Lack of political clarity, support holding back Haryana farmers

Their Punjab counterparts are at the forefront of the agitation against new laws

Three weeks after the agitation over the three contentious agriculture sector laws reached the doorsteps of Delhi and support to them gradually growing, the rather “poor” participation of farming community from Haryana, surrounding the national Capital on three sides, remains in sharp contrast to Punjab, which has been at the forefront of the movement.

Despite substantial similarities between the two States — both being leading agricultural States with strong Agricultural Produce Market Committee market system and culturally identical — the farmers in Haryana have differed in their response to the agitation for a host of political, social and historical reasons.

Unlike Haryana, Punjab has historically been a witness to several long farmer agitations, including a century-old “Pagri Sambhal Jatta” movement by Bhagat Singh’s uncle during the British rule and later an anti-Betterment Levy agitation in 1959 against the proposed tax for providing canal waters, says Haryana Kisan Sabha vice-president Inderjit Singh, also former State CPM secretary. “Punjab has a strong APMC market system since 1939 and leads Haryana in agricultural production reaping the benefits of the Green Revolution the most because of better irrigation facilities. South Haryana lacks in agricultural production due to inadequate irrigation facilities and its participation in the agitation is less,” says Mr. Singh.

Also, the deep-entrenched caste system in Haryana compared with Punjab acts as a divisive factor. This division took even deeper roots in the wake of the violence during the Jat reservation agitation in February 2016.

Kurukshetra University former Vice-Chancellor Bhim Singh Dahiya says State farmers, traditionally led by the Chautala clan, stand divided and confused because of the split in the Indian National Lok Dal. “While INLD is led by Abhay Chautala, the Jannayak Janta Party is part of the coalition government. Abhay’s uncle Ranjit Singh Chautala, an Independent MLA, is also a Minister in the government. The farmers, thus, lack a leadership.”

A senior political science faculty member at Maharishi Dayanand University, not willing to be identified, argues that farmers’ movement in Haryana has little political support. “BJP government in Haryana resorted to crackdown on farmer leaders and took them into preventive custody. The Opposition leaders too have preferred not be actively involved in the agitation,” the faculty member added. But, the prolonging of the agitation has led to growing support in Haryana as well, and around 30 “Khap Panchayats” recently expressed solidarity with the agitating farmers.

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