Hundreds of farmers in Maharashtra gathered at Nashik on Saturday to begin a march to Mumbai, in a sign of deepening opposition to the Centre’s Farm Laws. Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, whose outfit is a member of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in the state, is expected to attend the demonstration on January 25.
The demonstration comes following a call given by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), which is leading the protests in Delhi, to intensify and broaden the struggle against the controversial laws. Many more farmers are expected to join the rally in Mumbai. The farmers will converge at Azad Maidan on January 24 and begin a three-day sit-in. On January 25, they will march to Raj Bhavan and deliver a memo to the governor. On January 26, there will be a Republic Day flag hoisting at Azad Maidan.
The farmers are drawn from several smaller unions and have gathered under the banner of the All India Kisan Sabha. On Sunday TV channels showed dramatic footage of flag-waving protestors making their way to India’s commercial capital.
Less than two weeks ago, Pawar – who was minister of agriculture in the UPA government – warned the Centre of “consequences” if it failed to understand the sentiments of farmers, thousands of whom have been camped out around New Delhi since November.
The march comes two days before a massive headline-grabbing tractor rally in Delhi on Republic Day. More than a thousand tractors are expected to be on the city’s Ring Road as the nation celebration honours the date on which the Constitution of India came into effect.