The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial National Committee, Delhi, conferred the prestigious Chhatrapati Shivaji Award on AIKS national president Dr Ashok Dhawale in an impressive function held at the India Islamic Cultural Centre in New Delhi on December 17 evening. The award was given in recognition of the struggles he led in defence of the peasantry.
The great social reformer Mahatma Jotirao Phule, in a ballad written on the legendary leader Shivaji, had lauded him as the "king of the peasantry", thus effectively rejecting Shivaji's utterly false characterisation by the Hindutva and casteist forces as the "protector of cows and Brahmins".
Among those on the stage when the award was conferred were renowned poets and shaheers of Maharashtra Sambhaji Bhagat, Prakash Ghodke and Pratibha Ahire, recipient of the Rashtramata Jijau (the valiant mother of Shivaji) Social Service award Pushpatai Bonde, office bearers of the Memorial National Committee Milind Patil and Colonel Mohan Katkikar, noted artist and painter Rajanand Suradkar, AIKS state president Kisan Gujar, AIKS state general secretary Dr Ajit Nawale, AIDWA national general secretary Mariam Dhawale and others.
In his acceptance speech, Dr Ashok Dhawale said that he was proud to accept this award not for himself personally, but on behalf of the collective leadership of the All India Kisan Sabha and its constituent, the Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha, which had led constant peasant struggles on vital issues like liberation from farm debt, remunerative prices at one and a half times the total cost of production, a comprehensive crop insurance scheme, land rights, pensions, MNREGA and others.
Highlighting the pro-peasant rule and secular credentials of Shivaji by citing several examples, he said today the situation had reversed. Due to the agrarian crisis that had been intensified by neo-liberal policies of the last 25 years, over three lakh farmers in our country had been forced to commit suicide due to indebtedness and tens of thousands of adivasi, dalit and other children had died due to hunger and malnutrition. Communal and casteist forces were inciting hatred, murder, violence and riots to divide the people.
He concluded by saying that all left, democratic and secular forces must come together to defeat the communal forces and fight for a radical change in policies in favour of farmers, agricultural workers, the working class and the middle class.
The elegant programme ended with a very effective and progressive poetry reading session by renowned poets Sambhaji Bhagat, Prakash Ghodke and Pratibha Ahire.