Tuesday, July 23, 2013

21st Maharashtra State Conference of AIKS held at Amravati

Ajit Nawale

The 21st Maharashtra state conference of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) was successfully held in a spirit of unity and determination from July 11-13, 2013 at Amravati, which is in the centre of the peasant suicide-affected Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. The conference was being held four and a half years after the 20th AIKS state conference that was held at Selu in Parbhani district in the Marathwada region in January 2009.

The conference venue was named after veteran AIKS leader Krishna Khopkar; the public meeting venue after veteran CITU leader M K Pandhe; the conference hall after AIKS state leader Vinayak Gaikwad; and the stage after another AIKS state leader Narendra Kavishwar.

The conference was inaugurated by renowned journalist P Sainath and it was attended by AIKS president S Ramachandran Pillai and AIKS joint secretary Vijoo Krishnan, both of whom remained present on all three days. The conference was attended by 257 delegates from 23 districts of Maharashtra, who represented a membership of 2,13,331 for 2012-13.


On the morning of July 11, after the flag-hoisting by veteran AIKS leader L B Dhangar, floral tributes to martyrs, condolence resolution and welcome address by reception committee chairman Udayan Sharma, the conference was inaugurated by P Sainath.

Referring to the fact that this conference was being held in Vidarbha which has gained notoriety for peasant suicides, Sainath said that as per the latest data released by the NCRB, a total of 2,84,694 farmers have committed suicide in India during the last 18 years. Of these, the largest number of over 57,000 peasant suicides is from Maharashtra. The main reason for these suicides is, of course, indebtedness. In addition, there are lakhs of peasants who, for the same reason, have simply left agriculture. These are some of the major symptoms of the deepening agrarian crisis as a result of the neo-liberal policies of the rulers.

Sainath then analysed the factors behind this crisis – the massive increase in the cost of inputs and consequently of the cost of production in agriculture, the sharp fall and fluctuations in the price of agricultural outputs and the crunch in institutional credit to the peasantry – along with the policy-related reasons for these factors. While banks give loans to buy a luxury Mercedes Benz car at 7 per cent interest, a farmer has to buy a tractor at 14 per cent interest! 50 per cent of agricultural credit in Mumbai is being given to corporates!

Recommendations of the National Commission for Farmers headed by Dr M S Swaminathan were gathering dust for the last six years. They included many seminal pro-farmer steps like a price stabilisation fund, farm output price to comprise cost of production plus 50 per cent profit, agricultural credit at 4 per cent rate of interest etc. But Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, said Sainath, was more interested in Lavasa than in taking these steps!

Sainath sharply criticised the new central scheme of doling out Rs 7000 crore to corporates in the name of so-called training of 10 lakh farmers; the growing concentration of land and water resources in the hands of a few; the trend towards corporatisation of agriculture; the skewed viewpoint as regards irrigation; and the withdrawal of the public sector in agricultural research which is now fast becoming a monopoly of the corporates.

To increase agricultural production and productivity, Sainath suggested steps like concerted agricultural research, scientific testing of soil and water, co-operative management of agriculture and so on. At the same time, he stressed that the paramount need is to build a powerful struggle against the anti-peasant policies of the ruling classes. He concluded by saying that “Mass Movements, not Mass Suicides!” must be our slogan in the days ahead.


The public meeting was held on the afternoon of the first day, July 11. It was presided over by AIKS state president J P Gavit, and the main speaker was AIKS president S R Pillai. Others who spoke were AIKS joint secretary Vijoo Krishnan, CKC member Dr Ashok Dhawale, AIKS state general secretary Kisan Gujar, veteran leader L B Dhangar and state office-bearers Dada Raipure, Udayan Sharma, Shankarrao Danav, Yashwant Zade and Arjun Adey.

The public meeting was a success despite constant rains for the preceding few days. Peasants, agricultural workers and unorganised workers had come from tehsils of Amravati district, and also from adjoining districts of Vidarbha like Yavatmal, Wardha and Buldana.


The conference report was placed in the delegate session on the evening of July 11 by AIKS state general secretary Kisan Gujar. Copies of the 88-page printed report were given to all the delegates. The report comprised the following six main sections: 1. Current Political Challenges; 2. The Crisis in Indian Agriculture; 3. The Agrarian Situation in Maharashtra: 4. Work Report; 5. Organisational Report; 6. Future Tasks.

The Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha has led a number of struggles in the last four years:

  • A massive independent statewide Jail Bharo stir by the AIKS in January 2011 for the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and on burning issues like peasant suicides, in which over 1 lakh peasants courted arrest.
  • Revival of the same struggle for FRA implementation and on the question of severe drought by the AIKS in April 2013, in which over 50,000 peasants conducted Rasta Roko at several centres for over 40 hours. The state government was forced to concede many important demands on April 17 after negotiations with the AIKS.
  • Independent statewide demonstrations of 1.25 lakh rural poor in 2012 led by the AIKS for their demand for inclusion in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) lists. The struggle was successful in some districts, where the names of thousands of rural poor were included in the BPL lists.  
  • A joint struggle from 2007 to 2010, in alliance with the PWP against the proposed 25,000-acre MahaMumbai SEZ allotted to Mukesh Ambani. It entailed two huge rallies of over 50,000 peasants each and a referendum. The state government was finally forced to denotify the SEZ, which was a major victory for the peasantry.    
  • Two independent AIKS statewide rallies of thousands of peasants to the Nagpur state assembly on a set of burning peasant demands on several vital issues.
  • Struggles for remunerative prices for crops like cotton and sugarcane.
  • Struggles on the burning issue of bank credit to the peasantry.
  • Struggles against the severe load-shedding of power and exorbitant power bills.
  • Struggles for getting temple lands, pasture lands, waste lands etc vested in the names of the cultivating peasants.
  • Campaigns against price rise, for food security and universalisation of the PDS.
  • Statewide campaign against the irrigation scam and other corruption scams.
  • Successful local struggle on the issue of canals of the Nilwande dam in Nagar district.
  • Mass marriage programmes of thousands of Adivasi couples in Nashik district.
  • Active support to All India working class strikes and to the Sangharsh Sandesh Jathas.
  • Regular holding of AIKS state camps for activists and publication of literature.
After group discussion in their district delegations, 43 delegates from 23 districts spoke on the report on July 12 and enriched it with their experiences, suggestions and criticisms. After the general secretary’s reply, the report was unanimously adopted amidst cheers.


AIKS president S R Pillai, while addressing the conference, congratulated the Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha for the struggles that it has led and the expansion that it has achieved in the last few years. However, he underlined the point that in view of the severity of the agrarian crisis in the country, there is much more that the AIKS must do all over the country.

He said that the roots of today’s agrarian crisis must be traced to the immediate post-Independence period. The refusal of the ruling classes under successive Congress regimes to carry out radical land reforms led to the concentration of land in the hands of the landlords and rich peasants, and therefore to the inequitable distribution of rural wealth and incomes. The green revolution also helped mainly the irrigated areas, further accentuating the gap between the rural rich and the rural poor, and also between irrigated and dryland areas.

With the neo-liberal policies that were unveiled two decades ago, things only got worse. The government withdrew from its responsibilities in agriculture, slashed public expenditure, cut subsidies to the peasantry, embarked on the privatisation drive, encouraged multinational corporations and indigenous corporates and surrendered to the unjust WTO regime.

As a result of all this, said SRP, the share of agriculture in the country’s GDP is now down to just 14 per cent. Agriculture is increasingly becoming an unviable option. Along with peasant suicides, innumerable farmers are being driven into the ranks of landless agricultural workers. Land acquisition by corporates and other sections of the land and real estate mafia is sharply increasing, displacing thousands of peasants from their land and livelihood.

The government says that it does not have any money for agriculture. But it has enough money to squander on massive tax concessions to the corporates year after year, and for the stinking corruption scams that are being unearthed every day. 

To change this situation, concluded SRP, massive and consistent struggles of the peasantry are the need of the hour. These struggles must be directed towards ensuring that alternative agrarian policies are put in place. For this, the right issues must be selected at the right time, local struggles must be intensified and the organisation must be strengthened. He expressed confidence that all this would be carried out in Maharashtra.

AIKS joint secretary Vijoo Krishnan also made an effective intervention on the last day, wherein he dealt with various important agrarian and organisational issues.


The state conference was greeted by CITU state secretary Amrut Meshram, AIAWU state joint secretary Maroti Khandare, AIDWA state president Mariam Dhawale, DYFI state president Bhagwan Bhojane and SFI state joint secretary Balaji Kaletwad.

