Around 1.5 lakh people are estimated to have congregated in and around the Government Inter College grounds in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, to protest against the three new farm bills and the four labour codes, which have replaced over 40 labour laws.
Hundreds of participants reached Muzaffarnagar on Saturday while scores arrived in groups from various states and parts of Uttar Pradesh through the night. By early morning, the four parking areas for tractor trolleys and buses were buzzing with activity even as groups from different states could be seen going about their preparations. Several political parties are also using the occasion to extend support to farmers to press home the message that they empathize with the concerns of rural folks.
Farmer leaders alleged that UP police is preventing busses from proceeding towards Muzaffarnagar while one of the trains carrying a large contingent from Punjab had reportedly been delayed in Delhi to prevent them from attending the mahapanchayat.
Named as “Mission UP”, the Muzaffarnagar mahapanchayat platform is being used by farmer leaders to convey a strong message to the central government that if farmers’ pleas are not addressed they would have no option but to use the democratic platform to seek a change in political leadership in the upcoming state assembly elections.
Lately the attempt of farmer leaders has been to ensure that their protests assume a national dimension. Thus, to mark completion of nine months of the protests, the farmer leaders held a two-day convention on the Delhi border last month. Besides major representation from five states – UP, MP, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Haryana, representatives from over a dozen states including Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are participating in the mahapanchayat on Sunday.
According to participants at the venue, the Government Inter College ground is almost full. As people want to hear the leaders, arrangements to accommodate more participants, particularly women, have been made in nearby grounds. The mahapanchayat is expected to raise several farm issues including disparity in prices across states, need for better price fixation mechanism by the government, better marketing arrangements, and rising unemployment in rural areas among others.