It was by far the most massive nationwide Jail Bharo struggle in recent times. According to preliminary reports received from the states, well over five lakh peasants and workers courted arrest at over 610 centres in 407 districts in 22 states across the country on August 9, 2018. They raised the main slogan “Modi Sarkar, Chale Jaao!”
This was in recognition of the fact that the BJP-RSS government headed by Narendra Modi is without doubt the most anti-peasant, anti-worker and anti-people regime in the last 71 years of Independent India. It is also the most pro-corporate, communal and casteist.
This Jail Bharo struggle of peasants, workers and agricultural labourers was led jointly by the AIKS, CITU and AIAWU. It thus took an important step forward towards building worker-peasant unity in action – a step that will be further cemented by the September 5 Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Rally in Delhi. Women, youth and students led by AIDWA, DYFI and SFI also participated in large numbers. Lakhs of signatures in each state on peasant demands of the AIKS addressed to the Prime Minister were submitted to the district authorities.
The August 9 Jail Bharo stir made a great impact on the people at large. Both print and electronic media, as well as social media, covered the struggle well at the regional level. This action helped to take forward the joint resistance of the peasantry and the working class.
The largest and most militant mobilisation in this struggle was in West Bengal, where over 1,42,000 people participated in all the districts of the state. In several places, thousands of protestors broke through many barricades set up by the thoroughly authoritarian TMC government. Under the leadership of former AIKS Joint Secretary Suryakant Mishra and many others, they braved the repressive wrath of the police, but refused to bend. They castigated the anti-people policies of both the Modi regime as well as the Mamata regime.
Another valiant struggle took place in Tripura, where the Left is facing massive repression from the barbaric regime led by the BJP-RSS-IPFT (See the accompanying report of the Fact Finding Committee on the Tripura Situation). Here, over 11,000 people took part in the Jail Bharo stir. They braved lathi charges, and even water cannons and tear gas, under the leadership of former Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and many others.
Kerala faced a different kind of adversary – nature itself! August 9 was the day of unprecedented rains in that state and this claimed over 30 lives. Triumphing over even that, more than 30,000 people took part in the Jail Bharo stir. Had it not been for the rains, the figure would have easily reached a couple of lakhs.
Tamil Nadu faced a completely different problem – the death of former chief minister M Karunanidhi. Due to the mourning period, the Jail Bharo had to be cancelled. The state had planned for over one lakh arrests that day.
Among the other states, Maharashtra had the largest participation of 63,437 at 66 centres in 27 districts. Here the mobilisation would have crossed the target of one lakh, had it not been for the state bandh call on the issue of Maratha caste reservations the very same day. The next largest was Bihar, where over 50,000 people participated at 35 district centres.
Assam, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh had good participation of over 35,000 each. Rajasthan and Karnataka had over 28,000 each. Odisha had over 23,500. Andhra Pradesh with 13,000, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh with 11,000 each, Telangana with 9,500, Jharkhand with 8496 and Madhya Pradesh with 5,250 followed next. Jail Bharo actions also took place in Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, Gujarat and Manipur.
CONCEPT AND PREPARATIONS FOR JAIL BHARO
The AIKS Central Kisan Committee (CKC) meeting held on March 18-19, 2018 at Delhi, decided to launch a massive campaign on burning peasant demands and collect 10 crore signatures from the people to culminate in a massive Jail Bharo struggle at the district level across the country on August 9, 2018. August 9, 1942 is a historic date in our freedom struggle, the day on which Mahatma Gandhi gave the warning to the British imperialist government to ‘Quit India’.
The main demands decided by the AIKS were land rights, opposition to forced land acquisition, implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA), farm loan waiver, remunerative prices as per the Swaminathan Commission formula C2 + 50%, increased pension for agricultural workers and poor farmers and a comprehensive crop insurance scheme.
The General Council meeting of the CITU held at Kozhikode, Kerala on March 24-26, 2018 decided to participate in the Jail Bharo struggle on August 9 in solidarity with the peasantry. The CITU proposed that this be followed by the first-ever Worker-Peasant Struggle Rally since Independence on September 5, 2018 at Delhi. The AIKS and AIAWU fully supported this proposal. It has thus become a joint rally of all three class organisations.
