Thousands of farmers who assembled at Mumbai Naka in Maharashtra’s Nashik began marching to the state capital on Thursday in a repeat of last year’s “Long March”. The 180-km protest march to Mumbai is being organised by the All India Kisan Sabha, affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist), NDTV reported.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Cabinet ministers Girish Mahajan and Jaykumar Rawal met farmer leaders to discuss their demands, News18 reported.
The All India Kisan Sabha claimed the Maharashtra government led by Devendra Fadnavis has not fulfilled its promises to farmers after the protest march in March 2018. The farmers’ demands include immediate relief in view of the drought-like situation, land rights, minimum support price for crops, better water resources and a crop insurance scheme.
“A year has passed, but the state government is yet to fulfil its promises,” said Maharashtra General Secretary of Kisan Sabha, Ajit Navale. “Hence, the long march is being organised to protest the betrayal of farmers by the BJP-led state and central governments.”
Navale told Scroll.in that at least 40,000 people are expected to walk from Nashik to Mumbai. “Last year, 15,000 people began the march from Nashik and people joined us along the way, so we ended with 40,000 in Mumbai,” he said.
A case was filed against Navale on February 13 under Sections 188 (disobedience to order given by public officer) and 143a (unlawful assembly) after he organised a conference in Ahmednagar. “We organised a peaceful conference on February 13,” Navale told Scroll.in. “There was no violence or tension because of the meeting. The government filed this case to prevent us from marching.” Navale said cases were also filed against 250 farmer leaders.
The Kisan Sabha said a meeting with Water Resources and Irrigation Minister Girish Mahajan on Wednesday night was satisfactory. “Mahajan has said he will consult the chief minister [Devendra Fadnavis] and solve this tangle,” said Kisan Sabha President Ashok Dhawale, according to Hindustan Times. “However, we have decided to start our march and will withdraw only when we get a proper guarantee and timeline [to resolve the issues] from the state government.”
Farmers from 23 districts across Maharashtra joined the march, which was flagged off from Nashik on Wednesday to mark the fourth death anniversary of Communist ideologue Govind Pansare. The farmers aim to arrive in Mumbai on February 27, when the state Assembly’s Budget session will be under way. Police estimated at least 7,500 farmers had gathered in Nashik, according to The Indian Express.
Organisers of the protest march alleged that the state government was trying to “crush” the peaceful march through force. “For several hours, police kept detaining groups of farmers coming to join the procession without assigning any reason,” said Kisan Sabha spokesperson PS Prasad. “Cases are being lodged against our office-bearers.” At least 35 cars were stopped outside Nashik at Satara ghat, according to Navale.
Thane Additional Superintendent of Police Sanjay Patil denied the allegation, saying police were taking down names and addresses as a “formality”.
Nashik Police reportedly denied the farmers permission to take out the march and only gave permission for a meeting. Farmers, however, began the march, saying they were exercising their democratic right to protest.
Dhawale said the organisation had held two meetings with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Water Resources and Irrigation Minister Girish Mahajan earlier this month, according to The Hindu.
The first meeting on February 11 was an informal one, Dhawale said. “The formal meeting was held on February 17, where after three hours there was no progress,” Dhawale said. The decision to hold a second Long March was taken after talks failed.