Indian Farmers Lead Country-Wide Shutdown

On Monday, September 27, a day-long peaceful country-wide shutdown was organized in India to mark 10 months of the farmers’ agitation. The shutdown lasted from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. and was called for by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella organization of around 40 farmers’ unions. They were backed by a number of trade unions and political parties.

The farmers have been demanding that the government at the center, led by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), repeal the three agriculture laws enacted on September 27 last year. The contentious laws, farmers argue, will allow for the increased role of corporates in agriculture besides driving down the price for their produce.

These, however, are not the only demands the farmers have. Over the course of the 10-month agitation, they have taken up wide-ranging issues afflicting the common people of India. The increase in fuel prices, inflation, unemployment and crackdowns on dissenters are some of the issues they have highlighted.

A wide section of the society came out in support and suspended work for the day. It was backed by a majority of opposition parties, trade unions, employee federations, student, youth and women organizations. Some non-BJP State governments, such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab, lent their support to the shutdown.

Reports of protests, demonstrations, highway and rail blockades by farmers, backed by other sections of society, came from several states through the day. Emergency services, such as ambulances, were not being stopped, the farmer unions said.

The last round of talks between the farmers and the right-wing government at the center was held in January when it unceremoniously came to an end. The government has refused to engage with the SKM, going as far as painting them enemies of the country.

The government then had offered to suspend the law for 18 months, till the dispute is resolved. Farmers’ unions rejected the proposal saying they will not call off the agitation until the three laws are repealed.

SKM highlighted that the overall mood across the country is anger and frustration with the Modi government’s policies which it is enforcing by curbing basic freedoms and democracy and consequently, putting most citizens on the path of struggle for survival. “It is patently clear that the people of India are tired of Modi government’s adamant, unreasonable and egoistic stand on protesting farmers’ legitimate demands, and anti-people policies in numerous sectors”, said SKM.

Opposition parties, including the Communist Party of India (Marxist), hailed the successful shutdown.

(Peoples Dispatch)

Bharat Bandh: 10 Hours That Could Shake Modi Govt, as Support for Farmers Gets ‘Bigger, Wider’

Monday’s countrywide strike call by SKM saw road, rail blockades, protests and sit-ins in several states, with most Opposition parties and more sections of the society joining in.

New Delhi: Sending a strong message to the Narendra Modi government, the 10-hour peaceful countrywide shutdown or Bharat Bandh to mark 10 months of the farmers’ movement against the three farm laws, saw protesters across sections blocking highways, rail tracks, holding protests and demonstrations in several state in support of farmers.

The bandh call was given by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of over 40 farmer unions, and was backed by a majority of non- Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parties, trade unions, employee federations, student, youth and women organisations, Indian diaspora  and even some non-BJP state governments, such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab.

“The response to the bandh call was more widespread than before…It was unprecedented and historic,” said the SKM in a statement, adding that “the people of India were tired of the Modi government’s adamant, unreasonable and egoistic stand on the protesting farmers’ legitimate demands.”

SKM also said the bandh was unfortunately marked by the death of three farmers and “more details were being collected.”

Punjab & Haryana: Almost Complete Shutdown
There was an almost shutdown in Punjab with transport services staying suspended and shops, commercial establishments and educational institutions remaining shut at most places during the bandh.

National and state highways in several districts, including Amritsar, Rupnagar, Jalandhar, Pathankot, Sangrur, Mohali, Ludhiana, Ferozepur, Bathinda, were blocked by the protesters.

in neighbouring Haryana too, the bandh evoked a good response at many places where shops, educational institutions, commercial establishments and ‘mandis’ remained shut.

The protesters blocked national highways in Sirsa, Fatehabad, Kurukshetra, Panipat, Hisar, Charkhi Dadri, Karnal, Kaithal, Rohtak, Jhajjar and Panchkula districts.

The bandh, however, failed to evoke much response in Chandigarh, which is the common capital of the two states and where life remained normal.

At many places in Punjab and Haryana, protesting farmers used their tractor trollies to block the roads. Farmers also staged protest demonstrations raising slogans against the Union government demanding repeal of farm laws.

