Wednesday, August 30, 2017


The joint peasant struggle in Maharashtra, which began with the novel peasant strike on June 1, reached a new crescendo on August 14, the eve of Independence Day. By a happy coincidence, August 14 was also the 111th birth anniversary of the legendary leader of the historic Warli Adivasi Revolt in Thane district and former AIKS national president Godavari Parulekar.

The Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Organisations had given a clarion call in the last of the 15 large district conventions held from July 10 to 23, which mobilised over 40,000 peasants, to block all national and state highways across the state on August 14.

The main demands of this sustained struggle were complete peasant loan waiver excluding the richer sections, which the state government had promised during negotiations with the Coordination Committee on June 11 and which it had betrayed within a fortnight, implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, particularly the one about ensuring Minimum Support Price (MSP) for agricultural produce at one and a half times the cost of production, radical changes in the fraudulent Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana which is meant to enrich the corporates and fleece the peasants, removal of the ban on the cattle trade, halt to unjust land acquisition in the Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi Highway, Mumbai-Delhi Industrial Corridor, Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train and such other projects, old age pension to peasants and agricultural workers, waiving of arrears of electricity bills and expansion of irrigation facilities.     

Responding to this call, over 1,60,000 peasants blocked national and state highways (Chakka Jaam) for hours together in at least 183 centres in 27 districts of Maharashtra. These figures could well be higher, since highways were blocked spontaneously by peasants in several centres even where there was no peasant organisation to lead them. That was the most remarkable feature of this struggle. In several centres thousands of peasants were shown to have been arrested, since the police just had no machinery to actually arrest such a huge mass.   

Another significant feature was that nearly half of the total participation in this mass action was of the AIKS, which mobilised over 75,000 peasants in this struggle in 22 districts. It may be recalled that the AIKS had the largest total mobilisation in the 15 district conventions in July as well.

At the same time, other farmers’ organisations like Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, Shetkari Sanghatana, Prahar Shetkari Sanghatana, AIKS (Ajoy Bhavan), Baliraja Shetkari Sanghatana, Satyashodhak Shetkari Sabha, Lok Sangharsh Morcha, Shetkari Sabha and many other groups also mobilised well. Both the print and electronic media covered this action excellently.

The districts with the largest total participation were: Ahmednagar - 39,000, Thane-Palghar – 25,000, Parbhani – 20,000, Nashik – 12,000, Beed – 10,000, Nandurbar – 10,000, Dhule – 7000, Amravati – 5,000 and Kolhapur – 5,000.
The districts with the largest AIKS participation were: Thane-Palghar – 25,000, Ahmednagar – 13,000, Nashik – 10,000, Parbhani – 10,000 and Beed – 6,000. Leaders and activists of the CITU, AIAWU, AIDWA, DYFI and SFI also participated in the struggle in several places. The SFI and DYFI led an independent and effective campaign in rural areas around the slogan ‘We are Children of Peasants’ in support of the peasant struggle in educational institutions and areas in the state.

All the leaders of the Coordination Committee – Convenor Dr Ajit Nawale, Raju Shetty MP, Raghunathdada Patil, Bachhu Kadu MLA, Jayant Patil MLC, J P Gavit MLA, Dr Ashok Dhawale, Kisan Gujar, Namdev Gavde, Raju Desle, Kishor Dhamale, Pratibha Shinde, Sushila Morale, Sanjay Patil, Karan Gaikar and many others led the road blockade actions at various places across the state.

On Independence Day, August 15, the Coordination Committee had given another call. It had said that the national flag at the district headquarters should be hoisted not by the guardian ministers, the policies of whose government were responsible for the rising spate of suicides of debt-ridden peasants, but by toiling peasants themselves.

Accordingly, in many places this attempt was made but it was crushed through state repression. In two places, Parbhani and Ahmednagar, the police resorted to brutal lathi charges and hundreds of peasants were arrested. Among those arrested were AIKS state general secretary Dr Ajit Nawale, Balasaheb Patare, Subhash Lande, Sanjeev Bhor, Mahesh Nawale and others at Ahmednagar and AIKS state joint secretary Vilas Babar, Rajabhau Rathod and others at Parbhani, while AIKS leaders Limbaji Kachre, Ramkrishna Shere, Uddhav Poul, Anjali Babar, Rameshwar Poul, Ramdas Poul and many others were lathi charged at Parbhani. While the Ahmednagar peasant leaders were released in the evening, Vilas Babar and Rajabhau Rathod of Parbhani are still in custody seven days later.

In Sangli, AIKS state treasurer Umesh Deshmukh and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader Mahesh Kharade were picked up by the police from their homes on the morning of August 14 itself and were thrown into police lock-up till the evening of August 15. This was the third time during this peasant struggle that the police in Sangli resorted to this repression against peasant leaders.

