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Report of struggle of Punjab’s Fight-for-Land Movement by ZPSC, farm labourers

By Harsh Thakor 

Ei Muhurte Kichhu Bhavna of West Bengal activists have been closely studying the movement of dalit agricultural workers f Punjab in relation to the agrarian revolutionary movement of Punjab and integration with movement of landed farmers. It just presented a report on it’s experiences and reflected their interpretation.
The organisation in Punjab that is fighting for land for the landless, and all agricultural labourers’ unions together called for a Protest demonstration at Sangrur, the home of the Chief Minister of Punjab, on November 30, 2022. Previously the CM gave an appointment to meet the landless and labourers on September 13 — thousands and thousands went there — but the CM could not find time — for 3 days the police blocked all road to CM’s residence and kept thousands sitting on the road. So, they had to return. This was the reason for Nov 30 programme. A few delegates of this journal Ei Muhurte Kichu Bhavna (and Workers Peasants Unity) were fortunate to be to be present there. They were grateful to Zpsc for providing hospitality for a couple of nights. Also, they held discussions with comrades of leaders of Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union nad Pendu Mazdoor Union., and some other labourers’ organisations and successfully obtained knowledge from them, owing gratitude to all of them.
It elaborated how inspite of the state in the control of Aam Admi Party. ,it was compelled to give some time to attend delegates of farmers organisations – who like Tsunami could show their force encircling CM’s residence in Sangrur — and who just a year ago showed their might encircling Delhi border points for 381 days continuously with lakhs of farmers.
The Ei Muhurte Kichhu Bhavna report summarised how the for poor lot, the landless, the agricultural workers — AAP govt could bind no time. Last time in September, police made them sit in the scorching summer sun and nights for 3 days cancelling the appointment to meet their delegates — this time they started beating up by police forces – even old workers and peasants were not spared in lathi charge. More than 10,000 assembled poor toilers were forced go away in the evening determined next time to intensive resistance — demonstrating how poor toilers, most of who are Dalit (Schedules Caste people), have the inherent potential that much resources as the farmers in their state Punjab, and then of Haryana, Uttarakhand, West-UP, o, and actually demonstated that several times.
The report did just what the doctor ordered in painting the true picture o the dalit labur community.It projected Scheduled Caste or Dalit people are almost 37% of Punjab’s population but have only 3.6% of the arable land! Again, 61% of village households have less than 15% of the arable land — their land size is less than 1 hectare – they are called “Marginal Farmers” by economists and govt. If we count from the bottom — in the Household Land-Ownership Survey (National Sample Survey 2018) — among rural households in Punjab:00.5% owns 00.0% of land61.0% owns 14.6% land (less than 1 hectare)18.1% owns 21.2% land (1 to 2 Hectares)which means 79.6% or almost 80% households own 35.8% of the land, or just a little more than one-third of the land!!
Some of such household have such scarce land and such minimal resources they lease out their land to richer farmers — among which started first in Punjab — it is called “Reverse Tenancy” by economists. Some of such poor ‘owners’ become agricultural labourers or other rural labourers who depend more on wages than on the money they can get from ‘ownership’.
In view of report Two Punjabis exit within Punjab.Quting the report “Members of the poor-Punjab go to towns and cities, even to other states, migrant workers, some try to migrate out – all for some job, a living, to send some money back home. Richer-Punjab too migrate — some even stay abroad and their farms are managed by labourers – some do higher studies – get good jobs in India and abroad. 
“In foreign land too, there are difference of these two Punjabs based on status – we heard."
Even after arrival of Islam, after arrival and spread of Bhakti Movement by Guru Nanak – like what we had in Bengal by Chaitanya Dev — even after their great fight for erasing inequality of social status, erasing caste difference – effort of expunging many Hindu rituals and domination of priests – their fight against caste system – – still there are Caste Discriminations and even Caste-Hatred. Different castes have different neighbourhoods in same village – the lowest castes, the Dalit have to live segregated – Indian version of Ghettoization.”
The report questioned how the . Zameen Prapt Sangharsh Committee is conducting movement to enable one-third of the Panchayati Land to b given to the landless, Dalit peasants and also other poor people. It raised point of if land is not plenty or abundant to meet the land-hunger then from where from will additional land be tapped?
It questioned the legitimacy of Zpsc and supporting organisations, including revolutionary organisations, are demanding: Land Ceiling Act is to be duly implemented – Ceiling Surplus Land – that is if some household has more than the ceiling of 10 hectares of land – must be taken by the govt – and that govt land will then have to be distributed among the landless.
It asked how the land ceiling and the bourgeois land reform programme was something ‘just’or inviolable, taking into account how even before 50 years –revolutionary slogan was raised for land to the tillers. It means land belongs to the toilers on the land. Before 50-60 years struggles prouted of peasants in Punjab, Bengal, Andhra, Telangana, Bihar, Jharkhand! The report questioned why now one of the basic demands of the Democratic Revolution – one of the pillars of Agrarian Revolution – “Land To The Tillers” — was relegated from the agenda and demanded exclusively implementation of the imperialist-dictated bourgeois land reform programme.
It questioned that although big countrywide revolutionary struggle would be impossible to garner at this moment, would the dream should sparkle into our revolutionary agitation-propaganda.
“Can a Dalit not become a toiling-owner-producer on land – a peasant with some land – live with some dignity?"
It asked when we shall see that Farmers Unions come strongly in support of the fight of the landless and labourers – not just token participation! It took into consideration that overcoming Caste and Class difference was an arduous task.
The report was critical that in the programme of Nov 30 some organisations belonging to revisionist parties also participated and it seemed a pro-Mao organisation was there who does joint activity there with the CPI(M).
It addressed (i) That very CPI(M) which is conducting a joint fight along with BJP in Kerala to evict livelihood of thousands of fishermen gloving a vast sea-shore to ADANI;
(ii) that CPI(M) which is the first party to support publicly India govt’s plan to introduce imperialist corporate Monsanto’s GM Mustard;
(iii) that very CPI(M) which introduced contract-farming in West Bengal during their rule and did so many anti-poor and pro-rich activities — how can landless and labourers’ organisations of Punjab think of conducting “Joint Activity” with such parties?
It concluded that In Punjab Assembly elections – 29 candidates of CPI(M), CPI and CPI(ML)-Liberation together got 21665 votes (out of 1.54 crore polled) about 0.001%, less than NOTA (1.1 lakh)! Quoting he report “What Really Was the Compulsion behind joint move with so called ‘mass-organisations’ controlled by such revisionist parties?”

