Sending a strong message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, the suspension of activities across India in a peaceful ten-hour protest (also known in the Asian country as Bharat Bandh) marked ten months of Indian farmers’ movement against three laws agricultural. In several states, protesters blockaded highways and railways, holding demonstrations and rallies in support of farmers.
The call for the bandh was made by Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella organization for more than 40 agricultural unions. The acts were supported by most parties not affiliated with Bhratiya Janata (or BJP, Modi’s party), as well as trade union organizations, workers’ federations, students, youth, women’s organizations, the Indian diaspora and even states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab, all governed by parties other than the BJP.
“The response to the summons to the bandh was more widespread than previous ones… It was unprecedented and historic,” SKM said in a statement, adding that “the people of India were tired of the irreducible, foolish and selfish government positions of Modi in relation to the legitimate demands of farmers who are protesting.”
The SKM also said that the bandh was sadly marred by the deaths of three farmers and stated that “more details are being gathered”.
Punjab and Haryana: almost total closure
There was an almost complete closure of activities in the state of Punjab, with transport services being suspended, and shops, commercial establishments and educational institutions, as well as most places, remained closed during the bandh.
In several districts, state and national highways were blocked by protesters, such as highways in Amritsar, Rupnagar, Jlandhar, Pathankot, Sangrur, Mohali, Ludhiana, Ferozepur and Bathinda.
In the state of Haryana, the bandh also gained good adherence in many places where shops, educational institutions, commercial establishments and “mandis” kept their doors closed.
However, the acts failed in trying to rally support in Chandigarh, a city that is the joint capital of the states of Haryana and Punjab and where life continued to be normal.
In several places in the aforementioned Indian states, protesters used their tractors to block roads. They also carried out acts brandishing slogans against the central government and demanding the repeal of agricultural laws.
Farmers occupied the railroad tracks of many places in both states, including Shahbad near Kurukshetra; Sonipat; Bahadurgarh; Charkhi Dadri; Jind, Hisar; Amritsar; Patiala; Barnala and Lalru, near Derabassi.
Expressing solidarity with protesting farmers, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi called on the central government to repeal the three “anti-farmers” laws, while the head of the state Congress, Navjot Singh Sidhu, said the PPCC supports firmly calling the agricultural unions for the “Bharat Bandh” .
Most grain markets in Ambala district, wholesale fabric market, Sarafa Bazaar [conhecido mercado de joias no período diurno, e praça de alimentação no período noturno], educational institutions and several commercial establishments remained closed.
Shops also remained closed elsewhere in Haryana, including Karnal, Kurukshetra, Rohtak, Sonipat and Sirsa districts.
Support for farmers increases among members of Parliament
Bharat Bandh gained massive support in Madhya Pradesh, which had not occurred before.
Markets remained closed from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm in the districts of Gwalior-Chambal, Malwa-Nimar, Vidhya region and districts adjacent to the state capital Bhopal, including Raisen, Vidisha and Sehore.
However, Bharat Bandh did not have a significant impact on the commercial routine and activities in Bhopal and Indore, the latter commercial hub. Overall, the bandh was peaceful in Madhya Pradesh, said SKM state coordinator Badal Saroj.
The bandh got a big boost after Congress extended its full support to Protestants, and many senior Congressional leaders took to the streets.
Read more: India: dossier reveals roots of the biggest agrarian uprising in recent world history
Former Indian Chief Minister and Member of Parliament (known as Rajya Sabha), Digvijay Singh, along with members of other political parties and agricultural leaders, protested at Karondh Krishi Upaj Mandi in Bhopal for nearly two hours.
In an event attended by more than 400 people, Singh said, “Even during British rule, when farmers were forced to pay the Lagaan, they were allowed to go to court, which is now prohibited by the Modi government under the three agricultural laws . These laws are not only against farmers, but also against consumers, as the tax on cooking oil has increased by almost 5%, which will generate profits for companies.”
In Tamil Nadu, farmers and workers block roads and railways
P. Shanmugam, secretary general of the AIKS (India Kisan Sabha) unit in Tamil Nadu state, said: “The BJP government continues to betray farmers by refusing to withdraw the three draconian farm laws. farmers into a deep crisis.”
“The central government is removing food grains, cooking oil, onions and salt from the list of essential commodities. The BJP government is trying to help accumulators through this type of measure and making citizens pay more for basic items,” Shanmugan added.
Read more: In India, 1 million workers went on strike against bank privatization
Last September 17th marked a year since the approval in the Indian Parliament of the disputed agricultural bills proposed by Narendra Modi’s government. Within ten days, the PL’s became acts after presidential approval.
The three laws are: the Agricultural Products Trade Act (Promotion and Facilitation); the Farmers’ Agreement for Price Guarantee and Agricultural Services Law (Empowerment and Protection); and the Essential Products Act (Amendment). All are from 2020.
Together, these three laws pave the way for corporate entry into the production, marketing, storage and even pricing of agricultural products. Farmers fear that powerful corporate entities might even gain control of their land. It is also feared that the current price support system [subsídios, cotas de produção ou controle de preços] dilute and become meaningless after these laws come into force.
Edition: Thales Schmidt