One of the highlights of this conference was the placing of a 35-page document entitled “The Question of Irrigation in Maharashtra”. After discussion in the AIKS state council, this document was prepared and placed by AIKS state joint secretary Dr Ajit Nawale. Printed copies of it were given to all the delegates. One delegate from each district placed his views on this document. This document will soon be finalised in the light of a wider discussion and will become the basis of future struggles on this vital issue.

The other highlight was a reporting on the “Current Agrarian Situation in China” by AIKS state council member Dr R Ramakumar, who had recently been to China as part of a delegation. He provided very interesting insights into the agrarian situation of a socialist country, which were not only informative but also provided inspiration to the delegates.

The first issue of the revived journal of the Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha, “Shetkari Sangharsh” was released in this conference. It was decided to bring it out regularly as a bi-monthly. After discussion in the district delegations, it was decided to enrol over 8000 subscribers to this journal in advance. It was also enthusiastically decided to enrol over 3 lakh members of the AIKS in Maharashtra in the coming year 2013-14, and the district targets were finalised in the conference itself.

Several resolutions on important issues were unanimously adopted by the conference. Another 44-page booklet with all the draft resolutions was also circulated to delegates.

The conference unanimously decided to observe August 3 every year as Peasant Day all over Maharashtra. August 3 happens to be the birth anniversary of former AIKS national president Comrade Krantisimha Nana Patil and also the death anniversary of the founder general secretary of the Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha, Comrade Shamrao Parulekar.

Amidst great enthusiasm, AIKS president S R Pillai felicitated four veteran leaders of the AIKS who had devoted their entire lives to the cause – L B Dhangar (Thane), Nanasaheb Pokle (Beed), Sarangdhar Tanpure (Ahmednagar) and Prabhakar Nagargoje (Beed). He also felicitated two young comrades Irfan Shaikh (Nashik) and Sonu Kakwa (Thane) for extraordinary work in different areas of struggle.

AIKS state joint secretary Arjun Adey placed the credentials report, which had many interesting features. However, space does not permit their inclusion in this report.

Progressive literature worth over Rs 20,000 was sold during this state conference of the AIKS, and literature worth an equal amount was sold during the 23 district conferences of the AIKS that took place earlier. Also, subscriptions worth over Rs 18,000 to progressive journals were collected during this state conference.


The state conference unanimously elected a 77-member state council, which in turn unanimously elected its office-bearers: President – Dada Raipure; Working President – Arjun Adey; General Secretary – Kisan Gujar; Treasurer – Sanjay Thakur; Vice Presidents – L B Dhangar, Dr Ashok Dhawale, J P Gavit, Lahanu Kom, Rajaram Ozare, Nanasaheb Pokle, Udayan Sharma, Ghanashyam Patil, Jaisingh Mali, Ramkrishna Shere, Ratan Budhar, Gunaji Gavit; Joint Secretaries – Shankarrao Danav, Pandurang Rathod, Yashwant Zade, Barkya Mangat, Uddhav Poul, Manoj Kirtane, Dr Ajit Nawale, Sidhappa Kalshetty, Hemant Waghere, Irfan Shaikh, Radka Kalangda, Umesh Deshmukh, Dr R Ramakumar.

After inspiring concluding speeches by the incoming president Dada Raipure, veteran leader L B Dhangar, CKC member Dr Ashok Dhawale and outgoing president J P Gavit, all the activists and volunteers of the AIKS, AIAWU, CITU, AIDWA, DYFI and SFI from Amravati district who had spared no efforts to make this conference a great success, were felicitated by the leaders with rose flowers amidst resounding cheers and slogans. The 21st Maharashtra state conference of the AIKS then ended in an atmosphere of great unity, enthusiasm and determination.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Glorious Legacy of the Kisan Movement in Maharashtra

Ashok Dhawale

Maharashtra is among the states that have a long and glorious legacy of the Kisan movement, and a rich history of several peasant and tribal struggles against landlordism and feudalism. The peasantry of Maharashtra was also in the forefront of the struggle for independence against British imperialism.  Thousands of peasants were martyred in all these valiant struggles.

