Hundreds of farmers, labourers and members of Dalit organisations in Bengaluru on Monday protested against the contentious farm bills passed in Parliament a day earlier, The Indian Express reported. The protesters also demonstrated against land legislations proposed by the Karnataka government.
Farmers and traders have been vehemently opposing the new bills, alleging that the government wants to discontinue the minimum support price regime in the name of reforms. They fear that the bills would bring about corporate dominance in agriculture. The chaotic scenes at the Rajya Sabha on Sunday over the manner in which the bills were passed through a hurried voice vote – and not a division of votes – have also led to protests across the country.
The rally began at Bengaluru’s Anand Rao Circle and moved towards the city’s Freedom Park before ending in a public meeting. Among those who participated in the protests were veteran freedom fighter HN Doreswamy, Swaraj Abhiyan chief Yogendra Yadav, writer Devanur Mahadeva and former Justice HN Nagamohan, reported NDTV.
Yadav told the channel that these protests showed how it is not just the farmers of Punjab and Haryana who are angry with the government’s proposed agriculture policies. “Farmers across the country are angry,” he added. “Prime Minister [Narendra Modi] says only the opposition, including the Congress, is sponsoring the protests. Show me which Congress member is here. They [the government] say all the protestors are middlemen. Tell me if you find a single middleman here.”
Earlier in the day, Modi said the farm bills that had generated controversy and outrage from Opposition parties were “historic and necessary” for the country to move forward in the 21st Century. He claimed that the Opposition was instigating farmers with lies as they “feel control slipping away”.
But Yadav said everyone in the agrarian community was against these legislations. “The fact is, the farmers are against it [the bills] and while the government claims it is pro-farmer, no farmers’ organisation was consulted,” he added. “Even the RSS-led [Bharatiya Kisan Sangh] farmer group is against it.”
He added that such protests would grow across the country in the days to come. “An all-India bandh call has been given for September 25,” Yadav said. “We will see a protest against the attempt to turn Indian agriculture into company raj.”
Former Justice Nagamohan Das said the new laws were unconstitutional. “These ordinances will destroy farming as we know it,” he told The News Minute. “Farmers will become workers in their own land or be pushed to cities. They are unconstitutional and should be rejected.”
The day of the protests in Bengaluru also coincided with the first day of the Monsoon Session of the state Assembly where three contentious ordinances are set to be passed. The three ordinances are Karnataka Land reforms (Amendment) Ordinance 2020, Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 and Industrial Disputes and certain other laws (Amendment) ordinance 2020.
Yadav said these legislations were also anti-farmer. “The Karnataka land reforms amendment Act is not a land reform but a deform,” he told The Indian Express.
MD Harigovind of the All India Trade Union Congress said the state government was attempting to push the agriculture ordinances at the behest of the central government which is enabling the corporate sector to monopolise the farm sectors. “Such anti-people ordinances in the times of the economic crisis show the fact that the state government has lost touch with the reality of the lives of the working class people,” he added.
West Bengal CM gives call for protests
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced that farmers in the state would hit the streets on Tuesday in protest against the “forcible” passing of the farm bills in the Rajya Sabha, NDTV reported. She also voiced her support for the MPs protesting against the bills inside and outside the House.
“The way the farmers bills were passed, I say, chi BJP chi [shame BJP shame],” Banerjee said. “The BJP is a shame for the country. Shame, shame BJP for the way you have grabbed farmers rights.”
The chief minister said the Trinamool Mahila Congress would sit on a dharna at the Gandhi statue in Kolkata on Tuesday and congratulated the MPs protesting in Delhi at the Gandhi statue in the Parliament complex.
Banerjee’s outrage was sparked not just by the passage of the farm bills but also because two of her Rajya Sabha MPs were suspended from the House for protesting against the ordinances.
Rajya Sabha Chairperson Venkaiah Naidu on Monday suspended eight MPs for their “unruly behaviour” in the Upper House on Sunday during the passage of agriculture bills. These MPs are Derek O Brien and Dola Sen of the Trinamool Congress, Rajiv Satav, Ripun Bora and Syed Nasir Hussain of the Congress, Elamaram Kareem and KK Ragesh of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Aam Aadmi Party’s Sanjay Singh.
On Monday, Banerjee claimed the MPs’ suspensions from the Rajya Sabha revealed the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government’s “autocratic” mindset.