All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha’s (AIKMS) campaign against Modi Govt.’s efforts to forcibly dispossess peasants from their land and hand over their land to MNCs, domestic corporate and real estate mafia reached capital Delhi on April 24th 2015. AIKMS organized a big Dharna at Jantar-Mantar, Parliament Street to protest against Land Acquisition (Amendment) Ordinance which was re-promulgated by Modi Govt. on April 3, 2015. Modi Govt’s Ordinance seeks to undo the changes which were incorporated in Land Acquisition law by UPA Govt. in LARR 2013 and in effect restores the colonial Land Acquisition Act, 1894. AIKMS has launched a countrywide campaign against this attack by Modi Govt.
Around 2,500 activists took part in the Dharna. They were drawn from ten states- Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Telengana, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and West Bengal. Participants in the Dharna included leaders and activists from a number of anti-displacement movements- from Anti-Vedanta movement in Niyamgiri and anti-Posco movement from Odisha, Anti-Polavarum struggle from Telengana and AP, from movements against thermal power plants and coastal corridor in AP, from anti- thermal power plant and anti smart city struggles in Allahabad (UP), from anti-displacement movements in Punjab and also from Maharashtra.
The day long Dharna started with the activists marching to the bedecked Dharna site in two large rallies from the railway station. Soon the Dharna site was packed with slogan shouting participants. Many women peasants and activists including from tribals of Niyamgiri, Telengana and UP participated.
The programme started at 11 AM with AIKMS General Secretary Com. Sushanta Jha taking the stage. Com. Ashish Mital, secretary AIKMS, informed the shocked gathering of the death of one Adivasi activist from Allahabad’s Karchana tehsil, Com. Shail Kumari, who fell off the train while coming to participate in the Dharna. She was an AIKMS activist who had participated in a number of local struggles. Participants paid homage to Com. Shail Kumari by observing a minute’s silence in her memory. Com. Rama Rao (Arunodaya) sang a song in the memory of martyrs.
The protest Dharna began with rousing slogans ‘No Industry, No urbanization, No Smart City, No Thermal Power Plants on Agricultural Land”, “No Land to Multinational Companies”. Raising their fists and red flags protestors demanded “Withdraw the New Land Acquisition Amendment Ordinance”. Slogans were raised against acquisition of agricultural land and a variety of other issues related to peasantry. The pitch on Parliament Street was set on “Our movements forced out the British Land Acquisition Law”. We stand for “No to the Ordinance”, “No to Forced Displacement”. The leaders of the Central Executive Committee of AIKMS and the anti displacement struggles were called on to the dais.
First AIKMS General Secretary, Com. Sushanta Jha explained the retrograde and anti farmer changes being made by the BJP govt in the Land Acquisition Law of 2013. He condemned the Ordinance and demanded its withdrawal. He explained that all clauses of making social impact assessment, environment assessment, bar on taking over irrigated multi crop land, were annulled by the ordinance. Drawing upon the incident of a farmer’s suicide in full public view on 22nd, April at Jantar Mantar he said it only shows the deep crises facing the peasantry. Failure of BJP govt to ease their burden by waiving their debts and reducing high input costs and only indulging in blame game exposes its anti farmer rule. He raised the demand to decrease input prices, to grant adequate return in sale of crops, to develop agricultural infrastructure especially dig deep ponds and canals to guarantee irrigation, to develop the purchasing capacity of peasantry including the tribals.
Thereafter the leaders representing various ongoing anti displacement movements addressed the gathering. The leader of anti Vedanta struggle Haribandu Kadraka and leader of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti Prashant Paikray explained how they are continuing their struggle despite continuous attacks by the govt and the agents of the companies. They opposed the ordinance, vowed not to give up their land and appealed for all movements to come on to one platform.
Leader of movement to ‘Stop Polavaram’, Com K Rangaiah, explained that more than 2.7 lakh people will be displaced by Polavarum; that this project is being built in the name of irrigation, but most of the land to be irrigated is already irrigated; that this project will transfer Godavari water to Krishna basin and it will ultimately be used for industrial and coastal corridor.
Com M Durga Prasad spoke of the ill effects of govt plan to build a cluster of Thermal Power Plants at the cost of agriculture, fishing and peoples’ life, of the impact of ash pollution and how people fought against the Kakrapalli plant as it would have destroyed their livelihood. He also explained that lakhs of acres of agricultural land is being taken over in coastal regions for building the coastal corridor, petrochemical industrial region and for building a new capital.
Ex MLA of CPIML from Yellandu (Telangana), Com G Narsaiah also addressed the gathering highlighting how the new Telangana govt is not fulfilling the promises to oppose Polavaram and is bent on allowing transfer of 7 mandals to AP to facilitate the construction of the dam.
KKU Punjab President Com Nirbhai Singh said that in Gobindpura 850 acres of land was taken over for establishing a Thermal Power Plant and Trident was taking over land for new industries. People led by Ujara Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti, Punjab opposed these en mass, were injured in the protests, had cases foisted against thousands, they went to jail also, but the land was taken over. Yet no new development has come up and people displaced are facing extreme hardships.
Com Ram Kailash Kushwaha spoke on behalf of the Taap Bijlighar Virodhi Manch formed against three TPPs in Allahabad. He highlighted the facts of each plant taking over thousands of acres land, burning tens of thousands quintals of coal, producing upto 60,000 to 1 lakh quintals of ash per day and consuming more than 12 to 18 crore litres of river water per day each to dry up the rivers and destroying life of villages along the river. He said though even the HC has annulled one plant’s land acquisition the govt is not willing to give up and is forcing the people to leave. He said people are struggling and they even blocked the New Delhi Howrah rail route to oppose the plant.
