Sandeep Singh: Fault Lines & Physical Altercations As Suspended Farm Unions Challenge SKM
The decision by some farm unions to contest in the Punjab election remains incredibly controversial within the Farmers’ Protest movement
March 19, 2022 | 3 min. read | Original Reporting
On the heel of Punjab’s election results, the SKM held a March 14 meeting at the Gandhi Peace Foundation in Delhi to discuss next steps for the Farmers’ Protest and outstanding demands.
Although many had hoped for unity between farm unions, after a contentious decision by some of them to contest in the assembly elections, it was a chaotic affair. Suspended farm unions, which had been sanctioned by SKM for ignoring warnings and launching the unsuccessful farming political party SSM, wanted back in, exposing larger fractures within the movement.
The decision by some farm unions to contest in the Punjab election remains incredibly controversial within the Farmers’ Protest movement and was faced with immediate suspension of participating unions even before its dismal showing would become apparent on election results day. They were to be suspended for four months as of a January 14 announcement from SKM.
Balbir Rajewal and Gurnam Charuni were both suspended for launching their respective parties. However, that did not stop them from crashing the SKM meeting on March 14 after an embarrassing election defeat.
At the meeting, conflict arose over the control over the stage, with the altercation becoming physical. A farm leader from Doaba, Punjab, was slapped according to three farm leaders that witnessed the altercation.
The farm leader that was physically assaulted was a vocal supporter of contesting elections and is considered close to Rajewal. There was additionally sloganeering against those farm unions and leaders that decided to contest elections against SKM’s wishes.
Due to the chaos, and suspensions levelled against SSM members, two parallel meetings were eventually held. SKM held their meeting outside on the lawn of the hall, while the suspended farm unions held their meeting inside of it.
SKM has called for a nationwide protest against the Modi government's role in the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre and the betrayal of assurances given to the farm leaders. According to the SKM, except for Haryana, police cases against farmers in other parts of the country have not been withdrawn.
It also claims that the government has not taken any meaningful steps to form a committee on MSP. In order to push on these demands, SKM will also observe MSP Guarantee Week from April 11-17.
On the other hand, suspended farm unions led by Rajewal and Charuni claim to have dissolved the coordination committee of SKM and declared themselves to be the new SKM. Instead of lending support to the protest calls on March 21, the suspended group will hold a meeting in Lakhimpur Kheri on the same day.
SKM has called out the actions of the suspended farm unions and issued a statement declaring that any farm unions that participate in the unsanctioned meeting at Lakhimpur Kheri will face strict disciplinary action.
”SKM has already given a call to protest but suspended unions attempted to dissolve SKM’s coordination committee without being a part of the organization these days,” Deep Lamba, General Secretary of Jai Kisan Andolan, which is a part of SKM, said.
“Modi wants to split unions that are a part of SKM. Some people want to divide SKM and to weaken it,” Prem Singh Bhangu, President of All India Kisan Sabha(AIKS), an organization suspended from SKM, argued in return.
Bhangu adds, “[Suspended farm unions] want SKM to be united to fight for the rights of farmers. People who held a parallel meeting outside the meeting hall are trying to weaken the protest. They declared to hold a program on 21st of March but we want unification of SKM [first].”
”[SKM] are claiming that we participated in the political activity, [which is why we are suspended]. [However], even Yogendra Yadav is into politics and Hannah Mollah too is a former MP. We had gathered to protest on [farming policy], not on the issue of politics,” he would conclude.
Sandeep Singh hails from Machhiwara, Punjab. As an independent journalist, he has worked with many prominent Indian news organizations. Sandeep has been following the farmer’s protest in Punjab since its onset and traveled with them to Delhi. You can follow Sandeep on Twitter @Punyaab
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