The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) farmers’ body Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) has declared that it will stage a nationwide protest on September 8th 2021 demanding a provision to pay a minimum support price (MSP) for major farm produce. The BKS’s protest on MSP caught many by surprise but most of the constituents of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), the steering body of the 10-month-long farmers’ movement at Delhi’s borders, called it hogwash by a desperate RSS before the Punjab and Uttar Pradesh elections scheduled next year.
Since November 26th 2020, millions of farmers from Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh have assembled at Delhi’s borders demanding the repealing of the three anti-farmer laws enacted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) government in 2020. It has been independent India’s longest-running people’s sit-in movement over a popular demand. The farmers have been demanding a legal guarantee of MSP for all major crops as well, yet, only after the three laws are scrapped.
The RSS, which has opposed the farmers’ movement and called it a “conspiracy” against Modi’s Hindutva fascist rule, has now appropriated one of its major demands, the legal guarantee for MSP of crops. The BKS’s protest on MSP will be used as a divisive tactic by the RSS to drive a wedge in the farmers’ protest movement, which shook the foundation of Hindutva fascism in states like Haryana, Punjab and western Uttar Pradesh’s sugarcane belt. This selective approach of the BKS shows how the RSS is keen to cool down the farmers’, mostly lower-caste Hindus and Sikhs, rage and woo them back to the fold of obnoxious communal politics.
For months, especially after the farmers braved the Delhi Police’s brutal violence on January 26th, during their tractor rally in the capital, the RSS has been vilifying them through its propaganda outlets as well as by using its servile, upper-caste Hindu-dominated mainline newspapers and other media outlets. What suddenly woke up the RSS to the farmers’ woes? Why the BKS’s protest on MSP is scheduled for September 2021, when they could’ve done it well even in December 2020?
For the RSS, Punjab is a lost state. There will be no chance for the BJP’s victory there in the 2022 Punjab Assembly polls. However, Uttar Pradesh is crucial for not just the BJP and the RSS, but also Modi’s narcissistic image. As Uttar Pradesh, ruled by militant rabble-rouser-turned-politician Yogi Adityanath, will go to the polls in March 2022, the farmers’ movement will become a lethal factor for the ruling party in the western, sugarcane-producing parts of the state.
The RSS can’t afford to lose western Uttar Pradesh, where the dominant Jat community was enticed by it using Islamophobic bush telegraph in 2013-14. The RSS engineered the largest anti-Muslim pogrom in western Uttar Pradesh in September 2013. It brought the Jats and other lower-caste farming communities into the Hindutva fold and turned them against their Muslim neighbours. But that social engineering programme fell on its face with the beginning of the farmers’ unrest.
The Jats have boycotted the BJP and banned it from entering most of the villages in western Uttar Pradesh. In neighbouring Haryana, the Jat farmers have collided several times with the police, latest in August, when one farmer was killed, to protest the farm laws. The SKM has called for a nationwide strike on September 25th to protest the recent police violence against the farmers in Haryana’s Karnal.
In case the strike achieves success, it will be a severe setback for the RSS. Moreover, farmer leader and former RSS pawn Rakesh Tikait is heading to Muzaffarnagar, the epicentre of the 2013 anti-Muslim genocide in western Uttar Pradesh. His efforts have re-united the Jat Hindus and Muslims against the RSS. In case the community undoes the damages of 2013 by collective efforts to strengthen unity against Hindutva fascism, then the BJP won’t be able to survive in the sugarcane belt of western Uttar Pradesh in the 2022 polls.
The BKS, supported mostly by the rich, upper-caste feudal landowners, opposed the farmers’ movement from day one. It opposed the February 6th “Chakka Jam” (road blockade) against the Modi regime’s policies. It didn’t oppose but supported the neoliberal economic model’s aggression and supports greater corporate control of agriculture. The BKS’s standpoints on crucial agricultural issues show how India’s big landlords have been collaborating with big capital and helping corporates establish a neo-colonial hegemony over the rural economy.
Now, as shown above, the BKS’s protest on MSP on September 8th will try to woo away a section of the Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh farmers with tall claims and by exhibiting the organisation’s clout. However, as the SKM and its constituents have carried out pre-emptive strikes against it, the RSS’s propaganda vessel looks deflated before starting its voyage. The RSS is now facing the toughest challenge to its hegemony from the farmers and the quintessential communal dichotomy it deploys to titillate the masses will not work anymore with the farmers. How it tries to save its skin is to be seen in the days to come.