He has already organised some major mahapanchayats in western UP, a sugarcane growing belt. Politicians from the Rashtriya Lok Dal and Samajwadi Party have attended these mahapanchayats or rural gatherings in Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Mathura, Baghpat and Shamli, all in western UP. This belt was the “ground zero” of the deadly Jat-Muslim clashes in 2013.

“Mahapanchayats have different connotations in rural settings of UP. People have great reverence for these gatherings where village elders often give their edicts,” said Sudhir Panwar, a professor of Lucknow University.

The glue for farmers in western Uttar Pradesh is an age-old problem of sugarcane farmers: pending dues from millers. “The government must ensure that all sugarcane arrears are paid...,” Tikait said.

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