The All India Kisan Council (AIKC) meeting of the AIKS held at Rajapalayam in Tamil Nadu on July 18-20, 2018, reviewed the preparations for the Jail Bharo and the Delhi Rally and gave a clarion call to make both these struggles a great success. It also decided to mobilise Rs 5 crore as Kisan Sangharsh Fund, mainly through mass collection of Rs 10 each from village households and petty traders throughout the country.
Meetings and consultations were held among the office bearers of the three organisations. A massive campaign was launched all over the country to reach out to maximum people through booklets, handbills, vehicle or cycle jathas, conventions and village meetings.
Two new sections also joined the August 9 struggle. One was the All India Ex-Servicemen Movement, which was angry that they had been duped by the BJP regime on their just and long-standing demand for ‘One Rank One Pension’. The second was the All India Ambedkar Mahasabha which was incensed over government inaction to reverse the Supreme Court decision to dilute the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. It had earlier called for a Bharat Bandh on April 2, in which several Dalits were killed in police firing. That issue has now been settled through bills recently passed by Parliament.
BACKGROUND OF CONSISTENT STRUGGLES
The August 9 Jail Bharo struggle was another major step forward in the rising upsurge of struggles of the peasantry and the working class after the Modi regime came to power.
A joint platform called the Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan (BAA) was formed in 2015 during the successful struggle against the hated Land Acquisition Ordinance. After state level agitations and Delhi Rallies against the Ordinance, it had to be withdrawn in August 2015. The BAA has since been fighting on issues like killing of farmers by gau rakshaks, and against forced land acquisition for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train, the Salem-Chennai green corridor and the various Industrial Corridors and Freight Corridors proposals.
The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), a broader platform now comprising nearly 200 organisations was formed after the Mandsaur firing in June 2017 by the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh, which killed six farmers. The two main issues taken up by this platform were farm loan waivers and remunerative prices for farm produce at one and a half times the cost of production. Through consistent issue based struggles, the anti-peasant policies of the BJP government were exposed by both these platforms, in which the AIKS is an important constituent.
The formation of JEJAA – a platform of class, mass and social organisations - in September 2017 helped to expand the unity of the class and mass organisations and develop an All India movement of struggles on the issues of the people with the active role of trade unions and agrarian front organisations in it. This resulted in the May 23, 2018 ‘Pol Khol Halla Bol’ actions all over the country to condemn four years of the Modi regime.
The AIKS took the independent initiative of organising nationwide jathas, culminating in an AIKS Delhi Rally of several thousand peasants on their burning demands in November 2016. The 34th All India Conference of the AIKS held at Hisar, Haryana in October 2017 gave a clarion call for intensifying both independent and united issue based struggles against the disastrous anti-peasant policies of the Modi regime.
Soon after this, the AIKSCC held a Kisan Sansad and a Mahila Kisan Sansad in Delhi in November 2017 in which tens of thousands of farmers from all over the country participated. Two bills for liberation from farm debt and for just remunerative prices were introduced. After a series of countrywide consultations, these bills were finalised and they were supported by 21 opposition parties in a special convention. They were introduced in Parliament in its just-concluded monsoon session by AIKS Joint Secretary K K Ragesh in the Rajya Sabha and by Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader Raju Shetty in the Lok Sabha.
The struggles spearheaded by the Maharashtra and Rajasthan units of the AIKS in the recent past contributed greatly to building up the resistance of the peasantry at the All India level. The remarkable Kisan Long March organised under the banner of the Maharashtra unit of the AIKS became a source of encouragement for the entire democratic movement in the country. The struggles in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka and elsewhere succeeded in wresting concessions from the BJP and Congress-led governments in these states. All these initiatives helped to carve out an active space for the AIKS in the united movement.
Running parallel to these peasant struggles were the series of working class struggles being led by the CITU and other trade unions throughout the country. They culminated in the massive three-day sit-in struggle at Parliament Street in Delhi in November 2017.
The massive participation in the August 9 Jail Bharo struggle will surely help to ensure the targeted mobilisation in the September 5 Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Rally. Hectic preparations are now going on all across the country to make it a historic success.