Monday, May 22, 2017


Ajit Nawale
On May 11, 2017, the Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha (AIKS) held an ‘Aasood’ (Whipcord) State Convention followed by an ‘Aasood’ State Rally to the house of the BJP’s state agriculture minister Pandurang Fundkar at Khamgaon in Buldana district of Vidarbha region. Mahatma Jotirao Phule had written a celebrated book that was aptly called “Shetkaryacha Aasood” (Whipcord of the Farmer). It was from this that the AIKS coined the name.   

Khamgaon town had been decorated with hundreds of AIKS flags. Thousands of peasants from 21 districts of the state, braving the scorching summer heat and surmounting the marriage season, converged here. They were mobilised by the AIKS from all the five regions, viz. Vidarbha, Marathwada, North Maharashtra, Western Maharashtra and Konkan.

Vidarbha region has gained notoriety as a graveyard of farmers, for it is here that the largest number of suicides of debt-ridden farmers has taken place in Maharashtra. Both the central and state BJP-Shiv Sena governments are clearly responsible for this. 12,602 farmers committed suicide in our country in the year 2015. Compared to 2014, this is a massive 42 percent increase. With 4,291 farmer suicides in 2015, Maharashtra under the BJP-Shiv Sena regime has the dubious distinction of topping all states in peasant suicides in the country.

In preparation for this convention and rally, the AIKS had begun an Aasood Yatra throughout the state from April 11. Several district conventions, meetings and demonstrations were held. The date was historic for three reasons: it was the 190th birth anniversary of Mahatma Phule; it was the death anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji, whom Phule had hailed as the King of the Peasantry; and it was the 81st foundation day of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS).

After the massive one lakh strong AIKS sit-in satyagraha at Nashik in March 2016; the militant struggle on the issue of drought at the Aurangabad Divisional Commissioner’s office in May 2016; the impressive Coffin Rally to the Thane District Collector’s office to mark the AIKS state conference in June 2016; and the 50,000 strong siege of Adivasi Development Minister, Vishnu Savra's house at Wada in Palghar district in October 2016, which yielded concrete gains for the Adivasi peasantry; the AIKS now decided to take forward the farmers’ agitation straight to the state Agriculture Minister.

The presidium of the convention comprised AIKS state president Kisan Gujar, state vice presidents Udayan Sharma, Sidhappa Kalshetty, Barkya Mangat and Mumtaz Haider. Former AIKS state president Dada Raipure, while inaugurating the convention, placed the serious problems faced by the peasantry and called for a struggle to change ruling class policies.

The main resolution of the convention was placed by AIKS state general secretary Dr Ajit Nawale. Some of the major demands that he set out were: Give complete loan waiver to farmers who own less than 25 acres of dry land and less than 10 acres of irrigated land; Provide remunerative price to farmers as cost of production plus 50 percent profit; Procure all the tur of peasants at MSP rates; Implement all the recommendations in the interest of farmers made by the National Commission on Farmers headed by Dr M S Swaminathan; Immediately stop the conspiracy of snatching farmers’ lands in the name of the Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi Highway and the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor; Hand over forest land, temple/shrine land, pasture land with pattas to the cultivating peasants; Scrap the pro-corporate Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana and provide comprehensive insurance security to all farmers; Provide pension of Rs 3000 per month to poor and middle peasants and agricultural workers aged 60 and above; Ensure at least 200 days of work and minimum wage of Rs 350 per day to agricultural workers under MNREGA; Scrap the river-joining project signed by the Maharashtra and Gujarat state governments, and instead conserve the water of the West-flowing rivers and devise schemes to give it to Thane, Palghar, Nashik and other drought-prone districts; Give priority to local peasants while distributing water from the several dams built in Adivasi areas; Make adequate financial provision for irrigation and power; and Start MIDCs for industrial development to ensure employment to youth.

The resolution was ably seconded by AIKS state office bearers Yashwant Zade, Arjun Adey, Savliram Pawar, Radka Kalangda, Shankarrao Danav, Umesh Deshmukh, Vilas Babar, Shankar Sidam, Uddhav Poul, Mohan Lamb and Sunil Malusare, after which it was adopted unanimously. The convention was greeted by AIDWA state vice president Lahani Dauda, SFI state president Mohan Jadhav and SFI state general secretary Balaji Kaletwad.

AIKS national joint secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale delivered the concluding address. He lashed out at the anti-peasant, pro-corporate, communal and fascistic character of the RSS-BJP regimes in the centre and the state. Just the day before the convention, BJP state president Raosaheb Danve had publicly insulted the peasants who were demanding a just price for their tur and this had become a major issue in the state. He castigated Danve for his thoroughly insensitive and callous remarks and the BJP mindset and policies that lay behind it. While calling for a sustained struggle for the realisation of the demands of this convention, he stressed that this can only be done by mobilising the peasant masses in a much bigger numbers and by further strengthening our organisation.

Kisan Gujar in his presidential remarks said that the peasant struggle is reaching a decisive stage from where it must be taken forward with all our strength. He congratulated the AIKS Buldana district activists for making excellent arrangements. AIKS leaders from Buldana Dr Viplav Kavishwar and Jitendra Chopde made the introductory speech and the vote of thanks.

