Volume 5, No. 11-12, November-December 2004

 

Rajashtan Farmersí Militant Outburst

 

It was a mass upsurge at the Rajasthan farmers against the reduction and prolonged poor supply of irrigation water. The agitations in the three towns of Rajasthanís Srigangana district culminated into violent outbursts on 27 October, 2004 and the BJP government of Rajasthan under Vasundhara Raje called in the army and resorted to brute force, killing 4 farmers and critically injuring many.

It was a genuine demand of the farmers of the region for water for irrigation. The entire movement burst forth when the government turned down the demand of continued supply of 5.23 cusecs of water per 1000 acres for cultivation. The whole movement was led by Kisan Mazdoor Vyapari Sangharsh Samithi, owing no allegiance to parties like the Congress or the BJP. The BJP led state government called out the army in those three towns on the evening of 27 October when the farmers turned more violent after the killing of 4 earlier in the day. The determined farmers stood their ground even after an indefinite curfew was clamped in the towns. On the morning of 27th in Rawla town on the Sriganganagar-Bikaneer road the farmers set fire to the office and residence of the Station House Officer and attacked the police. 4 were instantaneously killed. At Ghadsana the police rained lathis on the agitating farmers and burst tear gas shells only a few days earlier when some 175 government functionaries, including the Sub-Divisional Magistrate and Deputy Superintendent of Police were held hostage by the farmers for the second day.

27 October witnessed pitched battles between the police and the farmers at many places. At Ghadsana, despite prohibitory orders, hundreds of farmers from villages collected and set fire to the offices and residences of the SDH and the Tehsildar and attacked the office of the Sub-Registrar, besides setting ablaze a police post belonging to the Border intelligence. In Khedi the villagers hurled stones at army men of the Rajasthan armed constabulary who forcibly entered the village despite road blocks. What is notable is that even after the announcement of curfew at 2-30 P.M. it could not be enforced as the people resisted police entry into the areas till evening.

The violent upsurge of the farmers of Sriganganagar is not something sudden and isolated. The adjoining districts like Bikaneer and Hanumangarh have been witnessing farmersí agitation for sometime past for the same issue of short supply of water for irrigation from the Gang and Indira Gandhi Canal systems. In the neighbouring district of Bhatinda, in Punjab, the cotton farmers have also been agitating. Even after a bumper crop they face devastation, where cotton prices have crashed from Rs. 2,700 per bale last year to Rs. 1,700 this year. This price fetched will not even cover their cost of production. They have been burning their crop in protest and demonstrating in Delhi.

The wrath of the farmers amply proves that the BJP mantras on Mandir and the anti-Muslim tirade shows signs of wearing out. They now ring hollow, to the peasants. Rajasthan peasants, not much known for turning so violent, now realise through their bitter experience that their demands can be heard by the people in the corridors of power only by such demonstrations of fury against government policy. The outburst of the peasants in Rajasthan proves the favourable revolutionary situation needing intervention from the Marxist-Leninist forces in India to lead it to overhaul the system itself.

 

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