From 1826, the peasants of Pune district led uprisings which forced the British authorities to cede to them land holdings for low revenue charges. In 1844, Kolhapur and Sawantwadi witnessed a large-scale peasant revolt provoked by the British decision to increase land revenue in order to pay tribute to the princes. In 1848, the Rohillas of Nagpur took up arms. Around the same time, the peasants of Khandesh region rose up in protest against the land settlement which resulted in the increase of land tax. In protest against the British take-over of jungles and their effort to evict the Adivasis from forests, there were large struggles led by the Bhil, Koli, Ramoshi and other Adivasi tribes.

The peasantry of Maharashtra played an important role in the First War of Indian Independence in 1857. Among those who led the revolt, were renowned figures like Nana Sahib Peshwa, Tatya Tope and, of course, Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi. All of them hailed from Maharashtra. Very few know that Rani Lakshmibai’s maiden name was Manikarnika Tambe, and she was the daughter of Moropant and Bhagirathi Tambe, whose native village was Parola in the Jalgaon district of Maharashtra.

One of the most radical social reformers of Maharashtra in the nineteenth century, Mahatma Jotirao Phule (1827-1890), was a great champion of the peasantry and he bitterly attacked landlordism and all forms of caste oppression. His book ‘Shetkaryacha Aasood’ (Peasant’s Whipcord) was, and still remains, a classic. The ‘Satyashodhak Samaj’ that he founded had a major impact in the state.

Phule’s influence was yet another factor that inspired the peasantry to fight against landlords and money-lenders. In the famous ‘Deccan Riots’ of 1875, the drought-hit peasants of Pune and Ahmednagar districts barged into the houses of rapacious money-lenders, ransacked all papers related to peasant debt and publicly burnt them on the streets to destroy all evidence. Due to this uprising, in 1879 the British Government was forced to enact the Deccan Agricultural Debt Relief Act.   

Peasant struggles in Maharashtra on various issues continued in the first part of the twentieth century. They were joined by struggles of the working class. In the 1920s, massive strikes and other militant struggles of the textile workers of Mumbai were spearheaded under the Red Flag of the famous Girni Kamgar Union (GKU) which was led by the Communist Party. One of the most memorable of these strikes was the six-month strike of textile workers in 1928. It was as a result of these bitter class struggles that the working class of Mumbai and Maharashtra won several of its rights and demands. Among the legendary first generation leaders of these working class struggles were Comrades B T Ranadive, S A Dange, S S Mirajkar and others. From Mumbai, these struggles spread to other textile mill centres in districts like Thane, Solapur, Dhule, Jalgaon, Nagpur and so on.

Two cardinal features of these Communist-led working class struggles in Maharashtra were that they mobilised the workers in the freedom struggle against British colonialism; and they also championed the cause of secularism and working class unity against the reactionary forces of communalism.

In 1930, the working class and the people of Solapur rose up in revolt against British rule. For a few days, they ousted the British rulers and took control of the administration of Solapur city. This became known as the Solapur Commune. The British clamped down and imposed a most draconian Martial Law. There was massive repression. Four leaders of this struggle – Mallappa Dhanshetty, Shrikisan Sarda, Qurban Husain and Jagannath Shinde - were hanged on January 12, 1931.

On March 23, 1931, the British hanged three other illustrious and revolutionary martyrs – Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. Of these, Shivram Hari Rajguru hailed from a peasant family of Khed in the Pune district of Maharashtra. Khed has since been renamed as Rajgurunagar.

In the historic struggles against caste and against landlordism that were led by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar in the 1920s and 1930s, R B More and Shamrao Parulekar were two prominent leaders who participated. Both of them later joined the Communist Party. R B More was one of the main organisers of the famous 1927 Chowdar Lake Satyagraha at Mahad in Raigad district that was led by Dr Ambedkar. It demanded the basic right of Dalits to draw water from that lake. Dr Ambedkar and Shamrao Parulekar led a huge 8000-strong peasant demonstration on the Mumbai Assembly in 1938 against the ‘Khoti’ system of landlordism that was then prevalent in the Konkan region. Remarkably, the peasants had all come to Mumbai by boat from the then Ratnagiri district of Konkan region.