One of the highlights of the convention was the on the spot collection of over Rs 10,000 from delegates for the Pehlu Khan Family Relief Fund. A resolution condemning the RSS-BJP cow vigilantes who had killed the dairy farmer from Haryana Pehlu Khan at Alwar in Rajasthan and calling for fund collection was moved by Udayan Sharma and was seconded by Manik Avaghade and Mumtaz Hyder. Adding this to the collection made in the campaign in the districts, the AIKS Maharashtra state council has sent a cheque of Rs 25,000 to the AIKS Centre as part of the All India fund call.

The statewide Whipcord Rally began in Khamgaon directly after the convention. Brandishing two large whipcords, giving resounding slogans and carrying red AIKS flags, the rally of thousands of peasants marched towards the house of the agriculture minister. As was to be expected, the minister had fled, and was this time on a foreign jaunt. This only angered the rallyists and increased their determination to reach his house. Police had been requisitioned in strength to stop the rallyists from reaching the house. The rally became a focal point of attraction for the ordinary peasants and people of Khamgaon, and also for the entire media.  

The rallyists broke two barricades set up by the police, with whom there was a fierce tussle. Eventually, AIKS leaders Dr Ashok Dhawale, Kisan Gujar, Dr Ajit Nawale, Dada Raipure, Arjun Adey, Umesh Deshmukh, Vilas Babar, Deepak Lipne, Dr Viplav Kavishwar, Jitendra Chopde and many others broke the last police cordon, rushed to the minister’s house and stuck the demands charter there, amidst resonant slogans. The government authorities agreed to arrange a meeting of AIKS leaders with the minister and other officials in Mumbai to discuss the demands charter. The rally then concluded with tremendous enthusiasm.

Almost the entire print and electronic media in the state was present in strength to cover both these novel actions - the Whipcord Convention and the Whipcord Rally of the AIKS.        

Friday, May 12, 2017


Ashok Dhawale
Mahatma Jotirao Phule had written a celebrated book that was aptly called “Shetkaryacha Aasood” (Whipcord of the Farmer). The Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha (AIKS) has begun an Aasood Yatra throughout the state from April 11. The date is historic for three reasons: it is the 190th birth anniversary of Mahatma Phule; it is the death anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji, whom Phule had hailed as the King of the Peasantry; and it is the 81st foundation day of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS). The Yatra will culminate on May 11 in a massive Aasood Rally of farmers at the residence of the BJP’s state Agriculture Minister, Pandurang Fundkar, at Khamgaon, Dist Buldhana in the Vidarbha region.

This was decided in the AIKS state council meeting held on March 27. After the massive one lakh strong AIKS sit-in satyagraha at Nashik in March 2016; the militant struggle on the issue of drought at the Aurangabad Divisional Commissioner’s office in May 2016; the impressive Coffin Rally to the Thane District Collector’s office to mark the AIKS state conference in June 2016; and the 50,000 strong siege of Adivasi Development Minister, Vishnu Savra's house at Wada in Palghar district in October 2016, which yielded concrete gains for the Adivasi peasantry; the AIKS has now decided to take the farmers’ agitation straight to the Agriculture Minister.

To create public awareness about the rally, the AIKS Aasood Yatra is being taken to all the districts this month. Farmers’ conventions and demonstrations will be held in 24 districts of the state. AIKS state office-bearers have been allotted responsibilities for attending these events, the district wise dates of which were decided in the state council meeting itself.

The government’s neo-liberal anti-farmer policies are responsible for the grave conditions of our peasantry. Both the central and state BJP-Shiv Sena governments are responsible for this state of affairs. Farmers are driven to commit suicide because of this since they are debt-ridden. 12,602 farmers committed suicide in our country in the year 2015. Compared to 2014, this is a massive 42 percent increase. With 4,291 farmer suicides in 2015, Maharashtra under the BJP-Shiv Sena regime tops the list in farmers' suicides in the country.

"If we come to power, we will stop farmers’ suicides by implementing the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission", was the promise given by Narendra Modi during the Lok Sabha election campaign. After coming to power, the government blatantly gave an affidavit to the Supreme Court saying that this promise cannot be implemented. This was the biggest betrayal of farmers by the government. The Fadnavis government too had made big promises during the campaign for the Vidhan Sabha elections. After coming to power it has also conveniently forgotten such promises.

The main demands of this Aasood Rally are: Give complete loan waiver to farmers who own less than 25 acres of dry land and less than 10 acres of irrigated land; Provide remunerative price to farmers as cost of production plus 50 percent profit; Implement all the recommendations in the interest of farmers made by the National Commission on Farmers headed by Dr M S Swaminathan; Immediately stop the conspiracy of snatching farmers’ land in the name of the Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi Highway, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor; Hand over forest land, temple/shrine land, pasture land with pattas to the cultivating peasants; Remove the oppressive conditions in the crop insurance scheme and provide comprehensive insurance security to all farmers; Provide pension of Rs 3000 per month to poor and middle peasants and agricultural workers aged 60 and above; Ensure at least 200 days of work and minimum wage of Rs 350 per day to agricultural workers under MNREGA; Give priority to local peasants while distributing water from the several dams built in Adivasi areas; and Make adequate financial provision for irrigation and power.

By taking this Aasood Rally to the residence of the Agriculture Minister, the Kisan Sabha will demand that the government implement the election promises that they had made to our farmers. Thousands of peasants from 24 districts of Maharashtra will participate in the Aasood Rally on May 11, 2017. It will be led by AIKS National Joint Secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale, AIKS former State Presidents J P Gavit (MLA) and Dada Raipure, State President Kisan Gujar, State Working President Arjun Ade and State General Secretary Dr Ajit Nawale.


