AIKSS Held Its Session in Punjab

Massive Peasant Rally in Mansa

Whatever you call it, a convention, a mass gathering or a rally, it was one of the biggest congregation Mansa had ever seen. Peasant women, who participated in unprecedentedly large number, were particularly enthusiastic. Though the banner read ‘Karja Mukti Conference’, signifying agitation against the burden of debt, the whole gamut of problems ranging from WTO to administrative corruption were discussed here. And those who addressed the gathering were not local leaders. From four corners of the country, peasant leaders had arrived Mansa to “forge a united struggle of peasants on a nation-wide scale against new agricultural policy and World Trade Organisation”.

“The government has surrnedered to the imperialist diktats of WTO and ruining the lives of Indian peasantry. This will not be tolerated. This peasant convention appeals to all peasant organisations in the country to step up their resistance to force the government not only to oppose the new round of WTO proposed to begin at the forthcoming Doha meeting but even to withdraw from the imperialist-controlled WTO.” This and many other resolutions reflecting peasants’ demands were passed at this convention-cum-rally held at Dana Mandi, Mansa on 10 September 2001. The convention was hosted by Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta) and representatives of peasant organisations all over the country, including the umberlla organisation All India Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (AIKSS) came to attend it.

Around 6-7 thousand peasants, mainly from Mansa, and partly from Faridkot and Ferozpur districts of Punjab and Jind district of Haryana, came to attend the convention with BKU flags and as well as CPI(ML), AIKSS, AISA, RYA, and AIPWA banners. The gathering relished presentation by popular revlutionary singer “Jidda”, songs exposing Badal’s misrule and depicting peasants’ resolve to fight.

The meeting was addressed by Pichhora Singh, president and Ruldu Singh, senior vice president of BKU, who emphasized that the government’s anti-peasant policies are responsible for the present wretched conditions of the peasantry who have become so indebted that many of them find it hard to live. They voiced the resolve of Punjab peasantry to fight WTO and Indian govt. policies tooth and nail. Similar views on problems being faced by peasantry in Haryana were expressed by Ghasiram, leader of BKU (Haryana). Pawan Sharma, convenor of AIKSS, and Rajaram Singh, convenor of Bihar Pradesh Kisan Sabha called upon peasant organisations all over the country to join hands and put up a determined fight against WTO and Indian govt.’s surrender to imperialists and multinationals. They also raised problems of starvation deaths all over the country including Orissa, Maharashtra and Kerala and demanded from the government to ensure food security which is the mainstay of self-dependence of the country’s economy. They demanded that the procurement policy as well as public distribution system must be revamped so as to serve the need of peasantry and rural and urban poor. Ambarish Rai, Secretary of Purvanchal (UP) Kisan Sabha, Srilata Swaminathan and Mahendra Chaudhary of Rajasthan Kisan Sangathan, leaders of Kisan Sabhas including Ajit Das of West Bengal, Purushottam Sharma of Uttarakhand, Narottam Sharma of Chattisgarh, Devendra Singh Chauhan of Madhya Pradesh, Sugandhan of Tamil Nadu, Bangar Rao of Andhra Pradesh, and Bidyadhar Patra of Orissa, PK Baby of Kerala and Pandit Rao Saware, peasant leader of Ahmadnagar Zilla Shetkari Sangathana, Maharashtra (associated with Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) also spoke at the convention.

In the recent years BKU in Punjab has launched several remarkable agitations on the peasants’ demand of debt relief and faced severe police repression. In one such incidents police attacked a village Maisarkhana of Bathinda district where people were badly beaten and even to this date a hundred of them including 20 women are in jail. When the police in order to extricate itself from the crime compelled the panchayat members and sarpanch to sign a paper to the effect that police committed no repression, Jasvinder Kaur, a woman Panch of the village refused to sign and resigned from her post instead. She was honoured for her bravery at the convention by Pichora Singh, president of BKU.

After the mass rally-cum-convention was over, AIKSS started its session, which concluded on 11 September. It was attended by members of the convening body as well as representatives of several peasant organisations including BKU as observers. Pawan Sharma, the convenor, read out the report. After taking stock of the agrarian situation and government policies as well as programmes taken up by AIKSS in the meantime, viz. signature campaign and 9-15 August, 2001 “Vajpayee Hatao, Kheti Bachao” campaign, it was decided to focus attention on opposing the new round of WTO to be proposed at Doha ministerial conference in November. It was decided that a massive rally of one lakh peasants will be held on 9 November, 2001, the opening day of Doha meeting, before Parliament in Delhi to oppose Indian govt.’s surrender before the WTO. Peasant organisations from all over the country, including those from Kerala, Maharashtra, Haryana and Punjab, are expected to participate in the rally along with AIKSS.