The protest against the farm laws by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha has been possibly the finest example of Satyagraha India has seen in modern times. For more than a year after it was formed in November 2020, the SKM carried out non-violent protests at many places across the country, including borders of the national capital New Delhi, primarily against the three controversial farm laws the NDA government introduced in August 2020.
These laws are considered by the SKM as anti-farmer and pro-corporate business, and the morcha, which represents the interests of more than 400 farmers unions across the country, was born in response to the passing of these laws. At last bowing to the pressure, the central government decided to repeal the laws, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing the repeal on Guru Nanak Jayanti on the 19th of November this year. As the announcement was made into law on the first day of the Winter session of the parliament, the farmers’ unions rejoiced and celebrated. They, a non-political group of simple farmers, had defeated the powerful NDA government in New Delhi. They had slain the goliath. Well, almost.
Even as they packed their tents, which had housed them for more than a year as they protested through rain and snow, their work was not yet finished. Their agenda was unfinished, most notably the demand for a law guaranteeing Minimum Support Price (MSP) for 23 crops. But with their biggest demand met, they went home hopeful, if not confident that they will be able to get their other demands fulfilled in due time.
But now, rifts have started to appear in the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha. The front has strictly maintained itself as a non-political entity and remained aloof of electoral politics, and contested with the government in non-parliamentary ways. However, in the short time after they went back home, two political parties have been floated by different farmers’ unions.
First Gurnam Singh Chaduni, leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, or BKU(Chaduni) floated his political party, the Samyukt Sangharsh Party, in Haryana. According to Chaduni, “Every political party is here to make money. They have made it a business and polluted it. The politicians are responsible for capitalism, poverty, and inequality in the country. Hence, we are launching our party today, which will be free of casteism and won’t bend towards any particular religion.” He also added that “Our objective will be to purify politics and bring good people forward.”
Now another party has been floated in Punjab on Saturday by 22 of the farmers’ unions under SKM. It is called the Sanyukt Samaj Morcha and is headed by Balbir Singh Rajewal. “For now we will fight for all 117 seats [in Punjab] as there are no alliance talks with any political party including the Aam Aadmi Party,” Rajewal has declared.
However, key SKM leader Dr Darshan Pal has called it a wrong move. According to Pal, Rajewal’s announcement is counter to the understanding with which the SKM came into existence. He said their decision will create a lot of confusion in the SKM and can potentially hamper the unfinished agenda, including the guarantee for the MSP as “we have to fight even harder to achieve our pending demands”.
“SKM rejects their call to fight the election. We will discuss the issue in the SKM meeting on January 15 and take a unanimous call to remove them officially from SKM,” He added, “All Kisan leaders who will fight the election will be treated at par with other political parties. … We will oppose anyone who will use SKM’s name for political purposes.”
Rajewal however, has said that the pressure from the people was what caused them to float the new party. “The people wanted us to change the politics of Punjab after winning a successful morcha against the Modi government,” he said.
Darshan Pal, however, has argued that the political aspirations of a few people led to the formation of this new political front. “We repeatedly told them not to take such steps as the mandate of the Kisan movement is not over yet. Our movement was not over, as it was merely suspended for a few months. But in between, this move was not needed,” he said
Whatever the reason behind the creation of these new political parties from the folds of the SKM, many farmer groups have decided to distance themselves from these fronts. These include BKU (Ugranhan), which is the largest farmers’ union in numbers, BKU (Sidhupur), BKU (Krantikari), Kranti Kisan Union, Kranti Kisan Manch, Kisan Sangharsh and several others. As such the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, which held the promise of becoming a beacon of how the common man may get his voice heard, now risks destruction because it fell victim to the same ill it set out to fight.