The protesters also squatted on railway tracks at many places in the two states. However, in view of the inconvenience faced by passengers, some farmers and other volunteers organised ‘langars’ serving food to them at Karnal, Patiala and few other places.

Ferozepur’s Divisional Railway Manager Seema Sharma told PTI that some passenger trains had been cancelled while some other services had been rescheduled.

Farmers squatted on railway tracks at many places in the two states, including at Shahbad near Kurukshetra, Sonipat, Bahadurgarh, Charkhi Dadri, Jind, Hisar, Amritsar, Patiala, Barnala and Lalru near Derabassi.

Expressing solidarity with the protesting farmers, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi urged the Centre to repeal the three “anti-farmer” laws while state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu said the PPCC firmly stands by the farmer unions’ “Bharat Bandh” call.

Hundreds of farmers blocked the Ambala-Delhi National Highway. They put barricades on roads leading to the Shambhu border near Ambala and squatted in the middle of the road. The traffic towards Delhi was diverted to alternative routes.

Protesters also blocked Hisar-Delhi, Jind-Patiala, Jalandhar-Pathankot, Chandigarh-Ambala, Zirakpur-Patiala and several other national highways.

Most of the grain markets of Ambala district, the wholesale cloth market, Sarafa Bazaar, educational institutions and several commercial establishments remained closed.

Shops also remained shut at some other places in Haryana, including in Karnal, Kurukshetra, Rohtak, Sonipat and Sirsa districts.

MP: Support Grows for Farmers
Bhopal:  The Bharat Bandh called by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), a coalition of 40 farmers’ unions, to mark the first anniversary of the enactment of the three farm laws, got massive support in Madhya Pradesh which was missing previously.

Markets remain closed from 9 am to 2 pm in districts of Gwalior-Chambal, Malwa-Nimar, Vidhya region and adjourning districts of state capital Bhopal including Raisen, Vidhisha and Sehore.

However, the Bharat Bandh had no major impact on day-to-day and commercial activities in the state capital Bhopal and commercial hub Indore. The overall Bandh was peaceful in the State, said SKM State Convenor Badal Saroj.

The Bandh got major push in MP after the Congress extended its full support and many senior Congress leaders took to the streets.

Former Chief Minister and Rajya Sabha MP, Digvijay Singh along with the members of other political parties and farmer leaders demonstrated at Bhopal’s Karondh Krishi Upaj Mandi for almost two hours.

In a gathering of over 400 people Singh said, “Even during the British era, when farmers were forced to pay Lagaan, they were allowed to go to the court which is prohibited by the Modi government in three farm laws. These laws are not only against farmers but also against consumers as the important duty on eatable oil has been hike by almost 5 % which will profit corporate houses.”

In Gwalior, National Highway 3 was blocked for almost two hours. Markets were close after a tractor and bike rally of over 1 km marched in the city roads urging the shopkeepers and transporters to support the Bandh. In other districts of Gwalior-Chambal region, such as Bhind, Morena, Sheopur, the Krishi Mandis were completely shut and markets were partially closed till 2 pm.

In Vindhya Region districts such as Rewa, Satna, Sidhi, mashal Yatras were carried out on the evening of September 26.

“We were creating awareness through Nukkar Natak from last a week and it paid off,” said Subhash Pandey of Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Mahasangh, adding that the Bundh was partially successful in the region.

In Central MP districts like Vidisha, Raisen, Sehore and Harda, the farmer leaders claimed that the common man and shopkeepers extended their support and kept their shops shut by 2 pm. “Over 14 rallies (Tractor and Bike) were carried out in Raisen and Sehore only as the farmers took to the streets,” Said Irfan Jafri, State convener of Jagrut Kisan Sanghatan.

“The farmers of over 10 villages have given separate memorandums addressing President demanding withdrawal of the farm laws,” He added

The districts of Malwa-Nimar region of the State have also witnessed impact of Bandh. In Mandsaur, Ujjain, Neemuch districts, Krishi Mandis were entirely closed and markets were shut till 2 pm.