Mariam Dhawale

“There are 12 crore tribals in the country. There is a large tribal population in 170-175 districts in the country. The SECC survey of 2011 has shown that tribals are the most backward sections of society. 65 percent of tribals are landless. The income of 90 percent of tribals is less than Rs 5000 per month. Why has such a situation arisen even after 70 years of independence? This is because of the disastrous policies of successive governments, and the current BJP regime is the worst in this regard.
“Tribals have lived in the jungles and mountains since generations. But they do not have any land pattas. They are branded as ‘encroachers’ and are continuously evicted by the forest and revenue departments. The struggle for land rights is the most important struggle for tribals. Land in jungles is being handed over by the BJP government to the corporates while the Forest Rights Act (FRA) is not being implemented, denying lakhs of tribals their right over their own land. Tribals are being evicted from the forests in Assam, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. But the BJP’s crony corporates like Ambani and Adani have been handed over 7000 hectares of forest land in the last three years.”

It was with these words that Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch (AARM) national convenor Jitendra Choudhary, MP, inaugurated the second Maharashtra state conference of the AARM that was held on April 26-27, 2017 at Alangun in Surgana tehsil of Nashik district. The first conference was held in December 2013 at Talasari in Palghar district. The second conference was attended by 123 delegates from seven districts. 15 women delegates and a large number of young delegates attended.

The bulk of the delegates were from the two stronger traditional districts of the Adivasi movement in the state, viz. Thane-Palghar (61) and Nashik (42). Other districts present were Nandurbar, Pune, Yavatmal and Nanded. The delegates hailed from seven different Scheduled Tribes in the state, viz Warli, Kokana, Bhil, Pawra, Mahadev Koli, Kol and Kolam. Most of the delegates were working in the AIKS, but there was also good representation from the AIAWU, AIDWA, DYFI, SFI and CITU.
State convenor Barkya Mangat explained the objectives of this conference and welcomed the delegates. A presidium of Ratan Budhar, Dayanand Chavan, Ashok Pekari and Manisha Mahale was elected. Vinod Nikole, Suvarna Gangode and Somnath Nirmal formed the minutes committee.

Jitendra Chaudhury dwelt upon some of the striking achievements of the Left Front government of Tripura. In the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and the MNREGA, the performance of Tripura is the best in the country. Land reforms, all-round help to the peasantry and the spread of education were some of the main steps that made this progress possible. The LF government also encouraged the preservation and enrichment of the culture and traditions of 19 different Scheduled Tribes in the state and set up a separate Ministry for this purpose. The grave danger of extremism and terrorism is being fought politically and the unity of tribals and non-tribals has been maintained and strengthened. To this has now been added the serious danger of the communal forces.

He said that tribals were in the forefront of the freedom struggle in our country and they made tremendous sacrifices. Birsa Munda is a shining symbol of the struggle and sacrifice of tribals. Reservations were included for them in the Constitution by Dr Ambedkar so that they get their share in development. The tribal sub-plan was made to ensure special allocations to the development of tribal areas. But the Modi government has scrapped the concept of plan and non-plan expenditure, thereby burying the sub-plan. Dilution of the Fifth Schedule is systematically taking place to subvert the implementation of PESA.

The AARM, he said, was formed as a platform to oppose the exploitation of tribals in our country, and to pressurise the government to change its policies related to tribals. The AARM has grown and is now active in 15 states. While stressing the need to wage militant struggles on tribal issues, he concluded by calling upon the delegates to steer clear of identity politics that tries to pit tribals against non-tribals and underlined the need to combat communal forces like the RSS-BJP and extremist forces like the Maoists. He hailed the historic Adivasi movement in Maharashtra that has inspired the entire country, and expressed confidence that this movement would advance and expand further in the days ahead.

President of the state committee J P Gavit, MLA, then placed the 16-page draft report before the conference. The report placed the problems faced by Adivasis in Maharashtra. As per the 2011 census, the Adivasi population in Maharashtra is one crore five lakhs. That comes to 9.4 per cent of the total population of the state. Of the total Adivasi population in the country, 10.17 per cent lives in Maharashtra. There are as many as 47 tribes in the state.

The report pinpoints the myriad problems that tribals face, linking them to government policies. They relate to forest land,  irrigation, displacement, employment, minimum wages, migration, food security, severe malnutrition leading to deaths of children, dearth of public health facilities, backlog in jobs, bogus caste certificates, lack of access to education, miserable plight of tribal hostels and hostel-schools and massive under-development of all tribal areas. The report sets out eight tasks.

In the discussion that followed, 20 delegates took part. They recounted the various problems faced by Adivasis and the inspiring accounts of the struggles that they had waged. They focused on the need to intensify the struggles for land rights. They stressed the adverse impact of the infiltration of RSS ideology on tribal culture. Issues of tribal women and increasing atrocities were highlighted. The importance of holding political classes for AARM activists was reiterated by most of the delegates. They gave several suggestions for consolidating work in old areas and expanding work to new areas. After the reply by Barkya Mangat, the report was unanimously adopted.

