Around two o’clock on Wednesday, teachers and students of Delhi University were marching towards Parliament Street. The march was against the granting of autonomy to universities by the UGC. The number of students on the road would have been around 1000.
Just a few kilometers from here, it was the fifth day of social worker Anna Hazare’s hunger strike. The strike was going on in the historic Ramlila Maidan where around 700 people (mostly farmers from different states) were sitting under tents. It was here that four-five TV channels were waiting for Anna Hazare’s press conference. However, Hazare’s doctor Dhananjay Pote informed the media that his health is critical and he has been advised not to speak. There was concern among the people about the deteriorating condition of Anna during the hunger strike, low crowds and fasting. Like 2011, when thousands of protesters from Delhi and different parts of the country came to Delhi on a call from Anna and the entire media reached Ramlila Maidan. But this movement is not like that.
Farmers’ performance without a strategy, lack of better coordination among farmer organizations, core committees lacking experience – these are all reasons for less crowd gathering. And to a great extent, Anna himself was also responsible for this bad show till the fifth day. He declared a unilateral movement without taking the parties into confidence.
The Needs And Wants
Mainly Hazare had three major demands from the central government – a strong agricultural policy, appointment of Lokpal and election reform. The central government has assured 82-year-old Anna that he will take all necessary steps to fulfill his demands. On Thursday, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis met Anna in this regard. He ended Anna’s fast by drinking water.
Instead of sending a representative of the central government, on Monday, the BJP sent Maharashtra minister Girish Mahajan for talks. After this, by sending Devendra Fadnavis, the BJP also gave a hint that the BJP wants to limit Anna’s movement to local issues instead of being national.
Meanwhile, at the protest venue of Hazare, the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasabha (RKM), under which fifty organizations come, joined the movement. However, a senior RKM leader told Newslaundry that despite fifty organizations only three or four organizations have participated in this movement. Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta of Punjab- Siddhupur and Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangh (RKMS) of Madhya Pradesh have active participation in the movement.
“We came in contact with Annaji on March 21. This is a very wrong time to perform,” Shiv Kumar Sharma, the RKM’s convener, told Newslaundry. “It is harvesting time in parts of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. You cannot ask farmers to leave the field and join the movement at this time.” Sharma said that these things were also kept in front of Anna Hazare.
Hazare’s core team member PN Kalki admitted that he knew the timing of the performance was a bit awkward. In October last year, he had decided that on the occasion of the martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh, Anna would sit on a fast in Delhi. We had no choice but to partner with farmer organizations. Hazare’s 24-member NGO- Anti-Corruption Mass Movement Trust (BVJAN) was established in the year 2018. That too with such faces, which few people know. Apparently, this non-experienced team could not manage to coordinate with agricultural organizations.
Sharma of RKM pointed out that the list of Hazare’s demands did not match the demands of the farmers’ organizations. “Their demands are also atram-shatram. If the issues and demands were fixed by talking to the farmers’ organizations, these demands would have been different.” Sharma said that the people of the NGO persuaded Anna to come to Delhi and now see this situation.
Hazare has made four-point demands for farmers, including the creation of a constitutional body – the Commission for Agriculture Cost and Prices (CACP). It should be free from government pressures. They want to get a pension of 5000 rupees for those farmers aged 60 years and above whose livelihood is based on agriculture. Their third demand involves adding the MSP to the C3 + 50% formula. The fourth demand is that all farmers should be given insurance of food grains.
The government has accepted the demand for minimum support price and the Lokpal. On the issue of electoral reforms, the government has said that if this is the issue of the Election Commission, then they will forward Anna’s demand to the Commission. Anna has announced that if the government does not meet his demands within six months, then he will sit on hunger strike again.
When Kalki was asked about the process of fixing the demands, he said, “Anna has his own way of working and thinking”. See how the outline of this movement was prepared – On 2 October 2017, Anna came to Rajghat and assured to make a big movement. “A workshop of 70 people took place in Ralegan Siddhi on 6-7 October. Three issues were fixed during the talks,” said Kalki.
Another member of the core team told Newslaundry on the condition of anonymity, “In the spirit, he decided that he would sit on fast on Bhagat Singh’s Martyrdom Day. I think he felt that in the last movements of his life One would be better than to have a health issue or something unfortunate that either change the system or become a martyr in the movement itself. ”
Anna was talked about the date of the agitation at the time of harvesting and was requested to prepone the agitation in February.
It is important that RKM organized the Delhi siege on February 23, where people from eight different places were coming to the national capital. But they were all taken into custody in different states.
On 22 February, hundreds of farmers were reportedly detained in Cheema Mandi, Sangrur. Since then he stayed in Mandi. On 20 March, 59-year-old Jagjit Singh started his hunger strike. The same day he came to Ramlila Maidan to participate in Hazare’s movement. After an eight-day hunger strike, Singh told Newslaundry, “It is better that I give up my life to make concrete laws for the farmers in this country.” In Punjab and the rest of the country, farmers are committing suicide due to debt. “Singh further says,” If I can save two farmers from committing suicide by committing suicide, then at least I will be able to save the life of a farmer. ” Without worrying about the silence of the government and the number of people in the tent, Singh says, “This is a fight to save the farmers of this country.”
One of Hazare’s demands was also related to election reforms. Also, they want to replace the election symbol of political parties with photographs of candidates. This makes them believe that the importance of political parties will be less in electoral democracy. They want to convert NOTA into Right to Reject. He again emphasized on the Right to Recall – this issue was also included in the demands of the India Against Corruption Movement.
Anna’s health was getting worse with each passing day. The plan to carry forward the movement and the participation of people in it was so low that there was nothing to worry about the central government. However, the organizers believed that the movement would pick up from Thursday, but before that the government stopped the movement by considering it half-incomplete. A large number of farmers arrived from Madhya Pradesh and Punjab on Thursday.
However, Hazare also agrees to not make better plans and partnerships with farmer organizations. Significantly, Hazare is targeting political parties and his view is clear on the denial of political parties to join the movement. Ever since the Narendra Modi government came to the center, all the successful movements of workers and peasants have been done with the joint efforts of all political and non-political organizations. From the opposition to the Land Acquisition Bill, the agitations organized under the All India People’s Forum were all in opposition to the policies of the Central Government.
Even Yogendra Yadav’s Farmers’ Coordination Committee was successful in getting large number of farmers off the streets of Delhi. The recent Maharashtra farmers’ movement was successful with the support of the Left parties. Distance from such organizations, which means that people are not organized on the ground.
After the first movement of Hazare, the rise of Arvind Kejriwal and the establishment of the Aam Aadmi Party has scared Hazare from within. They want to rectify their mistake, remove the burden of Kejriwal from their shoulders. This is why Anna does not want to allow any political party to join the strike, a member of the core committee said. However, he admitted that he also suffered due to this condition.
Even if the farmers’ organizations were able to mobilize in Ramlila Maidan, then there would be no reason to believe that Anna’s goal is only to be accomplished with this movement.