In Nashik also, AIKS and AITUC leader Raju Desle, Prakash Chavan, Nana Bachhav, Karan Gaikar, Ganesh Kadam, Anil Bhadange, Dattu Bodke and others were picked up on August 14/15 and were released on the evening of August 15.
On behalf of the Coordination Committee, AIKS national joint secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale immediately released a statement denouncing the BJP-led state government for resorting to arrests and lathi-charges on peasants on Independence Day, on top of its betrayal of its own assurances.

The magnificent peasant response elicited by the August 14 statewide Chakka Jaam call rattled the ruling BJP and especially its Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. On August 17, in his speech at the meeting of the BJP state executive in Mumbai, he lashed out for half an hour in a completely unbalanced fashion at the Coordination Committee and its leadership. He accused the peasant struggle of trying to create anarchy by making the demand for a complete loan waiver; he came down on the Left leadership by making the time-worn and silly charge that these are the people who open their umbrellas when it rains in China; and in a pseudo-nationalist move that the BJP-RSS leadership nowadays always falls back upon, he branded the call to let toiling peasants hoist the national flag instead of guardian ministers as sedition. He also came down heavily on the media for giving wide coverage to the peasant struggle and also for focusing on the corruption scandals involving some BJP ministers, sarcastically saying that their ‘shops’ don’t run without such tantalising news against the government! His speech clearly betrayed the growing nervousness of the powers that be at the growing response to the peasant struggle.

Convenor Dr Ajit Nawale immediately hit back at the Chief Minister and released a video recording which was shown simultaneously alongside the Chief Minister’s speech in the Marathi electronic media the same evening and was published in the print media the next day. In the video, Dr Nawale made the following points: Such unbalanced reactions of the CM will not solve the peasants’ problems, only a change of policies will; Struggling for peasant demands is not sedition, following policies that lead to suicides of thousands of peasants is sedition; If the demand for peasant loan waiver spreads anarchy, was the chief minister who regularly used to make the same demand when he was in the opposition spreading anarchy?; If demanding peasant loan waiver is sedition and anarchy, is giving loan waivers and tax concessions to the tune of lakhs of crores of rupees to corporates patriotism and good governance?; Those who stayed away from the freedom struggle and thus actually helped the British imperialists have no right to lecture us on patriotism; Those who refused to unfurl the national flag on the RSS headquarters till 2001 have no right to teach us about the sanctity of the national flag for which we have fought and sacrificed from the days of the freedom struggle.

The AIKS state council met briefly on August 19 at Solapur to review this struggle and to plan for the future. It congratulated all AIKS activists throughout the state for their consistent initiative and sterling contribution. The next meeting of the Coordination Committee will be held soon to decide the future course of action.                       

Ashok Dhawale









Wada, Palghar

Friday, August 18, 2017


On August 14, lakhs of farmers came out on the streets throughout Maharashtra in hundreds of centres and blocked the national and state highways for hours together, as per the clarion call given by the Coordination Committee of Farmers' Organisations. They were demanding an immediate implementation of the complete loan waiver assurance given by the BJP state government on June 11, but which was betrayed within a fortnight. They were also demanding remunerative price for their crops at one and a half times the cost of production. Apart from these two fundamental demands, the other main issues highlighted were opposition to the bogus crop insurance scheme announced by the PM, to forced land acquisition for various projects and to the ban on the cattle trade. Pension for peasants and agricultural workers, waiving of electricity bills and increased irrigation facilities were the other major demands. The AIKS played a very major role in the mobilisation all over the state. The SFI and DYFI led an independent campaign in support of the fighting peasants and organised independent actions today, which included an educational bandh in some districts. The AIDWA, AIAWU and CITU also mobilised well in some districts. By a happy coincidence, the day of the peasant struggle, August 14, was the 111th birth anniversary of the legendary leader of the historic Adivasi Revolt in Thane district and former AIKS national president Comrade Godavari Parulekar. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


