Daring, determined, disciplined: Story of Maha farmers’ march

Leaders of the All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), CPI(M)’s farmer unit that organised the march, admitted that it was a tough task to mobilise more than 1,50,000 farmers.

‘Central Railway offered two free trains for the protesters to go back home from Mumbai.

The farmers rejected the offer saying if all can pay for tickets then they will also pay. They are also citizens of India.’
Debraya Mukhopadhyay

Thousands of farmers walked the streets, donning red caps and waiving red flags from Nashik to Mumbai, a distance of around 200km, in a manner that made the entire nation watch them in awe.

This wasn’t the first farmers’ march held in Maharashtra or in India, but the discipline that the protestors showed caught everyone’s eye. The way in which the march was organised, without causing any hassles to locals of areas the protestors passed through, earned the farmers tremendous goodwill.

They even preponed the last leg of their journey, from Somaiya Ground to Azad Maidan, in Mumbai to not inconvenience Class 10 and Class 12 students. Leaders of the All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), CPI(M)’s farmer unit that organised the march, admitted that it was a tough task to mobilise more than 30,000 farmers to march towards Mumbai.

Ajit Nawale, state secretary of the AIKS, said, “We were forced to march to Mumbai in such large numbers. Our demands were being ignored constantly.”

The plan to carry out the march was first conceived at a CPI(M) district conference in Nashik, two months ago. Arjun Ade, chairman of the Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha, said, “We have been protesting for two years to no avail. We marched to Nagpur in 2015, to Wai (Satara) in 2016, and to Mumbai in June 2017, when the government finally waived off farmers’ loans in principle. We realised, we needed to do something big to get the government to act, instead of make big promises. So we decided to mobilise farmers.”

December’s meeting in Nashik was headed by JP Gavit, CPI(M)’s MLA, and one of the faces behind the march. He called upon his party members to mobilise farmers from every nook and corner of Maharashtra, to highlight their plight before the government, Ade said. Once the march started, no other arrangements were needed.

The farmers slept when night fell, ate whatever villagers or supporters offered them, and resumed walking. That was their routine for the past week. Vehicles carrying supplies accompanied the march. Participants were divided in groups of 50 to 100 on the basis of their villages or areas and given supplies. At several places, food and water was supplied by politicians, NGOs.

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