The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) was formed at its foundation conference at Lucknow on April 11, 1936. Some delegates from Maharashtra attended it. The second conference of the AIKS was held at Faizpur in Jalgaon district of Maharashtra on December 25-26, 1936. M A Rasul, in his detailed work ‘A History of the All India Kisan Sabha’, has recorded that, “About 500 kisan marchers led by V M Bhuskute and J Bukhari started from Manmad on 12 December and marched over a 200-mile trek and reached Tilaknagar, Faizpur at noon on 25 December carrying the Red Flag and shouting kisan slogans. On arrival there they were received by Jawaharlal Nehru (Congress president), Shankar Rao Deo (Congress Reception Committee chairman), M N Roy, Maniben Mulji, Narendra Dev, besides kisan leaders like Swamiji, Ranga, Yagnik, Jaiprakash Narayan, Bankim Mukherji and Shibnath Banerji, also S A Dange, M R Masani, Yusuf Meherali and other Congress, kisan and labour leaders.”        

Peasant struggles on various issues intensified in the mid-1930s in Thane, Nashik, Ahmednagar and other districts. The AIKS had chosen Shamrao Parulekar to be its organiser in Maharashtra. In 1942, after their release from a two-year British jail term for leading the anti-war campaign, Shamrao and Godavari Parulekar began work in the AIKS in right earnest. In 1943-44, the Kisan Sabha was started by them in the Kalyan, Murbad and Shahapur tehsils of Thane district. Shamrao and Godavari met P Sundarayya and M Basavapunnaiah, the future leaders of the historic Telangana armed peasant struggle, with whom they continued to have very close relations throughout their lives.     

The foundation conference of the Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha was held on January 12, 1945 at Titwala in Thane district.  Godavari has recorded that she, along with other activists, covered over 700 villages on foot and addressed 160 public meetings for this conference. More than 7,000 poor and middle peasants and agricultural workers from several districts attended this first state conference of the Kisan Sabha. Among the top leaders who addressed the conference were P Sundarayya, P Krishna Pillai, B T Ranadive, M A Rasul, Teja Singh Swatantra and N M Joshi. The conference elected a 33-member state kisan council. Buwa Nawale from Akole tehsil of Ahmednagar district was elected the first president, Shamrao Parulekar the first general secretary and Godavari Parulekar the first joint secretary of the Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha, among other office-bearers.

It was this conference that unleashed the historic Adivasi Revolt led by the Communist Party and the Kisan Sabha in Thane district. This revolt which began in May 1945, continued for over two years. It abolished all forms of slavery and bonded labour, increased wages of agricultural labourers and succeeded to an extent in giving land to the tiller. This struggle is documented in detail in Shamrao Parulekar’s book ‘Revolt of the Warlis’ and in Godavari Parulekar’s book ‘Adivasis Revolt’. The Adivasi Revolt gave its first five martyrs on October 10, 1945, when the British police, who were in league with a plot hatched by the landlord lobby, fired mercilessly on a peaceful gathering of over 30,000 Adivasis at Talwada, near the Talasari tehsil of Thane district. Comrade Jethya Gangad was among those who were killed in this state repression. There have been a total of 60 martyrs of the Communist Party and the Kisan Sabha in Thane district since 1945, and 3 martyrs in Nashik district.

The foundation of the Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha and the Warli Adivasi Revolt were the culmination of the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal struggle waged by Shamrao and Godavari in the pre-independence era. However, space does not permit a detailed analysis of these events.

From 1943 to 1946, in another historic occurrence, British rule was overthrown for three and a half years and a ‘Parallel Government’ (Prati Sarkar) was established in Satara and Sangli districts of Western Maharashtra. It had the full support and backing of the peasantry. This revolt was led by ‘Krantisinha’ Nana Patil, who later joined the Communist Party and was also elected AIKS national president in the 13th AIKS Conference that took place at Dahanu in Thane district in May 1955.

On August 15, 1947, independence dawned over India at last. But on that day, over 600 Adivasis from Thane district owing allegiance to the Red Flag of the Communist Party and the Kisan Sabha woke up to freedom in Congress jails, as did thousands of other Communists all across the country. The most famous among them was, of course, another legendary leader of the Indian people – A K Gopalan, who was to lead the AIKS as its national president for several years.

The liberation of large parts of Dadra and Nagarhaveli from Portuguese rule from July 24 to August 3, 1954, under the armed leadership of the Communist Party and the Kisan Sabha in Thane district, was a major event in the post-independence period. This struggle was directly led by Shamrao and Godavari. L B Dhangar and hundreds of Adivasi comrades participated in this liberation struggle.