The conference unanimously elected a 35-member state committee, which also included representatives from all mass organisations. It re-elected J P Gavit, MLA and former AIKS state president (District Nashik) as state president and elected Sunil Dhanwa, currently DYFI state president (District Thane-Palghar) as state convenor. The conference also elected 23 delegates to the All India conference of the AARM to be held at Vishakhapatnam on June 20-22, 2017.

AIKS national Joint Secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale said that this AARM conference was the culmination of three statewide struggles that were organised to highlight the problems of the tribal community. The 25,000 strong rally in Mumbai in May 2015 opposing the inclusion of the Dhangar community in STs and for other burning demands, the 1 lakh strong two-day peasant siege at Nashik for implementation of FRA and other issues in March 2016 and the 50,000-strong two-day tribal gherao of the house of the BJP’s tribal development minister at Wada in Palghar district in October 2016. SFI organised a state level rally of tribal students against the reduction in hostel seats in April 2017.

He said that the two main bases of the Adivasi movement in the state are in Thane-Palghar and Nashik districts, followed by Nandurbar district. In the last few years, work among tribals has spread to districts like Ahmednagar, Pune, Nanded, Yavatmal, Amravati and Buldana. This must expand further to all districts with an Adivasi population and we must emerge as their true champions.

For the immediate future he set out three important tasks. The first was to launch big struggles on the burning problems of Adivasis in each district and to make special efforts to involve new, young and educated sections among Adivasis, who generally remain away from our fold. The second was to inculcate progressive values in the Adivasi masses, protect the positive aspects of Adivasi culture and expose the dangers of communalism, Manuwadi ideology and extremist identity politics. The third was to organise district and tehsil conferences of the AARM and form committees at the earliest.

The conference was also addressed by veteran leader L B Dhangar, who has worked in the tribal belt of Thane district for over 65 years. AIDWA national general secretary Mariam Dhawale addressed the conference. After the speech by Sunil Dhanwa, J P Gavit summed up the conference.
On behalf of the presidium, Ratan Budhar congratulated the Nashik district comrades for having made excellent arrangements to host this conference. The conference ended with great enthusiasm.


Hundreds of tribal youth participated in the competition that was organised on the night of April 26. A large and spirited public meeting was held prior to the competition. Enthusiastic teams from different villages competed with each other for the prizes. Tribal songs using quaint musical instruments, tribal dances with colourful costumes and dramas depicting tribal life continued till late night, making this conference a very memorable event.


Ashok Dhawale

The 50,000-strong statewide Adivasi struggle at Wada in Palghar district on October 3-4, 2016 was a mass struggle to remember and cherish. The earlier one lakh-strong two-day statewide peasant siege under AIKS leadership at Nashik on March 29-30, 2016, on the four burning issues of peasant loan-waiver, remunerative prices, drought relief and land rights had brought the Chief Minister of Maharashtra to the negotiating table and he had then conceded some important demands. He had promised that the demands of Adivasi peasants would be implemented within three months. Although six months had passed, nothing had moved on the ground.

Another grave problem came to the forefront in Maharashtra in the last couple of months. That was the issue of malnutrition-related deaths of children, an overwhelming majority of which were in the Adivasi areas. The media reported that in the last two years 2014-15 and 2015-16, 9,049 children below the age of five years died due to malnutrition. And in the first five months of 2016-17 alone, i.e. April to August, the number of child deaths soared to the shocking figure of 9,563! The Tribal Development Ministry and the Women and Child Development Ministry, both headed by BJP ministers Vishnu Savra and Pankaja Munde, came in the eye of the storm.

That is why the AIKS state council decided to renew the Adivasi struggle in a new form. The Tribal Development Ministry is not only the designated nodal agency for the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), but it also holds the key to all other tribal issues.

Hence it was resolved to lead a massive gherao of the house of the Tribal Development Minister at Wada to highlight these issues. Other mass fronts like the AIDWA, DYFI, SFI and the AARM are active in the Adivasi areas. After mutual consultation with them by the AIKS, they also decided to make this a united mass action on their own demands.

Intensive preparations were made for this struggle for the last two months. In districts like Thane-Palghar, Nashik, Ahmednagar, Pune and others, large tehsil-level conventions of Adivasi peasants, women, youth and students were held. They mobilised thousands of people. Over one lakh leaflets were distributed. Hundreds of meetings were held in villages and hamlets.
The memorandum of demands was submitted to the Minister by the AIKS at his Wada home well in advance on September 22, with a request that he consults all concerned departments and be prepared with a positive response on October 3. He had agreed to it.

As a result of all this preparation, on October 3, 2016, over 50,000 Adivasi peasants, women, youth and students from all over Maharashtra under the joint leadership of the AIKS, AIDWA, DYFI, SFI and AARM held an unprecedented gherao agitation outside Tribal Development Minister Vishnu Savra's house at the Sub Divisional centre of Wada in Palghar district.

The biggest share of the mobilisation was from the two citadels of the movement in Thane-Palghar and Nashik districts. There was good representation from districts like Ahmednagar, Pune, Nandurbar, Yavatmal, Buldhana, Nanded, Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur. While the peasant mass was preponderant, there were also thousands of women, youth and students. As was decided, the SFI first led an independent march, and then joined the huge mass that followed.   

The huge march of over 50,000 people began from the Wada office of the AIKS and came to the pivotal Khandeshwari Naka. From there it marched towards the minister’s house. There was massive police bandobast with police vans, armed officers and a riot squad, which stopped the mass 200 metres away from the minister’s house. The atmosphere was full of tension.