Leader of anti NEPA struggle of Moradabad, Com. Dharampal Singh, explained how the govt took over about 900 acres of land of 4 villages in 1989 for a paper plant, then sold it to Birlas at 15 times the cost of acquisition, and now despite 26 years having passed it is lying as a vacant land. The only development Birlas did was to try and build a nursery, which the people uprooted.
A message was received from Konkan Bachao Samiti opposing Nuclear power plant at Jaitapur (Maharashtra) extending its support to the Dharna and isssues raised there.
The gathering was addressed by special guest, Com. Aparna from CPIML-New Democracy from Delhi who lambasted the govt. policy of selling India’s natural wealth and depriving the people of their valuable livelihood resource in the name of development of industrial production. She highlighted that one third of the installed production capacity is lying idle as export markets are in crises and Indian markets stagnant. She asked why 63% of land acquired for SEZs is still lying unused and why more Thermal Power Plants are being built when 1 lakh MW of capacity is lying unused. She reminded the Govt that peasants’ struggles against forcible displacement had forced UPA Govt. to make changes in the colonial land acquisition law and peasant struggles will consign BJP Govt.’s effort to resurrect that law to the dustbin.
AIKMS CEC members Ram Briksh Ram from Bihar and Dev Rao from Maharashtra castigated the govt. for accentuating the already grave crisis facing Indian agriculture at the behest of foreign and domestic corporate, to grant them windfalls in real estate and cheap mineral resources and provide them with cheap labour power. Uprooting peasantry will increase the food crises, food inflation, hunger and destitution and suicides by peasants and agricultural labour they asserted.
CEC member Com. Bhalachandra drew upon the various struggles to explain the importance of bringing all these struggles on a common platform and how after several tribals and peasants laid down their lives and militantly defended their land, the UPA govt. was forced to partly retrace its steps of capturing the peoples’ resources for corporate development. He called upon the govt to stop lodging false cases, arresting, conducting false encounters of peasant movement activists and deploying Para Military forces against peasants’ struggles. He said that compensations paid to the displaced is always several times lower than the market rates of land and never affords any respectable existence. Jobs are never provided and people work in abysmal conditions at extremely low wages. Even social contacts and cultural life is destroyed.
Com Prabhu Dayal from Rajasthan explained that the Rajasthan govt has not provided any safeguards to farmers and even irrigation security is not maintained. He highlighted the struggle of farmers for this and against forceful acquisitions of land for urban clusters.
National Secy Com. Ashish Mital highlighted the new plan to hand over cities like Allahabad to US MNCs through the USTDA, new plan to concrete river ghats and uproot several hundred villages and river bed farmers and fishermen. He explained how SP govt and Janata Parivar speak of taking farmer’s consent but their govt. has unleashed the most brutal terror few days back on tribal and dalit peasants, women and children in Kanhar, Sonebhadra. He said, like BSP, SP too is taking over farmers land for various urbanization programs and growth of mafia and builders. He attacked BJP’s posing as being pro peasantry and said its anti people character is clear from all its claims. For irrigation canals, rural houses and roads no acquisition is necessary. He said truth is “Narendra Modi ke Man ki Bat, Corporate ka Saath, Kisano ko Lat”. He criticized the BJP’s drama of Jandhan and said they are only empty accounts, like the empty stomachs of their ‘owners’. BJP is fooling the people by talking of development while in essence it is being done only in order to hand over land, water and mineral resources to MNCs, create new cities, develop real estate havens for builders and mafia, etc. reiterated their resolve to fight back the BJP govt’s offensive and not give up their lands.
Convenor of Janhastakshep Delhi, Prof Ish Misra and Dr Qamruzamman from West Champaran also addressed the gathering and exhorted them to firmly resist forced takeover of their land. All speakers expressed their resolve to fight back this ordinance and forced displacement resolutely.
A memorandum to the Hon’ble President of India demanding withdrawal of the Ordinance was read out and submitted.
Several participants presented songs of the peasants’ struggles. They included veteran Arunodaya leader Rama Rao, Srinivas from AP, Pyara Singh and Succha Singh from Punjab, Ramnath Singh from East Champaran, Ram Vilas Paswan from Haridwar, Dharampal Singh of UP and Gyanendra and his team from JNU. These songs expressed the determination of peasants to save their land from being handed over to corporate by the Govt. They hailed the supreme sacrifices of peasants including tribals of Kalinga Nagar, Nandigram and numerous other anti displacement struggles. They exposed the subservience of rulers to foreign exploiters and their Indian dalals. They decried the grant of their land, forests, water resources and mineral wealth to Corporate labeling them as enemies of people.
Com. Tarsem Peter, CEC member from Punjab and President of PMU, Punjab thanked the participants for their participation in Dharna and expressed resolve to continue the struggle for withdrawal of the Ordinance and against forcible displacement.
A martyrs’ resolution was passed by the gathering paying homage to those who sacrificed their lives opposing forcible displacement due to acquisition of land and vowing to continue the struggle with the resolve to “Give Lives, Not Land”. Homage was also paid to those farmers who had been forced to commit suicide during the continuing and intensifying crises of agricultural production due to govt. apathy towards the problems of the peasantry.