The holding of the 13th national conference of the AIKS at Dahanu in Thane district from May 19-22, 1955, braving all manner of repression and obstacles by the government, was another significant event in the history of the Kisan movement in Maharashtra. Towering leaders of the AIKS like P Sundarayya, A K Gopalan, E M S Namboodiripad, Hare Krishna Konar, N Prasada Rao, M A Rasul, Bankim Mukherjee, Harkishan Singh Surjeet, Dasharath Deb, B Srinivas Rao, Jagjit Singh Lyallpuri and others attended the conference which was accompanied by a massive rally. Shamrao and Godavari were the moving spirits behind this conference and Nana Patil was elected as AIKS president.

Another leader from Maharashtra, Godavari Parulekar, would also be elected national president of the AIKS at its 25th Conference, which was its Golden Jubilee session at Patna. She is the only woman to have held the post so far. In earlier times, Shamrao Parulekar had also been an AIKS central office-bearer for many years.

In the 1950s, democratic movements for the formation of linguistic states were unleashed in many parts of the country. The ruling Congress Party went back on its pre-independence pledge to form such states. This was the reason for the movements like Aikya Keralam, Vishal Andhra, Samyukta Maharashtra and Maha Gujarat that swept these states in the decade of the 1950s. The Samyukta Maharashtra movement, from 1956 to 1960, was led by the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti, which comprised four main parties – the Communist Party, the Praja Samajwadi Party, the Peasants and Workers Party and the Republican Party. It engulfed the state, with the peasantry and working class both joining it in huge numbers. In the massive repression that followed, 106 martyrs were killed in police firing. Most of them were from the working class in Mumbai and the rest were peasants.

This movement dealt a massive blow to the Congress Party in the 1957 elections to parliament and the state assembly. Several leaders of the above four parties won the elections. Among those elected to parliament were AIKS leaders Shamrao Parulekar and Nana Patil and another towering RPI peasant leader Dadasaheb Gaikwad. Many AIKS leaders were elected to the state assembly. Eventually, the central government was forced to concede the demand, and the state of Maharashtra was formed with Mumbai as its capital on May Day - May 1, 1960. 

In 1958, a big joint statewide struggle for land was launched in Maharashtra. The significant aspect of this struggle was that blue flags of the Republican Party led by Karmaveer Dadasaheb Gaikwad and red flags of the Communist Party led by Shamrao, Godavari, Nana Patil, R B More and others came together in it. Thousands of Dalits, Adivasis and other landless took part in the satyagrahas and filled the jails. The government was forced to make some concessions.

In 1960, the Kisan Sabha led by Shamrao and Godavari took up the vital demand of vesting forest plots in the names of the Adivasis who have been cultivating them for decades. Thousands of acres of land were vested in the names of Adivasis as a result of this struggle, until the draconian Forest Conservation Act of 1980 put a stop to the entire process. Ever since then, large struggles of Adivasis have been led by the AIKS in several districts of Maharashtra to press this demand. The Forest Rights Act (FRA) passed by Parliament in December 2006, although it marks an important advance on paper, leaves much to be desired as regards its implementation. Massive struggles of the Adivasi peasantry have been waged by the AIKS in Maharashtra in recent years towards this end.

On August 3, 1965, Shamrao Parulekar, who was in detention in the Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai, suddenly died due to a massive heart attack. It was a shattering blow for Godavari, who was also in the same jail at the time. It was an equally shattering blow for the AIKS and for the Kisan movement.
In 1968, the AIKS split at the All India level, and in 1969 the 7th state conference of the Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha was held in the village called Moha in the Beed district of Marathwada region, with the initiative taken by Gangadhar Appa Burande. AIKS general secretary Hare Krishna Konar attended this conference which decided the future course of the Kisan Sabha in Maharashtra. Godavari was elected its president and continued in that post for more than two decades.

In 1972-73, an extremely serious drought hit Maharashtra and the Kisan Sabha, led by stalwarts like Godavari Parulekar, Gangadhar Appa Burande, Narendra Malusare, Ramchandra Ghangare, Vithalrao Naik, L B Dhangar, Krishna Khopkar, Lahanu Kom and others led big peasant struggles for drought relief. The CITU in Maharashtra extended fraternal help and this illustrated the concept of worker-peasant unity in action. Joint struggles on this issue were also launched along with peasant organisations led by other Left parties. Police firing led to the death of peasants at Islampur in Sangli district and at Vairag in Solapur district.  This led to a statewide uproar.  It was as a result of these struggles that the state government was forced to start two important schemes – the Employment Guarantee Scheme (the precursor to the NREGA) and the Monopoly Cotton Procurement Scheme.      