The huge and militant mass nevertheless broke the heavy police cordon with determination and reached the lane to the minister’s house. Fearing this mass protest, the BJP minister fled his hometown Wada the previous night on October 2, claiming that he had to attend the cabinet meeting at Aurangabad on October 4. This was in spite of him committing to an AIKS delegation on September 22 that he would be there in Wada on October 3 with all concerned officials.

The leadership of the mass fronts refused to budge and the gherao continued, with a massive public meeting and speeches by the leaders condemning the callous neo-liberal policies and poisonous communal conspiracies of the BJP-led governments at the state and Centre. The speakers concentrated on the burning issues of the Adivasis in particular, and of all sections of the working people in general, and emphasised that unity, struggle, organisation and political awareness were the four keys to future advance.  

Among those who led this action were AIKS national Joint Secretaries Dr Ashok Dhawale and Vijoo Krishnan, AIKS former State President J P Gavit (MLA), CITU former State President Narasayya Adam (ex-MLA), CITU State General Secretary M H Shaikh, AIKS State President Kisan Gujar and State General Secretary Dr Ajit Nawale, veteran AIKS leaders L B Dhangar and Lahanu Kom (ex-MP), AIDWA State President Mariam Dhawale, DYFI State President Sunil Dhanwa and State General Secretary Preethy Sekhar, SFI State President Mohan Jadhav and State General Secretary Datta Chavan, AIKS state office bearers Barkya Mangat, Ratan Budhar, Radka Kalangda, Savliram Pawar, Sunil Malusare, Irfan Shaikh, Dada Raipure, Arjun Adey and Umesh Deshmukh, AIKS state council members Namdev Bhangre, Adv Natha Shingade, Dr Amol Waghmare, Narsing Vasave, Chandrashekhar Sidam, Anil Gaikwad, Jitendra Chopde and Subhash Nikam, AIDWA state office bearers Lahani Dauda, Prachi Hatiwlekar, Heena Vanga and Tai Bendar, DYFI state office bearers Vansha Dumada, Ramdas Sutar and Kiran Gahala, SFI state office bearers Balaji Kaletwad, Manjushree Kabade, Sunil Rathod, Rohidas Jadhav, Somnath Nirmal, Vilas Sable and Kavita Vare. Many of these are state committee members of the AARM.

It was very significant that the huge mass remained unperturbed in spite of heavy rains on the night of October 3. Throughout the night, the people were held spellbound by a programme of revolutionary songs on the one hand, and traditional tribal dances on the other. Volunteers of the Thane-Palghar district and Wada tehsil made excellent arrangements to provide cooked food to thousands of participants on the night of October 3. Activists from all tehsils brought bags of rice collected from the people. The CITU Thane-Palghar district conference held recently gave a clarion call to all its worker members to contribute Rs 100 each for this peasant struggle.

Under the relentless pressure of this action, the Minister finally directed the Maharashtra Tribal Commissioner Rajiv Jadhav to rush to Wada on October 3 night and the delegation had a five-hour long discussion with him and other officials from 10.30 pm to 3.30 am. The State Tribal Commissioner gave positive assurances on many burning demands of the struggle. Further, the Minister gave a letter the same day, setting up a special meeting at Mantralaya in Mumbai with all the concerned officials on October 7 to discuss and decide on the demands.

In view of this, the gherao and road blockade stir was suspended at 5 am on October 4 with a massive public meeting of thousands of people. The meeting was presided over by AIKS State President Kisan Gujar. Vilas Sable (SFI), Ramdas Sutar (DYFI), Mariam Dhawale (AIDWA) and Dr Ajit Nawale (AIKS) reported on the positive discussions with the State Tribal Commissioner and about the ensuing meeting with the minister on October 7. Dr Ashok Dhawale (AIKS), in the concluding speech, warmly congratulated the thousands of participants, summed up the gains of this struggle and placed the tasks for future advance.      

The Wada gherao and road blockade continued for 16 hours with thousands of people. All highways from Wada leading to Mumbai, Thane, Bhiwandi, Palghar, Dahanu, Talasari, Surat, Jawhar and Nashik were completely blocked for 16 hours as a result of this mass struggle.

On October 7, as agreed upon, a high-powered meeting of the delegation was held with the Tribal Development minister Vishnu Savra and concerned officials in Mantralaya. They included secretaries of half a dozen departments and half a dozen district collectors of tribal districts. The negotiations continued for full five hours from 11.30 am to 4.30 pm until concrete decisions were taken on the major demands. Briefly, the areas in which these decisions were taken were as follows: 1. Concrete steps to ensure stringent implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) within the next six months; 2. A series of immediate steps to curb the severe malnutrition in the tribal districts; 3. Steps towards vesting the massive amount of temple lands and varkas lands (lands that are in the possession of, and are being tilled by Adivasi peasants for decades, but which are still in the names of the former landlords who had earlier usurped them from the Adivasis by hook or crook, and who were driven away at the time of the famed Adivasi Revolt) in the names of the tillers; 4. Decision to reimburse within four months the large amounts that thousands of peasants who have leveled their lands have spent, as per the padkai scheme of the government; 5. Several steps to improve the deplorable condition of the Adivasi hostels and ashram schools in the state. 6. Steps to improve the public distribution system (PDS) and to curb corruption; 7. Stringent implementation of the MNREGA in the tribal districts.