Kashif Kakvi in Bhopal

RELATED CONTENT: India: Farmers Aim to Topple Modi at State Level

TN: Farmers, Workers Block Rails and Roads
More than 50,000 workers and farmers hit the streets in Tamil Nadu in solidarity with the protesting farmers.

While the DMK government had declared support for the bandh, it was members of Left organisations who came out in huge numbers.  All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Labour Progressive Front (LPF), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) and other central trade unions participated in the rail blockade and road rokos.

P Shanmugam, general secretary of Tamil Nadu unit of AIKS said, “The BJP government is continuing to betray the farmers by refusing to withdraw the three draconian farm laws. These laws will push the farmers deep into crisis. ”

“The union government is removing food grains, cooking oil, onions and dal from the list of essential commodities. The BJP government is trying to help hoarders by such moves and push the common public to pay more for basic goods”, Shanmugam added.

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The state secretaries of CPI(M) K Balakrishnan, CPI R Mutharasan and N K Natarajan of CPI(ML) led the protest in Chennai along with leader of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), Thol Thirumavalavan MP.

S Venkatesan, CPI(M) MP led the protest in Madurai and demanded the withdrawal of the three farm laws and expansion of MGNREGA to 200 days. “The union government should stop the process of selling national assets to the private sector. The PSUs are the lifeline of the country”, he posted in his social media handle.

Rail blockade by the farmers and trade union members took place in KizhVelur, Tiruttani, Mayiladuthurai where thousands were detained.

The protesting workers, farmers and women flayed the BJP government’s policies leading to high fuel and LPG prices and increasing unemployment.

Neelambaran A from Chennai

West Bengal: Huge Response in Rural Areas
The general strike call by SKM, supported by the Central trade unions and 12 main political parties drew a huge response, especially in rural Bengal, despite the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) not joining the strike call.

In Bengal, the Left Front and Congress party workers began picketing from the wee hours across the state.

Trains, buses and even ferry service were disrupted as picketers reasoned with police and administrative officials.

Almost all major arterial roads leading to Kolkata were blocked by protesters since the morning.  All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee State convenor Amal Halder said in many places even private bus owners refused to ply.

In the afternoon,  a huge rally was taken out by trade unions in support of the strike which was participated by  Left Front Chairman Biman Basu , CPI(M) state secretary Suryakanta Mishra , RSP general secretary Manoj Bhattacharya and forward block chairman Naren Chattopadhyay.

In Kolkata, the strike call was mixed with only 3o % vehicles on the roads. Shops and establishment in many places remained closed.

In North 24 Parganas, buses plied but very few passengers could be seen. Many jute mills remained closed while those that were open saw thin attendance.

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In Bashirhaat sub-division, the rural strike was successful, while in Naihati, railway stations and the local ferry services were picketed. The Asansol-Ranigunj-Jamuria coal and steel belt in Durgapur functioned partially, with many collieries recording low attendance.

In South 24 Parganas, ferry services remained partially open, shops and establishments remained closed in many places in Sonarpur Baruipur, Canning, Amtalla and Thakurpukur area.

East Medinipur saw a road blockade in all major intersections of national highways.  Minor skirmishes were reported in Chandipur district.

In Haldia, many industries recorded thin attendance.

At Borjora of Bankura, the National highway was blocked while the local railway stations were taken control by the protesters in Bankura town, Hooghly, Bhandartikuri and  Arambag.

In Birbhum, private buses stopped plying altogether, while shop and  and establishments were closed in Bolpur and Siuri .

In Coochbehar, the government bus terminus looked deserted and private buses also remained off road.

Sandip Chakraborty in Kolkata

Maharashtra: Good Response in Many Areas
Mumbai: A large number of protests were seen across state with almost all political parties and various organisations backing SKM’s Bharat Bandh call. ‘Rasta roko’ were held at various parts of the state, including Nandurbar, Palghar, Solapur, Parbhani, Beed and Amravati.

