Farm groups contesting polls no longer part of SKM

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The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), the umbrella body that spearheaded the year-long agitation over the now-repealed farm laws has snapped ties with the farmer groups contesting the upcoming Assembly elections in Punjab. The group also said no political party or farm leader could use the SKM banner in the assembly polls due next month.

“For the time being, they (groups contesting the polls) are not a part of SKM,” said farm leader Yudhvir Singh after a five-hour review meeting of the SKM at Singhu border on Saturday. “For 13 months, we did not allow any leader from any political party on our platform. This decision [by some groups to float a political party and contest elections] has been taken in haste and we are not in agreement with it. Those organisations that are contesting polls, they will not be a part of SKM,” Singh said.

Singh, however, said the SKM will wait four months before reviewing its relationship with the groups contesting the polls.

On December 25, 22 farmer organizations, who were a part of SKM, floated their own political outfit, the ‘Samyukta Samaj Morcha’ (SSM), with senior BKU leader Balbir Singh Rajewal as its face. The SSM will contest all 117 seats in the Punjab Assembly elections.

Gurnam Singh Chaduni, chief of the Haryana unit of BKU, has also launched a political outfit – Samyukta Sangharsh Party (SSP) – saying although he would not take part in the elections, his outfit planned to contest on all seats in Punjab.

Sources said the issue led to major disagreement among SKM leaders during the meeting on Saturday. After the meeting, however, Joginder Singh Ugrahan, president of BKU Ugrahan, a part of the SKM, clarified the SKM has not broken ties with any farm union. “We are talking of ties with the Samyukta Samaj Morcha (SSM), which is now a political front. Those associated with them will not be a part of SKM,” he said.

Ashok Dhawale, National President, All India Kisan Sabha, said, “They (SSM and SSP) have formed a political party. Our principle is that political parties cannot be a part of SKM. For the time being, we have given them a relaxation. After the elections are over in four months, we will consult and take a decision on their involvement in future.”

During the SKM meeting, chief of the Haryana unit of BKU, Gurnam Singh Chaduni had argued in favour of farm organisations participating in elections, saying several other leaders from SKM had done so in the past.

“Hannan Mollah has been elected to Lok Sabha eight times. Rakesh Tikait has fought elections, Yogendra Yadav is associated with a political party. So can it be said that the morcha has not been political. If people are suspended, then the rule must remain the same for all including the comrades here. I will not fight elections myself…mein election ladwaunga. I do not hold position in any political party,” said Chaduni at the meeting.

Balbir Singh Rajewal did not attend the meeting, with SKM leaders attributing his absence to ‘personal commitments’.

‘Centre betraying us’

Meanwhile, the SKM has also announced a ‘Vada Khilaafi Diwas’ (Betrayal Day) on January 31 to protest what they said was the government’s “betrayal and inaction” on demands including formation of a committee on Minimum Support Price (MSP), immediate withdrawal of cases against farmers during the year-long agitation, and compensation to families of farmers who were killed.

SKM leaders said the government had in principle agreed to and given in writing on December 9 that the demands would be fulfilled. They warned of “Mission UP” and “Mission Uttarakhand” if the government continued to remain “apathetic to our demands and there is no dialogue”, from February 1.

“Since we suspended the agitation on December 11, the government has not formed a committee on MSP or given any information about its nature/mandate…there has been no contact from the government. The government had assured that cases against protesters would be withdrawn immediately, but in the states across the country, neither the cases have been withdrawn nor any compensation has been provided. So, we have decided that we will observe a ‘Vada Khilaafi Diwas’, where at every block, district and tehsil headquarters across the country, the effigies of the government would be burnt and large scale demonstrations would be held, since they have failed to act on promises,” Yudhvir Singh said.

Dhawale, said, “Only the Haryana government has done some paperwork, but they have not said anything about compensation. I went to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, in all these states the government has not withdrawn cases and the Centre also has not sent any communication to them regarding the same.”

Meanwhile, the SKM reiterated its demand for dismissal of Union Minister of State Ajay Mishra “Teni” for his alleged role in the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, in which four farmers were mowed down by a convoy, which included Mishra’s vehicle. BKU leader Rakesh Tikait said he will lead a group of SKM members to Lakhimpur Kheri for three days starting January 21 to meet the families of the victims, besides officials.

In case of an unsatisfactory response, the SKM said, a ‘morcha’ will be started in Lakhimpur Kheri till “Mishra is booked on charges of murder and criminal conspiracy, and arrested”.

“The SIT report makes it clear that it was not an accident, but a planned conspiracy. The conspiracy was carried out by (Ajay Mishra’s son) Ashish Mishra on the directions of his father, who continues to serve as a minister in the (central) cabinet. This implies that the government is shielding criminals and is concerned only about its vote bank…that it is not worried about farmers,” Yudvir Singh said.

“The government instead slapped murder charges on farmers named in the incident and put them in jail. For us it was an accident, when our people were mowed down and naturally there was a reaction of the mob. The government took swift action in putting our associates in jail, but the minister has not been dismissed,” he added.

SKM further said it will support the call for a nationwide strike on February 23 and 24 called by central trade unions on issues of withdrawal of the four anti-labour codes, MSP to farmers and privatization.

“The mazdoor sangathan supported us for 13 months during the agitation. SKM will endorse and support this call in the form of a rural strike,” Dhawale said.

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