The 19-member AIKS-CITU-AIDWA-DYFI-SFI delegation comprised J P Gavit (MLA), Narasayya Adam (ex-MLA), Dr Ashok Dhawale, Kisan Gujar, Dr Ajit Nawale, Mariam Dhawale, Barkya Mangat, Ratan Budhar, Irfan Shaikh, Umesh Deshmukh, Adv Natha Shingade, Dr Amol Waghmare, Namdev Bhangre, Lahani Dauda, Sunil Dhanwa, Vansha Dumada, Sunil Rathod, Kavita Vare and Vilas Sable. After the successful conclusion of the talks, J P Gavit, MLA, reported about the victory of the struggle and the gains made to the press in Mantralaya.

It has been decided to propagate this victory in the Adivasi districts by means of leaflets, public meetings and rallies in the weeks ahead. At the same time, the need for vigilance and effective follow-up of this struggle with the state and local government authorities has been stressed.

The AIKS state workshop that will be held on October 24-25, 2016, will take appropriate decisions on this, and also on intensifying peasant struggles on their burning issues in the vast non-tribal areas. This state workshop will aim to make a great success of the AIKS nationwide jathas (two of which will pass through the two ends of Maharashtra) and will also plan to mobilise 10,000 peasants from Maharashtra for the AIKS Delhi Rally on November 24, 2016.  


Ashok Dhawale
The 22nd State Conference of the Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha was held from May 30 to June 1, 2016 in Thane-Palghar district, with 271 delegates from 23 districts who represented a membership of 2,60,423 - the highest AIKS membership recorded in the state so far.

The conference began on May 30 with a novel 10,000-strong Coffin Rally in the heart of Thane city. The peasants carried bamboo frames (called tirdi in Marathi) covered with white cloth, on which dead bodies are carried. This dramatically highlighted the grave issue of suicides of debt-ridden peasants in Maharashtra, which have alarmingly increased due to the grim drought situation. There have been 3,228 peasant suicides in the state in 2015 and over 65,000 peasant suicides in the last 20 years since 1995 – a shameful national record.

This was the third large mass action by the AIKS in the state in the last two months on the four burning issues of peasant loan-waiver, remunerative prices, drought relief and land rights. On March 29-30, there was the unprecedented one lakh-strong state-wide rally and two-day siege of the main square in Nashik city by the AIKS, which forced the chief minister to concede some demands. The Nashik rally was addressed by CPI (M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, AIKS General Secretary Hannan Mollah, renowned journalist P Sainath and other AIKS state leaders. On May 3-4, there was the two-day AIKS-SFI siege of the Divisional Commissionerate in Aurangabad on the burning issue of drought relief in Marathwada.

With these effective mass actions on major peasant issues, which were widely covered by both the print and electronic media and were reported in earlier issues of People’s Democracy and Loklahar, the AIKS came into the mainstream of the peasant movement in the state for the first time. It was in this background that the Coffin Rally in Thane city was held to begin the AIKS state conference. This rally was also widely covered by the media, especially since it highlighted the grave issue of mounting peasant suicides.   

The rally was led by AIKS President Amra Ram, AIKS Joint Secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale, CITU State President Narasayya Adam, AIKS State President Dada Raipure, General Secretary Kisan Gujar, Working President Arjun Adey, Joint Secretary Dr Ajit Nawale and other AIKS state office bearers. After a militant demonstration outside the Thane District Collectorate, the Resident Collector came down to accept the memorandum of demands addressed to the chief minister. After laying down the dozen tirdis at the gate of the Collectorate, to be sent to the chief minister as a symbol of the disastrous agrarian policies being pursued by the BJP-led central and state governments, the rally proceeded to the site of the public meeting.

The venue of the public meeting in Thane city was named after former AIKS president Harkishan Singh Surjeet to mark his birth centenary year. It was addressed by Amra Ram and other AIKS state leaders Dr Ashok Dhawale, Dada Raipure, Kisan Gujar, Arjun Adey, Udayan Sharma, Sidhappa Kalshetty, Dr Ajit Nawale, Barkya Mangat and Ratan Budhar.

Amra Ram congratulated the Maharashtra AIKS for its recent successful struggles and for the effective Coffin Rally that began this state conference. He severely attacked the anti-farmer and pro-corporate agrarian policies of the BJP-led central government. He said the government claims to have no money for agriculture and irrigation, but has tons of money to bestow on the rich. It claims to have no money for giving loan waiver to crores of farmers in distress, but it has lakhs of crores of rupees to shower on loan waivers and tax concessions to a few hundred corporates.

He said that the Modi regime has shamelessly reneged on its pre-election promise of implementing the Swaminathan Commission recommendation of giving MSP to farmers for all crops at cost of production plus fifty per cent profit. The drought situation in over a dozen states is grim to the extreme, but there is no help whatsoever from the government. To cover up all these failures, the BJP-RSS is unleashing communal hatred and polarisation throughout the country. He called for forging broad unity and massive struggles of the peasantry to defeat the anti-people policies and communal conspiracies of the Modi regime.
After the public meeting, all the delegates were taken by bus 125 Km away to Talasari in Palghar district, which was the venue of the delegate session of the state conference.   