In the struggle against the hated Emergency imposed by the Congress regime from 1975 to 1977, several opposition party leaders were arrested and detained for 19 months. But in the general elections of 1977, the authoritarian Congress was routed. In that election, three Left leaders – Ahilya Rangnekar from Mumbai, Lahanu Kom from Thane district and Gangadhar Appa Burande from Beed district – were elected to the Lok Sabha as part of a united front. The latter two were prominent AIKS leaders. In the 1978 state assembly elections, 9 MLAs of the Left were elected on an anti-authoritarian platform. They also included AIKS leaders. During the Emergency itself, Godavari led a successful struggle for the release of over 1000 debt slaves in the Wada tehsil of Thane district.

Several statewide and local struggles on burning issues of the peasantry were led by the AIKS in the post-Emergency period, especially in the post-1991 era of imperialist globalisation in the wake of its severe attack on agriculture and the peasantry. Space does not permit a detailed account of all these struggles in this piece. Only a few major struggles led by the AIKS recently may be briefly mentioned.

  • A massive independent statewide Jail Bharo stir in January 2011 for the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and on burning issues like peasant suicides, in which over 1 lakh peasants courted arrest.
  • Revival of the same struggle for FRA implementation and on the question of severe drought in April 2013, in which over 50,000 peasants conducted Rasta Roko at several centres for over 40 hours. The state government was forced to concede several demands on April 17.
  • Independent statewide demonstrations of 1.25 lakh rural poor in 2012 for their demand for inclusion in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) lists. The struggle was successful in some districts, where the names of thousands of rural poor were included in the BPL lists.  
  • A joint and militant struggle from 2007 to 2010, in alliance with the PWP against the proposed 25,000-acre MahaMumbai SEZ allotted to Mukesh Ambani. It entailed two huge rallies of over 50,000 peasants each and a referendum. The state government was finally forced to denotify the MahaMumbai SEZ, which was a major victory for the peasantry.    
  • Two independent statewide rallies of thousands of peasants to the Nagpur state assembly on a set of burning peasant demands on several vital issues.
  • Struggles on the vital issue of remunerative prices for crops like cotton and sugarcane, and also on the burning issue of bank credit.
  • Struggles against the severe load-shedding of power and fantastic power bills, and also against the proposed disastrous Jaitapur atomic power plant.
  • Campaigns and struggles for getting temple lands, pasture lands, waste lands etc vested in the names of the cultivating peasants.
  • Statewide campaigns against price rise, for food security and universalisation of the PDS.
  • Statewide campaign against the irrigation scam and other corruption scams.
  • Intervention in cases of social atrocities against dalits, adivasis, minorities and women.
  • Organising of mass marriage programmes of thousands of Adivasi couples in Nashik district.
  • Regular holding of AIKS state camps for activists and publication of literature.

It is as a result of these struggles and campaigns that the membership of the AIKS in Maharashtra has generally been above the 2 lakh mark in the last few years. Of course, much more needs to be done to intensify struggles, increase the membership and strengthen the organisation.

51 years after Thane district hosted the 13th national conference of the AIKS in May 1955, it was Nashik district that hosted the 31st national conference of the AIKS in January 2006, with an unprecedented one lakh-strong peasant rally representing 30 districts of Maharashtra. Godavari Parulekar would have been the happiest had she lived to see it.

Unfortunately, she passed away at the ripe old age of 89 on October 8, 1996. The day on which she was cremated at Talasari in Thane district on October 10 was also the day 51 years ago in 1945 when the first five martyrs of the historic Adivasi Revolt were mercilessly gunned down by the venal nexus of the landlords and the imperialists. Thus, October 10 is observed every year in Thane district as Martyrs’ Day and also as the Godavari Parulekar Death Anniversary Day.  

Today, there are many formidable political challenges before the AIKS in Maharashtra. The 21th AIKS state conference that is being held from July 11-13, 2013 at Amravati in the Vidarbha region will take up all these challenges and will chart out the future course of mass struggles and our advance.

(Ashok Dhawale is Vice President, Maharashtra State Kisan Sabha; CKC Member, All India Kisan Sabha)