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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 42, New Delhi, October 2, 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Oct 2, 2021

Friday 1 October 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, October 2, 2021

The farmers’ movement was in the news again for its a national day of strike action on September 27, 2021. It is now ten months since this huge mobilisation appeared on the borders of Delhi. The news media may have stopped giving coverage to the farmers agitation but the mobilisation continues. Tens of thousands of peasants from mostly Punjab and some from Haryana and Parts of UP stay camped in the outer limits of Delhi. The long agitation has required immense social energy and has shown incredible staying power. The peasants live in large tents, on tractor trailers and in some semi-permanent structures. There are community kitchens, community toilets and bathing & washing facilities, medical clinics, solar power run facilities all of which require high organising skills unseen in social movements. The long Sikh tradition of ‘Langar’ and sophisticated community service with backing from the rural Punjabi disapora has been the backbone of this movement that no political party or movement is capable of mobilising. It is truly remarkable that despite ideological differences, over 15 different farmers’ unions have managed to stay together in the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) the coordinating entity of the farmers’ movement. In this long mobilisation a whole of lot of new people have been attracted to the movement from the village to national levels. There has been much interaction with Industrial workers unions who have supported the farmers while raising their own issues. The mainstream media has more or less stopped covering the farmers movement but this social movement has shown amazing resolve by mobilising on the social media. The movement, in a small way has come to occupy a space normally offered by political parties and become a space for political consiousness raising in society going beyond its own specific demands of repeal of farm laws and the interactions with other campaigns has brought in the new labour codes, privatisation of public sector firms, human rights & police atrocities and so on. While the movement has become a space for social churning and solidarity, some major issues of rural social and economic life still remain ‘untouchable’ no-go areas. Some of the very influential traditional caste councils or ‘Khap panchayats’ of North India that conventionally issue fatwa’s or edicts on parochial issues of caste and respect for family authority and against inter-caste, inter-religious marriage and in support of sectarian strife, have lent support to the farmers movement. But these feudal bodies with social clout naturally do not allow contestation of their dark underside — their support for measures to control women’s autonomy, honour crimes, anti-dalit violence and communal violence. Similarly the whole question of the ecological costs of modern farming for cash crops and also the problem of stuble burning remains un-discussed. We hope this peasant movement will also help open the doors to spur much needed social reforms in rural society.

Tributes:

Chakravarthi Raghavan, the distinguished Indian journalist passed away on 26 September 2021 in Geneva at the age of 96. He was once the Chief Editor of Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency and in 1980, became the Chief Editor of the SUNS (then known as the Special United Nations Service). His writings and reportage gave a voice to the concerns countries of the third world.

Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan’s former high commissioner to the United Kingdom and a much-respected member of the Pakistan People’s Party passed away in London on September 28, 2021

We pay our tributes to the above figures

October 2, 2021 – HK

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