Kolkata: The future of the farmers who are on dharna around Delhi for more than a hundred days and the honour of martyred participants in the movement now rest on voters of Bengal. If BJP manages to bag Bengal, the Narendra Modi government will trumpet it as the state’s support to its pro-corporate farm laws. So please don’t vote for BJP in the coming assembly polls.
This is the crux of the appeal of the farmer leaders from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa while they were addressing a rally organised by an independent ‘No vote to BJP’ campaign in Kolkata on Wednesday. More than 10 representatives of various factions of Bharatiya Kisan Union joined the colorful procession of students and youth as well as many rural people, from far and near districts. The rally, organised by a forum called ‘Bengal against fascist BJP’, had begun at Ram Lila Maidan and ended at the downtown Dharmatala. It included many women and children.
Farmer leaders from Singhu, Tikri and Gazipur border have started landing in Kolkata before addressing open-air rallies Nandigram & Singur, both epicenters of peasant movements before Mamata Banerjee came to power and in Asansol, the industrial hub with a huge upcountry population in the coming days. Tamil Nadu, Kerala as well as Bengal’s neighbouring Assam are also going to the polls. But the BJP’s no holds barred Bengal offensive has attracted national attention.
The leaders of Sanyukt Kisan Morcha which is spearheading the farmers’ movement in Delhi have decided to reach out to the voters in poll-bound states as Prime Minister Modi has refused to roll back his hastily passed three farm laws. Farmers widely perceive these laws as a three-layered license to Modi’s crony corporate groups to monopolise agriculture and agri-business at the cost of farmers’ minimum price security as well as poor and middle-class consumers of essential food products.
Rekindle the bond between Bhagat Singh and Jatin Das
“Modi runs a cruel, insensitive and stubborn regime that only cares for loyal capitalists like Ambanis and Adanis. The PM has not bothered to send a condolence message to the families of more than 300 farmers who have lost their lives during this prolonged agitation since November. It is our earnest appeal to Bengal friends to give Modi a befitting reply over this insult and arrogance,” Abhimanyu Kohar from Sanyukta Kishan Morcha, Haryana said amid cheers from the audience.
Raminder Singh from Punjab reminded the bond between Bengal and Punjab since the early phases of India’s freedom struggle. He highlighted the camaraderie between anti-British revolutionaries of the two states from the days of Rash Behari Basu and Ghadar party in Punjab and later generation of Bhagat Singh, Jatin Das and the Indian National Army of Netaji Subhas Bose. Student and youth activists waved flags and festoons with images of Bhagat Singh and his Bengal Comrades embossed on them.
Mocking Modi for his promise to turn Bengal into ‘Sonar Bangla’, the Punjab farmer leader recalled the BJP mascot’s false assurances during his poll campaigns in 2014 and 2019 had that included the direct transfer of shares of black money recovered from foreign banks and cores of jobs for unemployed youth.
“Now he is busy selling off public properties from railways to airports, banks to insurance companies. He is hellbent on killing Sonar Punjab. Please don’t get hooked on Modi’s jumlabaji (empty rhetoric) anymore in Bengal,” Singh said in a caution to the local voters.
Bengal and the rest of the country will suffer if Modi succeeds
Other farmer leaders mentioned the series of pro-corporate legal moves by the Centre including so-called labor laws reforms, major dilutions in the environmental impact assessment act since the Covid Lockdown. They linked the soaring fuel prices and costlier foodgrains to these anti-people moves. Exhorting Bengal voters not to allow Modi to ‘extinguish the flame of farmers’ movement they warned that it would seal the fate of toiling people’s struggles in other states too.
A huge banner in Bengali at the meeting site too exhorted: Save agriculture, farmers as well as forests and environment from the company Raj. It also called to save the constitution and Indian democracy in the wake of concerted attacks on fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution including the right to free expression and assembly.
Other festoons and posters decried the violation of basic constitutional tenets including secularism and equality before law through the imposition of religion-based citizenship by the passage of the anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register for Citizens (NRC) project.
Remember what happened to Bengalis in Assam and Tripura
Dipankar Bhattacharya, general secretary of the CPIML delved into the import of the anti-BJP campaign in the next two months. Bengal poll begins on 27 March and ends on 29th April. The results will come out on 2 May. In between, he said, hold high the revolutionary heritage of Bhagat Singh and constitutional cornerstones laid down by Baba Saheb Ambedkar (their birth anniversaries on 23 March and 14 April respectively) and tenets of International Workers movement on May Day (1 May).
Referring to the plight of around 20 lacs people, mostly Bengalis, who have been disenfranchised during the Assam NRC exercise, Bhattacharya reminded the BJP’s threat to expel one to two crore Bengali-speaking people from Bengal by labelling them as Bangladeshi infiltrators.
Kasturi Basu, one of the organisers also warned of Modi’s call for a ‘double engine government’ in Bengal; a euphemism for saffron rule both at the centre and the state. “Please remember that the double engine governments have brought disaster to the lives of millions of Bengalis both in Assam and Tripura. Had there been no Brahminical BJP rule at the Centre and UP simultaneously, the raped and murdered Dalit girls in Unnao and Hathras could have saved themselves,” she said.
No relation with TMC and Left-Congress alliance
The organisers had to deal with the angularities among the anti- BJP political parties in Bengal, mainly between the incumbent Trinamool Congress regime and CPIM-led Left Front-Congress- Indian Secular Front Alliance. These two camps are at the loggerheads making Bengal a ground for a tri-corner battle. The TMC has welcomed the No Vote to BJP campaign while the CPIM supporters have accused the campaign of siding with TMC. Many others close to the campaign felt that a call to voters to cast for the most potent anti-BJP candidates in their constituencies would have cleared the air.
However, Kushal Debnath, one of the main organizers said that they were leaving to the people’s choices. “We are not asking to vote for any particular anti-BJP party or alliance. Voters are free to make their choices according to their judgments and experiences,” he said.
Clarifying further, Debnath added, “All these parties represent the ruling classes. But there is a qualitative difference between the fascist economics and politics of the BJP government and authoritarian or autocratic rules by other parties.”