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When politicians made a mockery of the farmers' protest

March 13, 2018 12:16 IST

None of them who took to the dais at the Mumbai farmers' morcha spoke about the Forest Rights Act, lack of irrigation facilities, minimum support price, and under-employment among the tribals, issues dear to the agitationists, says Prasanna D Zore.

IMAGE: On Monday, around 30,000 farmers from across Maharashtra converged on south Mumbai's Azad maidan to demand a complete loan waiver, implementation of Forest Rights Act and better irrigation facilities and employment. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

The sun was blazing down mercilessly on the sea of people gathered at Mumbai’s Azad maidan, mostly tribals from Maharashtra’s Nashik and Palghar districts.

But the sun was not as merciless as the system they have been a part of for all their life.

As the farmers sat in the heat, it seemed as if the swarm of politicians, who had swooped down on a captive audience, were making a mockery of their protests.

Organised by the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, affiliated to the Communist Party of India-Marxist, almost 30,000 people, mostly tribals (though this was touted as a farmers’ agitation, the profile of the participants made it clear it wasn’t so) marched on despite their blistered feet to get their voices heard by those who occupy the seat of power in Maharashtra.

 

While cries of ‘lal salam’ (red revolution) rent the air inside the makeshift pandal occasionally, politicians belonging to various hues kept peppering the naïve crowd with their raucous speeches.

However, all their talk fell on deaf ears.

IMAGE: The farmers didn't care about the politicians who came in hordes to extend their support, and had only one concern: justice, and that someone finally hears their voice.
Photograph: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

Depending on the political persuasion of the speaker everyone from Narendra Modi to other Bharatiya Janata Party leaders and Nirav Modi were held responsible for the plight of the assembled masses, while Shivaji to Dr Ambedkar were hailed as saviours of the people gathered at the vast ground.

However, none of these names raised any noise from the crowds. In fact, none of the gathered even knew who Nirav Modi was or what his Rs 12,000 crore (and counting) banking fraud was all about.

All that these protesters were demanding was the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, more employment opportunities and irrigation facilities so that they could increase the output on their tiny farm land-holdings.

IMAGE: The crowds that had gathered at Mumbai's Azad maidan didn't pay any heed to the leaders trying to push forward their own political agenda. Photograph: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

None of the politicians who took to the dais spoke about the Forest Rights Act, lack of irrigation facilities, minimum support price, and under-employment among the tribals or minimum wages, issues that could have connected them to the agitationists.

In fact, this disconnect was all the more visible, and hence, that much more farcical, as there were two different pandals erected for the microphone-hungry to come and voice their drivel. 

This being the case, the ones with strong vocal chords naturally won the day. But what they could not win was the people’s heart, for they talked about pulling down the Modi and Fadnavis governments while all that the protesters wanted was fulfillment of their just demands.

Little did the politicians who took to the stage care about the people who had marched from Nashik on foot; naturally, it was only right that neither did those sitting under the blazing sun care for the politicians’ tall claims. 

Prasanna D Zore / Rediff.com in Mumbai