At the “borders” of Delhi, the entrances to the Indian capital, we find camps made of colored tarpaulins, makeshift installations. For months, peasant families have taken turns sending one of their own to hold the occupation and protest all around the megalopolis. At the “border posts” of Tikri, Ghazipur and Singhu, one is neither Hindu, nor Sikh, nor Dalit, as Narendra Modi would like, Indian neoliberal prime minister and champion of Hindu identity. We are just prevented by the police from entering the capital. Here, we created something to eat, buy toiletries. We sleep in trailers. And the peasants in struggle have even created temporary libraries there. Friday, in the suburbs of the capital, was a day of celebration. We saw women and men dancing there. We saw the distribution of sweets. We even saw yajnas, these rituals facing the sacred fire.
Liberalization and pauperization
Because the peasants have won. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that, during the winter parliamentary session, agricultural laws, touted for a year as “black laws”, would be repealed. Adopted in September 2020, they have since aroused the ire of the Indian agricultural world. We are not talking in the subcontinent of 5 to 6% of the population who live by working the land and by breeding, as in Europe. In India, 70% of the population depend on peasant labor. However, more than a year ago, faithful to liberal dogmas, Narendra Modi chose to blow up what protected small peasant agriculture and which was obtained through the struggle of the workers. ” There is land laws that protect the land. Water laws. Laws that prohibit the storage of grain. A law in favor of a minimum price for cereals. But all these laws obstruct the big players in the private sector who want to plunder rural areas ”, describes Mariam Dhawale, general secretary of the All-India Democratic Women’s Association in an interview with the Belgian newspaper Solidarity, July 2, 2021.
This is the building the government attacked. Basically, peasants can no longer sell their produce to the mandis, the state-run wholesale markets, which guaranteed minimum prices. The peasants should find themselves, with the villainous laws, to sell their products to big firms which do not care to ensure remunerative prices, to the great happiness of private distributors. This liberalization, which is added to other liberal measures affecting the agricultural sector, promised the peasants to pauperization.
The biggest strike in history
Also, in September 2020, the first mobilizations were recorded in the Punjab, in the north of the country. Railroad tracks were blocked by land workers. Then, little by little, the movement spread. It culminated on November 26, 2020 by what the US Marxist magazine Jacobin called it the biggest strike in history. No less than 250 million people took part. That day, the farmers were not alone in protesting; workers in the private sector were protesting against “labor laws” and Modi-style pension reforms. The far-right prime minister wanted to restrict the right to strike, imposing 60 days’ notice!
Since that date, the struggle has continued for the peasants, particularly in the form of road or train blockades. Out of solidarity, the employees organized other work stoppages. At the end of 2020, the Constitutional Court asked the government that negotiations be opened.
“Defeat of the dictatorship”
On the left as in the peasant world, this victory was hailed. We owe it to the approach of elections in flagship states, in particular the Punjab that the BJP, the nationalist party of Narendra Modi, wants to conquer, but above all to the struggle. A new major date of mobilization was also scheduled, November 26 of this year, one year after the historic strike. Thus, joined by Humanity, the co-secretary of the All India Peasants Union (Aiks), the main peasant organization of the subcontinent, Dr Vijoo Krishnan, describes a “Historic victory for the united peasant movement actively supported by the working class” and one “Giant leap to build resistance to neoliberal economic policies driven by The multinationals “. Same tone from the side of the secretary of Aiks in Haryana State, Sumit Dalal, who greets “The defeat of the dictatorship”, but recalls its price: “More than 670 brothers and sisters, killed by repression, are the martyrs of this movement. “
For left-wing activist Prateheesh Prakash, after years of “The Indian right, which represents the ruling class, was able to dodge responding to the crisis created by neoliberal policies”, the farmers’ movement has “Changed the rules of the game”. For him, this victory “Sends a powerful message to the elite of the ruling class.”
The fight is not over, however. “The challenge now is to ensure that the other demands of the fight are met, such as the return of legally guaranteed remunerative prices, the end of the anti-worker labor code”, warns the peasant leader Vijoo Krishnan. Assemblies to mobilize workers were to be held yesterday around Delhi. Other objectives of the struggle are also on the table: that justice be done for the hundreds of people killed by the repression, or the withdrawal of the liberalization of the electricity sector, which again promises an increase in prices. unfavorable to the most humble.