The inaugural session of the conference began at the Comrade Godavari Shamrao Parulekar College in Talasari on the morning of May 31 with the flag-hoisting by veteran 88-year old AIKS leader L B Dhangar, followed by floral tributes to martyrs. The conference venue had been named after Dasharath Deb to commemorate his birth centenary; the hall and the stage after departed former AIKS State Vice Presidents Gunaji Gavit and Shankar Chavan. Kisan Gujar placed the condolence resolution and Dada Raipure presided over the session.

Lahanu Kom, chairman of the reception committee, welcomed the delegates and spoke of the glorious traditions of the AIKS in Thane district (recently bifurcated into Thane and Palghar districts). He recalled the foundation conference of the state AIKS at Titwala in Thane district in January 1945, the historic and liberating Adivasi revolt that began in May 1945 under the leadership of Shamrao and Godavari Parulekar, the repression by successive regimes led by the British, the Congress and the BJP which have led to the martyrdom of 61 comrades so far, the struggle led by the red flag for the liberation of Dadra and Nagar Haveli from Portuguese rule in 1954, the AIKS 13th national conference at Dahanu in 1955 and the subsequent valiant struggles on many issues including the Forest Rights Act (FRA).       

The conference was inaugurated by AIKS General Secretary Hannan Mollah. He warmly congratulated the delegates for the series of effective struggles led by the AIKS in Maharashtra for the last three years. After taking brief stock of the world capitalist crisis and the assaults of imperialism on the lives of the working people of the world, he came down heavily on the thoroughly reactionary two year old record of the Modi regime in all spheres.

He outlined its attacks on the peasantry, agricultural workers and the working class - the failed attempt to push through the draconian Land Acquisition Bill, the attempt to undermine MNREGA, the callous handling of the drought situation, the betrayal of its assurance on remunerative prices to the peasantry, the serious issue of peasant indebtedness which has led to an unprecedented number of peasant suicides in large parts of the country, and the attempt to make reactionary changes in labour laws. These were all parts of the neo-liberal policy trajectory of the BJP-led regime.

Hannan Mollah then warned against the grave communal danger posed by the BJP-RSS regime to the unity of the working people and the integrity of the country and called for a consistent battle in defence of secularism and social justice to defeat the forces of darkness. Finally, he called upon the delegates to bend their efforts for the further strengthening of the AIKS in Maharashtra together with an increase in its political influence. A strong Kisan Sabha is one that strikes fear in the heart of our enemies and that creates enthusiasm in the hearts of our friends. And that is what we must aim to build.

The conference was greeted by AIAWU State President Nathu Salve, AIDWA State President Mariam Dhawale, DYFI State President Sunil Dhanwa, SFI State Secretary Datta Chavan and CITU State Committee member Vinod Nikole. The inaugural session then concluded.

The delegate session began on the afternoon of May 31 in the Comrade Godavari Shamrao Parulekar Bhavan in Talasari. After the election of various committees, AIKS State General Secretary Kisan Gujar placed the report since the 21st State Conference at Amravati in July 2013. State treasurer Sanjay Thakur placed the accounts. The 116-page detailed report had the following major sections: 1. Current Political Challenges, 2. Serious Crisis in Indian Agriculture, 3. Rural Contradictions and New Directions for Struggle, 4. Agrarian Situation in Maharashtra, 5. Work Report, 6. Organisational Report, 7. Future Tasks.  

The Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha has led a series of struggles on various peasant issues. The earlier struggles were mainly centred on tribal issues like the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and the issue of drought. It was after the hosting of the AIKS national council meeting at Wardha in July 2015 that the AIKS state council consciously decided to take up all burning peasant issues in the state and planned struggles on them. State office-bearers toured the state twice to galvanise all the district units and the activists. This led to the series of large peasant struggles led by the AIKS in 2016 mentioned above.

AIKS membership in the state has steadily increased from 1,92,121 in 2011-12 to 2,13,331 in 2012-13 to 2,25,978 in 2013-14 to 2,60,423 in 2015-16. Only in the Parliament and Assembly election year 2014-15 there was a drop. The current year’s membership is the highest achieved so far. 23 district conferences were held in February and March 2016 and these were preceded by tehsil and village unit conferences. The report, while dealing with the strengths of the organisation, also pinpoints the weaknesses and ends with concrete tasks.

49 delegates from all 23 districts spoke well on the report and they enriched it with their experiences, suggestions and criticisms. It was a lively discussion and it was aimed at intensifying struggles and strengthening the organisation. After the General Secretary’s reply the next day, the report and the accounts were unanimously adopted. Shankar Sidam placed the credentials report which had several interesting features.

On behalf of the resolutions committee AIKS State Vice President Yashwant Zade placed and AIKS State Joint Secretary Umesh Deshmukh seconded the resolutions of the conference which were unanimously adopted. These were as follows: Loan waiver for the peasantry; Remunerative prices as per the Swaminathan Commission recommendations; Immediate steps for curbing peasant suicides; Urgent steps for drought relief; Implementation of the FRA on a time-bound basis; Vesting temple lands and pasture lands in the names of the cultivating peasants; Pension for peasants and agricultural workers; Observance of the 125th birth anniversary year of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar to propagate social justice and the annihilation of caste; and Full support to the All India strike call for September 2, 2016.

