Indian PM Narendra Modi has today announced that the BJP Government will repeal three highly controversial farming laws which prompted unrest throughout the country and with the Indian community throughout the world.
As part of these protests we saw what is most likely the world’s largest strikes last year, where around a quarter of a billion participated in the general strike called for by major trade unions. In response, the Indian Government sent in police with tear gas and water cannons to deter the steadfast protestors outraged at the overt repression of workers and farmers throughout the country.
The three black laws aimed to further reduce workers power and ownership, transferring more power over to foreign and domestic corporations in the name of the free market. The laws loosened many of the rules around farm produce that have protected India’s farmers from the free market for decades. It also sought to reduce the power of government-controlled wholesale markets or mandis where farmers were guaranteed a minimum price. Most worryingly, the laws would have allowed private buyers to hoard food for future sales, restricting supply to push up prices whilst condemning ordinary many ordinary Indians to starvation and malnutrition.
The result today is made even more significant for the 20 million Sikhs in India who are celebrating Guru Nanak’s birthday. It makes for very different Guru Purab celebrations from last year where hundreds of thousands of farmers across India marked the Sikh festival at protest sites around the country.
The Government’s U-Turn represents a massive victory for farmers, many of whom have been striking for more than a year. However, protesting farmers have said that protests will not end until Modi’s government actually enacts the repeal of these laws. They are right to do so, Modi already promised to repeal the laws in February, but this never came and farmers have remained in place ever since.
The Politbureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), who has been a key supporter throughout the protests, said: “An obdurate PM and his government were forced to bend. Yet Modi continues to justify these black laws blaming a section of farmers being misled. There is no remorse expressed at the deaths of our farmers or the attacks against them.
More than 750 farmers have been martyred in this struggle. They faced hostility from the BJP administration with military type roadblocks, threats, intimidations and murderous physical attacks. Strict action must be taken against all such people who have indulged in these activities.”
Many have argued that the announcement today is only a result of upcoming elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh in the early New-Year. Both states are dominated by agriculture and have been the site of major protests over the last year. The BJP remain highly unpopular in Punjab but were the largest party in Uttar Pradesh in the last election. Last month, another eight people were murdered in Uttar Pradesh and there are serious worries about the elections. Farming leaders such as Darshan Pal of the Krantikari Kisan Union, disputed the argument that this was an electoral decision and said the victory was “due to the unity of farmers, their continuous struggle and I congratulate the farming community for their unity, their struggle that they have finally won”.
In a country as divided as India, it is particularly inspiring that farmers from across the country have worked together with such unity. More than inspiring, it highlights that the working masses have the power to take back control if they stand together. Indian workers and farmers did not allow themselves to be divided by the BJP Government, and we cannot allow ourselves in Britain to be distracted and divided by similar attempts if we ever wish to win popular power.
In the face of severe intimidation from the media, the police and right wing gangs, Indian farmers have won today, but their fight is not over, and will not be over when Modi capitulates and these laws are repealed in parliament. This is merely the first step in defeating the BJP and bringing an end to the system that attempts to keep us all down.
YCL International Secretary, Pierre Marshall, said “This climbdown on behalf of the Modi government is not the product of electoral manoeuvres, nor is it a ‘natural’ symptom of agrarian modernisation. This victory was hard won by political struggle, carried forwards by the popular masses, and supported by the left.“
“With all our hearts we congratulate the Indian farmers.“
“Kisan Mazdoor Ekta Zindabad!”.
The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) has said:
“We will have to remain vigilant and wait for the repeal of the Acts in Parliament. If the Prime Minister believes that his announcement will put an end to the farmers’ struggle he is grossly mistaken. The struggle will continue till an Act to ensure remunerative MSP is passed, the Electricity Amendments Bill and Labour Codes are withdrawn. It will continue until the killers of Lakhimpur Kheri and Karnal are brought to justice. This victory will spur many more united struggles and we shall hand down many more defeats to the anti-farmer, anti-worker BJP while building resistance to neoliberal economic policies.”
Red Salute to all the Indian Farmers who have won these reforms and to the 750 martyrs murdered by the fascistic BJP State unable to see this victory through to the end! Zindabad!
Peter Stoddart, is a member of the YCL’s Glasgow branch