Solidarity protest camps in Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Chennai and Bangalore have begun disappearing.
The violence that rocked the national capital Delhi on the Republic Day has damaged the image of the farmers protesting against the three agricultural laws for over two months. As a result, several farmers outfits in the south that have been on the streets in solidarity with those in Delhi, have called off their protest plans and are distancing themselves from the overall agitation.
The entry of anti-social or national elements in the tractors’ parade in the national capital and subsequent mob violence has caused enormous damage to the very interests of the farmers in various states who have some genuine grievances over the three laws. For the last two months, there have been solidarity protest camps by many organisations in the south.
But, these camps have begun disappearing in Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Chennai and Bangalore, as almost all the respective ruling parties of these states have withdrawn from the farmers’ protests. Of course, the protests have remained the same in Kerala where the ruling Left front continues to support them. And the outfits associated with the Congress, too, are going along with the Left camp.
Even in other southern states, the protests have now been limited to the outfits either affiliated or closer to the Left parties. The farmers’ unions associated with TRS in Telangana, YSR Congress and TDP in Andhra Pradesh, AIADMK and DMK in Tamil Nadu and JD(S) in Karnataka have not shown the same enthusiasm in continuing the stir. A major reason for this changed atmosphere is the adamant stance adopted by the farmers unions which have been camping in Delhi. The unions’ decision not to leave the national capital until the laws were completely repealed hasn’t gone down well with the other farmers’ bodies—including those without any open political links. The Centre’s readiness to incorporate necessary amendments or put on hold the laws for a maximum of two years is seen as the government’s accommodating stance by several farmers’ bodies. For example, most unions want some statutory guarantee to the MSP (minimum support price) and stringent provisions for default of contract deals, but are not bothered about the entire contract farming.
The Rythu Seva Samanvaya Samithi of AP which was in the forefront of the agitation for the last two months now changed its mind to distance from the Delhi based unions. At a meeting held in Hyderabad on 28 January, the body which is closely associated with Congress, decided to press for some amendments to the laws, not more than that.
Same is the stand taken by the ruling TRS which initially actively took part in the Bharat Bandh of the farmers. Now, Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, his ministers and other top leaders of the ruling party have been voicing reservations over the demands for total repeal of the laws. Telangana State Planning Board vice-chairman B. Vinod Kumar now demands only amendments to the laws. “I think the Centre can on its own introduce a Bill in the current budget session of Parliament to amend the laws and send it to a parliamentary standing committee for further scrutiny. The committee should widely travel the country and gather opinions of farmers from all the states and come up with the amendments in the monsoon session,” he told this columnist. This is entirely different from the line taken by the other agitating farmers, mostly associated with the Left parties. The farmers associated with the Congress are a divided house, as some of them are in favour of the farm laws, while others are confused over the course of protests to be followed. The party leaders are unable to mobilise farmers to their protests.
Interestingly, both the ruling YSR Congress and main Opposition TDP in AP are muted in their response to the farmers’ protests. Though the CPI and CPI (M) leaders in Andhra are pressuring TDP leaders to mobilise farmers to the agitation, former chief minister Chandrababu Naidu is not vehemently opposing the farm laws. Same is the situation in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka where the Opposition parties are not keen on intensifying the farmers’ protests, mainly because of the violent turn the Delhi agitation has taken. “We don’t want to create further trouble in the country in the name of the farm laws,” said Balamuralidharan, a farmer activist from Madurai in the south Tamil Nadu. The governments in the four states–Telangana, AP, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka–have been open to permitting farmers to sell their produce anywhere, in tune with the spirit of the newly enacted central laws and there is no backlash from the farmers too. As long as the MSP is ensured to the existing crops, the new laws are not an issue to the farmers here.