In what is being called as the “start of the downfall of the BJP”, a hugely energetic and emotional crowd of 50,000 farmers was witnessed in the khap mahapanchayat in Kandela village of Jind district in Haryana. A gathering of this intensity against the BJP government hasn’t been witnessed till now.
“Can you sense the energy of this protest? This is the start of a change. History will remember us and this day as the day when the downfall of the BJP’s current regime started. The government, which doesn’t care for its farmers, is of no use,” said Jaidev Kandela, a protesting farmer.
Farmer leaders Rakesh Tikait, Gurnam Singh Charuni and Balbir Singh Rajewal also attended the mahapanchayat, which adopted five resolutions: repeal of the three laws, ensuring minimum support price, waiving farmers’ loans, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendations and withdrawal of the criminal cases registered against farmers in Delhi on January 26.
Talking to The Federal after the event, Rakesh Tikait, national spokesperson of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), said, “We have given a deadline to the government to accept our demands, failing which we will have 40 lakh tractors marching on roads all over the country.”
Addressing the gathering, Tikait said that if the Centre does not accept farmers’ demands, they would hold a mahapanchayat at the national level. “When the ruler is afraid, he fortifies his position,” he said.
Sunil Kandela, a resident of Kandela village, told The Federal, “We have given our lives to farming and now even this farming will take our lives, we are ready. We will protest against the government till our demands are not met.”
One fake promise ended INLD
Kandela village, located about 10 km from Jind, is the headquarters of the Kandela Khap, which has influence in about 20 adjoining villages. Apart from these 20 villages, Kandela Khap is the most influential Khap in Haryana, which has a huge hold over entire Haryana khaps.
Indian National Lokdal (INLD) is a regional party of Haryana founded by Devilal Chautala, hailed as the greatest farmers’ leader in the state. The party had a great influence in Haryana till the 2000s before the Kandela Khap ended its successful run in Haryana to an extent that it got only one out of 90 assembly seats in the 2019 Haryana state elections.
During the assembly elections of Haryana in the 2000s, Om Prakash Chautala, son of Devilal Chautala and the then INLD chief, promised the electorate, especially the farmers, that all pending electricity dues would be waived. This move fetched both Chautala and his INLD more than a comfortable majority. However, he did not keep his promise and declared that the government would waive 75 per cent of the dues, with the farmers having to pay up the rest.
The administration soon began to put pressure on farmers to pay their dues. Lakhs of power connections of many small farmers using tube wells were cut. Many of them had not paid their bills since the 1990s when the power rates were increased drastically. The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) started protesting against Chautala in 2002 against this move.
The epicentre of the agitation was in Jind and it gained momentum in those parts of the state where tube well irrigation is the only source of water for crops. An upheaval occurred on May 19, 2002, the day on which the BKU planned a huge rally of farmers at Kandela in Jind district.
The government ordered police to take action against the farmers in the rally. The farmers who were angry with the action took police officers hostage. The agitation went on for weeks. Nine farmers were killed and several others injured after the police opened fire on them. Subsequently, the Jat-dominated village unanimously banned the entry of Chautala. His family has avoided visiting Kandela all these years.
Om Prakash Chautala remained the chief minister of Haryana till 2005, but he never came to Kandela or even Jind by way of Kandela village. No one from INLD has visited Kandela even after 19 years of the incident.
In 2005, Kandela Khap passed a resolution to boycott INLD in the state elections and every other Khap accepted it. The Congress under the leadership of Bhupender Singh Hooda won the 2005 state election by winning 67 seats out of 90. The INLD, which won 47 seats in 2000, was left with only nine.
Until now, Kandela Khap has played an important role in all the movements of BKU. Now, once again, it is getting ready for the ongoing farmers’ movement in Delhi. Experts believe that the Kandela Khap joining the protest means the end of the rule of the BJP in Haryana as well as the starting of the downfall of BJP at a national level.