The farmers unrest in central and western India caused by the police firing on the agitating farmers of Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh on 6 June, in which five agitating farmers were killed on the spot and one farmer succumbed later to baton charge wounds, has erected a serious challenge for the BJP government led by Narendra Modi in New Delhi and the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh. The BJP government of Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh has failed to forcefully suppress the farmers agitation against its anti-farmer and anti-poor policies and even though the RSS affiliated Bharatiya Kisan Sangh has backed-off from the agitation, the farmers are relentlessly protesting against the government’s indifference towards them and the movement that originated in another BJP-ruled state, Maharashtra, is now slowly expanding to other BJP-ruled states as well and this development is frightening the RSS top brass and the ruling classes of India.
When droughts and floods devastate the fortune of the farmers in a rain-fed agriculture-based rural economy, 90 million Indian families dependent on agriculture gets quagmire in debts, mostly taken from unscrupulous private money-lenders and banks, who chase them to death if the farmers fail to repay their debts. In the fear of losing their lands and little assets that they have saved for their children, most hapless farmers of India, sunk in immense debt and with no avenue to repay the money to the sharks, commit suicide to escape from the vicious cycle.
Suicide rates of farmers are under-reported by the government agencies to whitewash the crimes committed by one after another government, led by one after another representative of the ruling clique of big landlords, big comprador capitalists and the big foreign corporations that plunder the resources of the country. Alike its predecessor Congress, the BJP government tries to suppress the number of suicides with silly logic, like its minister claiming that most of the farmers commit suicide due to impotency or failed love affairs. They shamelessly indulge in such caricature and propaganda to portray a picture of “situation normal” under their rule. The living in denial mode makes the life of a farmer, who is facing natural calamities, rising debts and low support price from the government turn into a hell.
The government has never supported the farmers with a high Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their crops and forced them to sell off their harvests to local usurers who would underpay for the crops and then make huge profits by selling them at a high price to the wholesale markets. Often, it becomes impossible for the farmers to meet their input costs, forget profit, and they are thrown into a far miserable condition.
Farmers of Madhya Pradesh are very badly hit by droughts and bad crops. Nearly 42 percent of the agricultural land in Madhya Pradesh has no irrigation facility. The six districts of the state that falls under Bundelkhand region had experienced the worst drought and starvation in the last few years and numerous people have died or have just migrated in search of work and food at a time when the Modi government carefully scissored the left-over welfare schemes for the rural poor to divert money into corporate welfare measures and help the financers of the RSS like Tata, Ambani, Adani, etc. with more PSU bank loans, tax reliefs and grants.
During a rally of Narendra Modi in Madhya Pradesh, held to launch schemes for farmers, the farmers of Sherpur of Sehore district were ordered to scythe their unripe wheat crops to ensure that the convoy of the prime minister can pass to the nearby government land securely. There are thousands of such anti-farmer measures adopted by the Madhya Pradesh government over years, which has made the lives of the farmers miserable in the state.
While agriculture’s contribution to the national GDP is falling fast and the national growth rate of the sector is mere 3.7 percent, in Madhya Pradesh, agriculture has grown at a surprising rate of 9.7 percent and its share of the economy increased from 25 percent in 2005-06 to 30 percent in 2014-15. Madhya Pradesh received awards for its spectacular performance in agriculture and the BJP hyped it as its “pro-farmer policies” to woo farmer votes. But, at the same time, Madhya Pradesh remained a state where 31.65 percent of the population lives below the poverty line with 54 percent landless peasants, who survive by tilling the lands of the feudal landlord class, to which the Chief Minister and most of his cabinet members belong to. Moreover, throughout the state, 83.52 percent of households earn less than ₹5,000 per month, which was another reason that the state touched sub-Saharan countries like Chad and Somalia in terms of hunger and poverty.
The anger of the farmers, who are forced to live in a semi-pauperised condition due to the prevalence of feudal production relationship and feudal land ownership, was further fuelled when the BJP government declined their demand to raise the MSP of crops and provide them relief from the deadly debts that entangle their lives and force numerous farmers every year to kill themselves. Even after repeated pleas and peaceful movements demanding a fair and justified MSP for crops that the farmers harvest, the Madhya Pradesh government and the BJP looked otherwise and declined to accept any of the demands from the farmers. Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his team of ministers, who are keen to save cows than farmers as the latter doesn’t have any anti-Muslim and pro-Hindutva appeal, acted with utmost disregard for the poor and landless farmers and unleashed state terror on them when their movement grew bigger. The outburst of the farmers, after the five landless peasants were shot dead by the police in Mandsaur district, was suppressed with brute force by the BJP government of Madhya Pradesh, which imposed Section 144 at several places and disconnected internet and mobile services to curb the growing militant movement of the farmers.
But their attempts to persecute the farmers and terrorise them to retreat from the movements didn’t work at all for the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh. Causing discomfort to Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Narendra Modi, the movement of the farmers, which originated from neighbouring BJP-ruled Maharashtra, turned into a large-scale militant struggle against the government and in all neighbouring BJP-ruled territories, the farmers came out in open, protesting against the BJP.
In BJP ruled Maharashtra’s Marathwada region 2000 farmers committed suicide between 2015-16. The Vidarbha suicide rates are also on peak and the government, after failing to address the issue of blood-sucking money-lenders and banks making the lives of the farmers miserable, is seeking help from corporate Hindutva cult organisations like the Art of Living to hoodwink the farmers. Farmers of the state forced the Fadnavis led fascist BJP government to concede to few demands, but the BJP and the bureaucracy alluded most of the crucial demands and only promised to look into them in the future. In Madhya Pradesh too, the movement that the farmers started, forced Shivraj Singh Chouhan to announce a corpus fund of ₹1000 cr to buy the crops from the disgruntled farmers, which again is a hoodwinking move, as the amount will fall quite short to help most of the farmers and will only be helpful for the big feudal landlords and rich farmers of the state.
Despite all sort of attacks and oppression laden on them by the BJP-led Madhya Pradesh government, the farmers will surely carry-out their struggle in the coming days for their just rights and it will be their militant struggle that will act as an antidote to the venom of communalism that the RSS is spreading in the state since last few decades to ensure that antagonism among the rural and urban poor grow and the benefits can be reaped by the Sangh Parivar, which acts as the bogey of the corporate plunderers in India.
An unprecedented farmer unity against the brutal anti-poor and anti-agriculture policies of the BJP has trembled the Modi regime from the roots first time in the three years. This time the Modi regime and the BJP ruled states are not facing stone pelting Kashmiris or slogan-raising university students, whom they can stamp as “anti-nationals” and malign through the toady media outlets of the government. This time it’s the peasantry of the country, who are nearly 660 million strong and it will be impossible for the RSS and the BJP to have a clear and decisive victory in their war against these people who have raised their fist in protest against the government’s corporate bootlicking character. The battle that has started in Mandsaur may go through a die-down state in the near future but due to its essence and inherent class characteristics, this peasants’ struggle will neither end easily nor too soon.