Uddhav to Skip, Pawar in Attendance: Security Up in Mumbai as Farmers March to Azad Maidan for Mega Rally

Vinaya Deshpande
·5-min read

Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray will not attend the farmers' protest in south Mumbai's Azad Maidan on Monday, sources told News18. However, the CM has sent a message to the protesters, expressing his support.

According to sources, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat will attend the agitation and address protesters in the afternoon. Shiv Sena, meanwhile, will send a representative to the venue.

"In view of the Covid-19 situation and the protocols, Thackeray has conveyed to us that it he won't be present at Azad Maidan during our sabha. But he has conveyed his support for us. He will also send a Sena leader," a farmer leader told CNN News18.

Mumbai Congress leaders Bhai Jagtap and Charan Singh Sapra will also be present around 1pm to show their support. Renowned journalist P Sainath will address the farmers during their Sabha.

Thousands of farmers from across Maharashtra reached Mumbai on Sunday evening to participate in a rally at the state capital on Monday against the Centre's three new farm laws. Police have stepped up security at Azad Maidan, the rally's venue, and personnel of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) have also been deployed there.

Drones will also be used to keep an eye on the event, a police official said. The All India Kisan Sabha's (AIKS) Maharashtra unit in a statement said around 15,000 farmers had set out for the state capital from Nashik on Saturday in several tempos and other vehicles.

Farmers from various places had gathered in Nashik and started their journey towards Mumbai on Saturday. Many peasants also joined on the way, the AIKS said. They halted at Ghatandevi near Igatpuri hill town for overnight stay.

On Sunday morning, a number of farmers marched down the Kasara Ghat to head for Mumbai, while many left in vehicles. Several women farmers took part in the seven-km long march at Kasara Ghat, which started at 9 am and ended by around 11.30 am. Later, they continued their forward journey in vehicles.

The Kasara Ghat march and the vehicle convoy was led by AIKS national president Ashok Dhawale, state president Kisan Gujar and its state general secretary Ajit Nawale. On the way, hundreds of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU)-affiliated factory workers from Igatpuri and Shahapur tehsils welcomed the farmers by showering flowers. At the Kalyan-Bhiwandi crossroad, the farmers were welcomed and provided food packets.

They entered Mumbai from Mulund check-naka, the entry point to the state capital from neighbouring Thane, and were welcomed at Kannamwar Nagar in Vikhroli by hundreds of workers of the Left parties. The farmers then proceeded towards the Azad Maidan, where the joint sit-in protest by the Samyukta Shetkari Kamgar Morcha (SSKM) began this morning, and will continue till the Republic Day.

"The rally is being held to support and expand the two-month-long farmers' struggle in Delhi for a repeal of the three farm laws and for a central law to guarantee a remunerative Minimum Support Price (MSP) and procurement all over the country," the AIKS statement said. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a pro-farmer body, has given a nationwide call for a struggle from January 23 to 26, including rallies to Raj Bhavans (governor houses) in states.

Accordingly, over 100 organisations came together and formed the Samyukta Shetkari Kamgar Morcha (SSKM), Maharashtra, in a meeting held in Mumbai on January 12. On January 25, there will be a public meeting at 11 am, the release said.

Sharad Pawar, who was in Ahmednagar this morning, said he would take part in the rally on Monday. Besides Pawar, state Congress president and revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat, and Shiv Sena leader and state tourism minister Aaditya Thackeray will also address the rally, the AIKS statement said.

Later, the protesters will march to the Raj Bhavan and submit a memorandum to Governor BS Koshyari. The main demands of the protesters include repeal of the three "anti-farmer" laws, and a central law guaranteeing remunerative MSP and procurement, the release said.

The protesters have also decided to hoist the national flag at the Azad Maidan on the occasion of the Republic day on January 26, and take a pledge to make the struggle of peasants and workers successful, it added. Meanwhile, security has been beefed up at the venue ahead of the rally, a police official said.

Apart from personnel of the Mumbai Police, nine platoons of the SRPF are being deployed at the Azad Maidan, he said, adding that drones will also be used. Additional police force, including 100 officers and 500 constables, will also be deployed at the venue, he added.

Enacted in September last year, the three laws have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country. However, the protesting farmers have expressed their apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of MSP and do away with the 'mandi' (wholesale market) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.

Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at several border points of Delhi, demanding a repeal of the three farm laws. Multiple rounds of talks between the government and farmer unions have failed to break the impasse so far, while the Supreme Court has appointed a panel for resolution of the issue.

(With PTI inputs)