Thousands of farmers staged protests in Ahmednagar, Nasik, Kolhapur, Sangli and at other locations. In Pimpri Chinchwad, workers gathered at various industrial zones, including Bhosri and Chakan and protested against ‘asset monetisation policy’ of Modi government. A long walkathon rally was held in Chandgad, Kolhapur.

Mumbai also saw a number of protests in Andheri, Sion, Goregaon, Azad Maidan (Fort) and in other suburbs. In Thane, tribal farmers held protests at Zilla Parishad office. Cities like Parli (Beed) Wai Bazar (Satara), Surgana ( Nasik), Taloda (Nandurbar), Chandgad (Kolhapur), Jat (Sangli), Selu ( Parbhani), Hadgaon (Nanded), Osmanabad also observed complete bandh.

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The overall protest was peaceful in entire state which shown the determination of farmers and labourers against Modi Sarkar.

Political parties like Congress, NCP, CPM, CPI, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, Peasant and Workers Party also participated in strike at all over state.

“This strike makes it clear that the protest is no longer centric to North Indian states and only to farmers. This is in a way wake up call for Modi Sarkar,” said Ashok Dhawale, president of AIKS.

Amey Tirodkar in Mumbai

Gujarat: Dalit Women Block Roads in Support
In Gujarat , farmers, dalits and various trade union bodies extended their support to the Bharat Bandh called by SKM.

Dalit women of Saroda village, Dholka taluka in Ahmedabad districts blocked the road in the morning as a mark of support to the bandh. About 15 dalit women along with local farmers sat on the road till they were detained and taken to Dholka police station.

“Farmers have been sitting on protest for over 10 months now but nobody is listening to them and now they (Gujarat police) will not even allow us to sit in support of the cause,” said Laxmiben Rathod, a dalit activist. as she was being detained.

Various trade union bodies protested in Vadodara and farmers of Surendranagar blockd the Ahmedabad Rajkot highway in support of the bandh.

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In Surat and Bharuch districts, shops and markets remained closed in support of the bandh. Traffic movement on the National Highway (NH-8) near Kamrej remained disrupted for about an hour as the agitating farmers burnt tyres to support the Bharat Bandh.

About 30 protesting farmers were detained by the Olpad police including the convenor of the Jayesh Patel, Gujarat Khedut Sangharsh Samiti, the largest farmers rights organisation of Gujarat.

At least 12 farmer leaders and activist were detained or kept under house arrest across South Gujarat since the evening of September 26. Police was deployed at the homes of local farmers leaders Parimal Patel in Bardoli, Pinaki Patel and Himanshu Vashi in Navsari among others.

“As Gujarat government does every time a protest is declared, activist and leaders were either detained or put under home arrest by deploying police at their homes since last evening. At least 12 leaders and organisers could not step out of their homes today to support the bandh. I managed to evade home arrest yesterday but was detained on my way to the location where farmers had gathered to block the road on NH-8,” Ramesh Patel, the President of Olpad taluka unit of Gujarat Khedut Samaj, told the Newsclick.

 Damayantee Dhar in Gujarat

Bihar: Visible Impact Across Districts
Patna: Ignoring the scorching sun and high humidity, thousands of farmers along with leaders and workers of Mahagathbandhan parties, the opposition alliance in Bihar, took to the streets protesting against farm laws.

The impact was visible everywhere as protestors blocked roads and tracks .It disrupted train movement and bus, truck and other vehicles across the state, which is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party-Janata Dal (United) alliance.

A senior police official at police headquarters here admitted the shutdown had badly hit rail and road traffic.” Mahagathbandhan workers and supporters in large numbers blocked most of the national highways and state highways in over two dozen districts and halted several trains”.

Slogan shouting supporters and workers of Mahagathbandhan, including Left parties with red, green flags and banners, stopped half a dozen trains at Patna, Darbhanga, Jehanabad, Bhojpur, Bhagalpur and other railway stations.

