Images by Apal Singh & Vidhaat Raman
A lot of people have been calling me since yesterday to understand the Western Uttar Pradesh churning, specially in the context of Mahapanchayat at Muzaffarnagar on Fifth September. Given the absolute paucity of time in my life nowadays, I may not be able to to write a very detailed note.
However, here are nine quick observations:
1. Don’t let anyone let you believe anything else- What happened yesterday at Muzaffarnagar, was in the truest sense, historic. I don’t think a bigger turnout of farmers has been seen in the entire world. The ground where the rally took place had less than even 1/10 th of the total farmers that attended yesterday. All of Muzaffarnagar city was flooded with farmers yesterday. It was incredible. The numbers were so huge that many couldn’t even make it to the venue.
2. Listen to Tikait’s speech very carefully. His speech was a lot more than just the three farm laws. He starts with how everything is being privatised, then spoke about the state of the average cop, issues concerning workers, how pensions are being withdrawn, and how ‘Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s constitution is being destroyed’. Finally, finished it with the old BKU slogan, Allahu Akbar- Har Har Mahadev. Clearly, he made overtures to people beyond just farmers. Clear attempts at reaching out to a constituency beyond just farmers.
3. Almost every Hindu Jat you speak with in West UP today says it no uncertain terms- 2013 was a big mistake. A clear admission of guilt. BJP is slightly clueless of how to handle the situation. They tried observing a big memorial meeting for Sachin and Gaurav on August 29 in Muzaffarnagar (both were two Jat boys. It was with their murders in 2013 that BJP whipped up communal frenzy in the region). The memorial was a flop, only attended by BJP functionaries.
4. Many Muslims organised a lot of langars and other forms of Seva for the farmers going to Muzaffarnagar. Even mosques made arrangements for people’s accommodation, where Hindu and Sikh farmers also stayed at night. This has further cemented ties between the two communities. Many many farmers in the region are talking about the hospitality extended by Muslims. They are clearly touched.
5. Lots of RLD posters and banners all over West UP along with SKM and BKU banners. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. The best part about SKM is that they’ve adapted to local social and political dynamics very well. While no elected representative was allowed to address the gathering yesterday, but RLD has mobilized people in a big way. RLD is gradually becoming a movement of sorts. The good thing is that RLD is not trying to hijack the movement, and only supporting it from the outside.
6. Unlike Haryana and Punjab where massive efforts have gone in to mobilizing women for the movement and women have been encouraged to speak and perform on stage as well, this element is entirely missing in West UP. The deeply patriarchal and feudal gender dynamics of West UP continue to be largely unaffected by this movement.
7. Small efforts have been made to reach out to Dalits and other working class OBC’s to ally in this movement. Not to the extent that Punjab and Haryana have made. ‘Kisan-Mazadoor Ekta’ is a slogan that they are still struggling to truly realize.
8. Finally, is this curtains for BJP in West UP, specially in seats where Jats and Muslims are in big numbers? Not at all. But a huge dent for sure. Still some months before the elections and I don’t put anything past the BJP. Moreover, while youth among OBC castes like Sainis and Kashyaps (who’ve been known to be BJP voters) are angry because of unemployment etc. But if the opposition is not able to consolidate that anger, it’s still advantage BJP. The aandolan did try and reach out yesterday, specially in Tikait’s speech. Moreover, East UP is hardly touched by the aandolan.
9. Jat farmers are fast returning to the farmers party RLD. BJP continues to have some presence even now, but is fast diminishing. The kissan aandolan is proving to be much more than just the demand to revoke the three new kissan laws. It has become the biggest movement to, not just save, but even deepen our democracy. It has changing dynamics in Punjab, Haryana and West UP in ways that we can’t even imagine.