The massive Long March of the Maharashtra unit of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), the curtain-raiser for which was published in these columns last week, began from the Central Bus Stand Chowk in Nashik city on March 6 at 4.30 pm with tens of thousands of farmers from all over the state. Its distinguishing feature was that thousands of peasant women were also part of the March and they will walk all the way of 200 Km to Mumbai.
The entire area was decorated with hundreds of red flags, red banners and red placards giving the demands of the March. Thousands of farmers had worn red headgear (called topis in Marathi) that was specially prepared by the AIKS for this March. The entire area had turned into an ocean of red. Resounding slogans were given condemning the BJP state government’s callous betrayal of its own assurances given to the peasantry on the issues of farm loan waiver, remunerative prices, implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA), pension to poor farmers and agricultural workers and many other issues during the last two years.
The Long March is being led by AIKS national president Dr Ashok Dhawale, national joint secretary Dr Vijoo Krishnan, former state president J P Gavit, MLA, state president Kisan Gujar, state general secretary Dr Ajit Nawale and other state office bearers.
The Long March was flagged off in a huge public meeting that was addressed by the above AIKS leaders, along with senior Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) leader and ex-state Minister Meenakshi Patil, CITU state president Dr D L Karad and AITUC leader Raju Desle.
All the speakers castigated the BJP state and central governments for their anti-peasant, anti-people and pro-corporate policies and for their communal and casteist conspiracies.
The speakers also denounced the attacks by RSS-BJP hoodlums on CPI(M) and Left activists and supporters in Tripura immediately after the announcement of the state assembly election results. They also condemned the pulling down of the statue of Lenin by these hoodlums and warned that this could well be a precursor to the pulling down of statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, E V Ramaswamy Naicker (Periyar), Bhagat Singh and other progressive and secular icons by the fascistic forces of the Sangh Parivar if they get absolute power in the country.
On the first night, the March walked a distance of nearly 20 Km and stopped near the Valdevi river in Nashik tehsil. The peasants had been told to get their food of chatni-bhakri (made from Jowar or Bajra) with them for the first two days and they had their food at night. All of them slept on the maidan at the side of the Mumbai-Nashik-Indore-Agra-Delhi national highway. For the March so far, the police have been forced to block one entire side of the national highway to all traffic, leaving it free for the agitators.
The March began early this morning, March 7, and is proceeding towards Igatpuri in Nashik district. It will then enter Shahapur tehsil in Thane district, where a big contingent of farmers from Thane-Palghar district will join the March. A large number of peasants from other districts of Maharashtra will join the March at Mumbai when it reaches there on March 12 to gherao the state assembly which will then be in session.
The Kisan Sabha Long March has been getting excellent publicity in both the electronic as well as print media.