The state conference elected 7 advisors and a 67-member state council, which elected 22 office bearers. The advisors are L B Dhangar, Lahanu Kom, Nanasaheb Pokale, Jaising Mali, Dr Vithal More, Ramkrishna Shere. The state office bearers are President – Kisan Gujar; General Secretary – Dr Ajit Nawale; Working President – Arjun Adey; Treasurer – Umesh Deshmukh; Vice Presidents – Dr Ashok Dhawale, J P Gavit, Dada Raipure, Udayan Sharma, Barkya Mangat, Ratan Budhar, Yashwant Zade, Uddhav Poul, Savliram Pawar; Joint Secretaries – Shankarrao Danav, Sidhappa Kalshetty, Irfan Shaikh, Radka Kalangada, Sunil Malusare, Shankar Sidam, Vilas Babar, Manik Avaghade, Mohan Lamb. 

The outgoing State President Dada Raipure and new State President Kisan Gujar and new State General Secretary Dr Ajit Nawale addressed the conference with enthusiasm. Former State President and MLA J P Gavit and National Joint Secretary and former State General Secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale addressed the conference and suggested directions for future work. Hannan Mollah in his concluding speech succinctly summed up the conference.

On behalf of the presidium, Sidhappa Kalshetty thanked the AIKS Thane-Palghar district committee and activists of all the other mass fronts for the excellent organisation of the conference amidst cheers and resounding revolutionary slogans.     



Ajit Nawale

On May 3, 2016, around 1000 peasants and students from all the eight districts of the Marathwada region, led by the AIKS and the SFI, broke two police barricades and marched right inside the compound of the Aurangabad Divisional Commissioner’s office. This militant and unprecedented action was conducted on the burning demands related to the grim drought situation in the region. The agitators occupied the office for over an hour until the officers agreed to hold a meeting with the AIKS-SFI delegation the next day, in which all officials dealing with drought-related issues were summoned from all the eight districts.

For two days and one night on May 3 and 4, all the agitators camped right outside the Commissionerate. Under this pressure, in the two hour long meeting that was held on May 4, most of the major demands that lay within the administration’s purview were conceded.
This struggle was an immediate sequel to the AIKS-led one lakh strong state-wide historic peasant siege in Nashik that was held on March 29-30, 2016 and which has been reported in the April 4-10, 2016 issue of People’s Democracy and Loklahar.

The Aurangabad struggle was also widely covered by both print and electronic media due to the grave nature of the drought and also due to the militant nature of the two-day action. It was directed against the utter callousness of the BJP-led central and state governments towards the millions of drought-affected people in the country and in the state – a stark fact that was underlined recently even by the Supreme Court and the High Court.   

A delegation comprising Dr Ashok Dhawale, Kisan Gujar, Dr Ajit Nawale, Arjun Adey, Uddhav Poul, Vilas Babar, Govind Ardad, Mohan Lamb, Shivaji Deshmukh and Ankush Budhwant of the AIKS, Maroti Khandare of the AIAWU and Manjushree Kabade and Sunil Rathod of the SFI led the struggle and also conducted the discussions with the officials.
Earlier on April 25, CPI (M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat, after her tour of the drought-affected areas of Beed district, also met the Aurangabad Divisional Commissioner along with AIKS leaders Dr Ashok Dhawale, Dr Ajit Nawale and others, submitted a memorandum and also addressed a press conference in Aurangabad.

One of the highlights was the presence of SFI All India General Secretary Dr Vikram Singh who, while addressing the participants, spoke of the nationwide call given by the SFI to collect funds for the drought-affected people of the Marathwada region. Along with the above leaders, this struggle was led by Dada Raipure, Dr Vithal More, Ramkrishna Shere, Deepak Lipne, Shankar Sidam, Suresh Kachgunde, Dr Bhausaheb Zirpe, Tanaji Waghmare and Sudhakar Shinde of the AIKS and Mohan Jadhav, Datta Chavan, Balaji Kaletwad, Rohidas Jadhav, Dr Ravindra Madne, Meera Kamble, Ramesh Joshi and Nitin Wavale of the SFI.

The CITU in Aurangabad expressed solidarity with the AIKS-SFI struggle by conducting a 500-strong motor-cycle rally which joined the public meeting. Uddhav Bhavalkar, Laxman Sakrudkar and Anna Sawant of CITU, Shrikant Phopse of MSMRA, Sarita Sharma of AIAWU, Bhagwan Bhojane, Yogesh Khosre and Tanuja Joshi of DYFI, Dr Sunanda Tidke of AIDWA and renowned irrigation expert Pradeep Purandare expressed support to the struggle.

The several specific demands that were conceded related to the provision of drinking water, work and wages under MNREGA, fodder for cattle, agricultural inputs for peasants, fee waiver for students, land issues related to the temple lands and forest lands and so on.
So far as the other major demands of the AIKS relating to peasant loan waiver, compensation for crop loss of peasants, remunerative prices as per the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission that were raised and discussed with the Chief Minister at the time of the AIKS-led Nashik satyagraha and the student fee-waiver for the coming academic year, it was agreed that these demands would be forwarded once again from the Divisional Commissioner’s office to the state government.

The Aurangabad struggle gave a call for conducting fasts on May 16 and 17 on these drought-related issues in all the villages in Marathwada where we have influence, to culminate in local road blockades in the region on May 18.
The 22nd state conference of the Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha will open with a massive peasant rally in Thane city on May 30, which will once again highlight the issues raised by the Nashik and Aurangabad struggles. The state conference will be held in the Comrade Godavari Shamrao Parulekar Bhavan at Talasari in Palghar district on May 31 and June 1. AIKS general secretary Hannan Mollah will attend and guide the conference.