August 9 this year marks 75 years of the Quit India movement and August 15 marks 70 years of Indian Independence. Recently, a nostalgic and inspiring function that revived the glorious memories of the Satara Parallel Government during the freedom struggle was held at Shenoli village in Satara district and at Kundal village in Sangli district of Maharashtra.  
In a programme that was full of memories and emotion, the few remaining valiant freedom fighters of the Satara Parallel Government were warmly felicitated by Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi. The chief guest at the function was renowned journalist and Magsaysay Award winner P Sainath. The function was presided over by CPI (M) central secretariat member and AIKS joint secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale.
The three most prominent amongst the freedom fighters who were felicitated were Captain Ramchandra (Bhau) Lad, who was among those who led the looting of the British ‘Pay Special Train’ at Shenoli village on June 7, 1943; Hausatai Patil, the daughter of Krantisinh Nana Patil, the legendary leader of the Satara Parallel Government and a freedom fighter in her own right; and Madhavrao Mane. All of them were over 90 years of age.
The Satara Parallel Government in Maharashtra from August 1943 to May 1946 against British rule was a legendary chapter in the glorious freedom struggle of India. It was an armed offshoot of the 1942 Quit India movement, like the parallel governments in Midnapore in Bengal, Bhagalpur in Bihar, Ballia in Uttar Pradesh and Basudevpur in Odisha.
The leader of the Satara Parallel Government was ‘Kratisinh’ Nana Patil (1900-1976), who later joined the Communist Party and was elected to the Lok Sabha on the CPI ticket from Satara in 1957 and again from Beed in 1967. Nana Patil was also elected national president of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) at its 13th conference at Dahanu in Thane district in May 1955. He was one of the towering leaders of the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement.
British rule was effectively overthrown in large parts of Satara district (now bifurcated into Satara and Sangli districts) of Western Maharashtra during those three years. The Parallel Government (Prati Sarkar) movement was a guerrilla type of struggle, and it operated in over 250 villages with solid peasant support. There were raids on Taluka Treasuries and Armouries. The Prati Sarkar took over many of the functions of the Government.
This Parallel Government established many public utilities like a market system, supply and distribution of food-grains and a judicial system to settle disputes and penalise dacoits and robbers, pawnbrokers and money lenders. Law and order was entirely in its hands. Under this government an army was formed named Toofan Sena. It harassed the imperial government by attacking its major establishments like the railways and postal department.
Nana Patil was influenced by Mahatma Phule’s Satyashodhak ideology and Rajarshi Shahu’s work for social justice. He worked for social reform through various means like establishing the frugal style of marriage ceremonies, propagation of education, establishing libraries, eradicating superstitions, de-addiction of the rural populace, etc. He then plunged into the anti-imperialist freedom struggle and became one of its leading figures in Maharashtra.
Some of Nana Patil’s closest comrades-in-arms in the Satara Prati Sarkar were Nagnath Naikwadi (Anna),  G D Lad (Bapu), Nathaji Lad and Kisan Ahir (who was martyred). 
In order to raise funds for and to defend the Prati Sarkar, the Toofan Sena looted the British special pay train in Shenoli, District Satara on June 7, 1943, ransacked rifles from a police station in Sangaon, District Kolhapur on October 10, 1943, and conducted a daring highway raid on the British treasury van at Chimthana village in Dhule district on April 14, 1944. 
The first function was held at Shenoli, right next to the railway line where the British train was looted exactly 74 years ago. Gopalkrishna Gandhi, along with the freedom fighters and hundreds of other people, visited that historic spot. It was followed by a brief meeting. Prominent among those who attended were Arun Lad, son of G D Lad, and Vaibhav Naikwadi, son of Nagnath Naikwadi. Both of them now head extremely well-run and progressive co-operative sugar factories in Sangli district.  
The second function was held in one of them, the Kranti Sugar Factory at Kundal, the village that was the capital of the Parallel Government. Here Gopalkrishna Gandhi felicitated all the valiant freedom fighters. They were overwhelmed that they were being felicitated by the grandson of the Mahatma himself, for whom they all had the greatest reverence.
Gopalkrishna Gandhi in his speech said that the Satara Parallel Government was a glorious chapter in the annals of India’s epic freedom struggle and expressed his deep gratitude to all the freedom fighters. He also hailed the participation of women in the freedom struggle. It was the sustained and united struggle of the people of India, irrespective of religion, caste, creed and language, which led to its victory over the formidable British rule. The freedom struggle, he said, was also a struggle for democracy, secularism and equality. That struggle is far from completion and this is the biggest challenge before our country today. He called upon the gathering to join that crucial struggle.
P Sainath said that the freedom fighters looted the British treasury and used it for the people. But today, the Modi government is looting the people and giving away this loot to a handful of corporates like Ambani and Adani. A regime that refuses to give a loan waiver to millions of debt-ridden peasants has no compunctions about giving massive loan waivers to these very same corporate fat cats. The BJP government has reneged on all its election assurances to the peasantry. The agrarian crisis is deepening and peasant suicides are rising. He called for a special session of Parliament to discuss this issue and work out the solutions.
Ashok Dhawale reminded the gathering that the same forces that were responsible for Mahatma Gandhi’s dastardly assassination were the ones who scrupulously stayed away from the historic freedom struggle of the Indian people. In fact, it was the RSS, Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League who aided and abetted the British in their notorious policy of ‘Divide and Rule’, leading to the horrific slaughter of innocents during Partition. Today, it is the very same forces that are in power in our country. They are pursuing policies that are ruining all sections of the working people and accentuating inequality. He gave a call for strengthening the struggle for socio-economic justice, secularism and democracy.
The People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI), edited by P Sainath, had prepared films of the memoirs of some of these freedom fighters. These inspiring films were screened at the end of the function. The chairman of the Kranti Sugar Factory, Arun Lad, made the introductory remarks and senior intellectual V Y Patil proposed the vote of thanks.
-Ashok Dhawale