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There were also reports of some protestors burning tyres on roads, staging sit-ins (dharna) on roads and raising slogans against the BJP-led Central government in  Patna, Gaya, Aurangabad, Bhojpur, Bhagalpur, Purnia, Muzaffarpur,Vaishali districts.

Protestors also blocked Gandhi Setu, the longest bridge on river Ganga in Hajipur in Vaishali, considered the lifeline connecting Patna to North Bihar. Some people staged protests by carrying bananas in bamboo baskets and others riding buffaloes and dancing on popular Bhojpuri songs to express their anger.

In Patna, the Truck Owners’ Association, auto-rickshaw federation also joined the shutdown.

CPI (M) state secretary Awadhesh Kumar said the bandh was successful as it was supported by common people who are angry and fed up with rising joblessness, prices of petrol, diesel, edible oil and anti-worker policies of the BJ- led Central government.

CPI (ML) state secretary Kunal: ”All sections of people took to streets, which is an indication that people will join a large platform to fight against the government”.

Mohd Imran Khan in Patna

RELATED CONTENT: Smashing the Heads of Farmers: A Global Struggle Against Tyranny (India)

Andhra Pradesh: Lukewarm Response Amid Heavy Rain
Amaravati: The Bharat Bandh evoked lukewarm response in Andhra Pradesh though the YSR Congress government lent support, as heavy to very heavy rains in different districts had a severe impact on normal life, other than the bandh.

Only at a few places like Tirupati, Anantapuramu and Kadapa did the Opposition parties stage protests against the farm laws .

The main opposition Telugu Desam Party also supported the bandh, along with the Congress and the Left parties.

In the temple town of Tirupati, workers of Left parties squatted on the rail track inside the railway station before police whisked them away. A sit-in protest was also staged on the main road in the city.

In Kadapa and Anantapuramu, the opposition workers staged protests in front of the RTC bus depots.

The state government suspended the bus services till 1 pm in support of the bandh. A holiday was also declared for schools and colleges.

PTI

Telangana: Cong, Left, TDP Join Protests
Hyderabad:  Activists of the Congress, Left parties, Telugu Desam Party and others held protests at various places in Telangana in support of the Bharat Bandh called by farmers unions to protest against the Centre’s three agri laws.

Raising slogans against the NDA government at the Centre and TRS government in Telangana, the opposition activists organised protests outside bus stations at different places in the state to prevent the buses from plying.

Protests were held in the districts of Vanaparthi, Nalgonda, Nagarkurnool, Adilabad, Rajanna-Sircilla, Vikarabad and others.

The Opposition activists slammed the NDA government over the three agri laws, attempts to “sell off” PSUs and rising fuel prices.

PTI

Odisha: Markets shut, Public Transport Off Roads
Bhubaneswar: Markets were shut and public transport stayed off the roads as the Bharat Bandh hit normal life in Odisha on Monday.

Supporters of the shutdown, including members of Congress and the Left parties, picketed at important junctions across the state amid rains, demanding repeal of the three farm laws.

Roads were blocked at different places in Bhubaneswar, Balasore, Rourkela, Sambalpur, Bargarh, Bolangir, Rayagada and Subarnapur, among others.

The protesters also blocked the railway lines at Bhubaneswar station, affecting train services in the state capital.

Government offices across the state witnessed thin attendance.

The Odisha State Road Transport Corporation suspended bus service from 6 am to 3 pm in the wake of the bandh. Private buses also remained off the roads.

Educational institutions, which reopened following the lockdown, remained shut due to the bandh.

Though markets were closed, shops selling essentials, including pharmacies and milk outlets, remained unaffected.

Several trade unions and bank employees’ unions were also backing the 12-hour bandh.

Navaniman Krushak Sangathan state convenor Akshya Kumar said farmers across the country are angry as Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not pay any heed to their issues.

“Today’s bandh is symbolic. It will be further intensified till PM Modi withdraws the three farm laws,” said Sesadev Nanda, another leader of the outfit.

PTI

(NewsClick)

 

 

Featured image: Women farmers in Punjab block roads on Monday, September 27, as they participated in the national strike. Photo: Newsclick

(Internationalist 360°)

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