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I congratulate this team for delving into the most fundamental or gripping questions on the dalit labour movement and portraying them in sum totality.
Although I greatly admire the initiative of the Bengal group and their sincerity, I feel they are unaware of the ground reality with regard to united front with Revisionist party led mass organisations. It does not take into account that one of the participants broke away from the Original CPM, to join hands with revolutionary struggles. It also fails to understand that in past history mass organisations of left parties have played major role in galvanising the dailt agricultural labour, particularly in the 1960’s and built a breeding ground for mass mobilisation. It is not inherent with revolutionary practice to unite with progressive cadre of traditional left parties, who have secular and democratic aspirations. I recount how revolutionary student groups joined hands even with CPM led SFI or CPI led AISF in issues like protesting fee hike ,bus fare hike, hostel facilities etc.A great number o progressive dalit cadre comprise mass organisations of left parties, even if leadership is revisionist.
I give credibility to it’s interpretation of stagnation of agrarian revolutionary movement and veering of movement towards economism.It raises a most valid question on whether true moral support is given by the landed farmer organisations to the agricultural labourers and the very legitimacy of mere land reform programme and not pressing for genuine demands of agrarian revolution. However it does not grasp that raising demanding the land reform demands is only a platform or stepping stone to crystallise revolutionary demands, or perhaps a perquisite for raising demand of land to the tiller.
I regret that the Ei Muhurte Kichhu Bhavna activists could not obtain comprehensive research on the aspect of the mass line of the Communist revolutionary groups in relation to this topic. In particular it needed to gain a more comprehensive insight on the perspective and practice of the CPCRI (ML) and whether the movement it is leading has received set backs. In my view in recent years there has been a lull in the integration of the movements and organisations of the landed farmers with that of the dalit agricultural labour. At one stage the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union had made major inroads in sowing seeds for agrarian revolutionary movement in struggles for plots,etc. but today there is a powerful tendency of the Bharatiya Kisan Union factions giving mere token support to the landless labour movement, with their cadre not giving integral support. I have myself witnessed this trend, with dalit labour attendance sparse in conferences of landed peasantry. Today the movement is plagued either by trend of caste line or Ambedkarist orientation or economism.We have to particularly probe on whether the Communist Party Re-Organisation Centre of India (Marxist-Leninist) is engaging in genuine agrarian revolutionary practice in Punjab.
In recent years I have the highest admiration for the Zameen Prapt Sangarsh Commitee for knitting the scattered seeds and waging a battle at the every block level. Still to me the genuine mass line was practiced by the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union, around a decade ago.
One has to respect the complexities of Punjab which has characteristics which distinguish t from conventional semi-feudalism as in other states of India, with no forest or mountain regions.
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Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has covered mass movements around India and frequently toured Punjab

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