Thursday, December 19, 2013

India: 20 years of Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union (PKMU) - Agricultural Labourers Movement by Harsh Thakor


Punjab Khet Mazdur Union (P.K.M.U-20th  anniversary year of formation in September,1993)


In commemoration of 20 years since Balahar Vinju struggle led by the erstwhile Pendu Mazdoor Union and of  20 years since  merging of the Punjab Dehati Mazdoor Union with the Punjab Pendu union into  the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union. The Punjab Khet Mazdur Union(P.K.M.U.) or Punjab Agricultural workers Union( P.A.L.U)has  launched anti-feudal struggles of the landless peasants and agricultural workers.
In 1993 ,in September the Punjab agricultural labouresr union merged with the Punjab Dehati Mazdoor union in a unity conference .
Since it's foundation in 1993 it launched a series of heroic struggles and has depicted phenomenal consistency, a work-style which could brilliantly relate to the issues of the landless peasants, class –analytical theoretical clarity and above all possessed the features of  democratically functioning mass organization.


1. Introduction


The overwhelming majority of agricultural labourers belong to the scheduled dalit caste. The landlords and the landed peasantry belong to the upper castes, which constitute the major part  of the village population. Thus it is very difficult to organize the agricultural labourers movement and organization on anti-feudal economic demands.

Whenever an attempt is made to organize the agricultural labourers,the landlords can easily instigate the landed peasantry against the landless labourers by raising casteist slogan and giving call for social boycott.

There was a debate in Punjab on whether agricultural labourers and landed peasants should be organized into a single mass –organization or there should be separate organizations.The Kirti Kisan Union belied that both sections of the peasantry could be united into a single organization because both these classes are integral to the anti-feudal peasant movement.


The Punjab Khet Mazdoor union established the view that since caste prejudices were so strongly prevalent and there is a clash of partial demands and interest between the landed and landless peasantry they should be organized in separate mass organizations. Only a protracted process of development of political consciousness and struggle for unity between them would narrow the clash of interests. The twin organizations should be built simultaneously  developing mutual friendship with class consciousness building. In this way finally all the exploited section sof the peasantry would unite and the alliance of landlords with landed peasantry would be broken.


An agricultural labourer lives the life of a wretched beast. He is denied his weekly or any holiday throughout the year. When he takes leave for any death in the family or a marriage he is charged much more than the average wage being paid to him. At work he virtually works round the clock.

In Agricultural Operations, he has to do all sorts of household chores, for the master. In Peak work seasons, he has to forget rest and sleep for days together due to rush of work. This forced sleeplessness results in accidents leading to amputation of limbs and serious injuries. The landowner is not required to pay for their treatment or missed days. No compensation is paid during disability or death. His average wage is much below the stipulated minimum wage. The rising prices of day to day items forced the agricultural labourer community to slash their consumption.
3 types of issues were predominantly taken up.

The first one was opposing casteist arrogance and misbehavior with women. The 2nd one was for increase in and proper distribution for social welfare and other advances like grants, community centers. The third relates to propaganda and agitational issues like distribution of land, residential plots and improvement in working conditions. The 4th and last related to political  mobilization on issues.


In Doaba region of Punjab the P.A.L.U.after a determined struggle succeeded in getting residential plots .In Muktsar district, the repeated attempts of an influential wealthy family in evicting a number of labouring families from a piece of land was foiled. A similar occurrence took place in Jalandhar district where an Akali leader's attempt to grab villagers land was foiled.

An example of heroic anti –feudal resistance led by the P.A.L.U was in Ferozepur district where 2 agricultural labourers were tortured to death by a cruel landlord. The landlord spent lakhs of rupees in bribing the police and the media. The Union carried out massive processions, blockading of police stations, holding up traffics, surrounding district courts Etc.At every stage the Union had to battle it out with the police and civil authorities.

The last significant form of struggle the Punjab Agricultural Workers Union waged was against medieval service conditions of farm labour. Peasants in Punjab often die of pesticide poisoning. The Landlords refuse to pay for the peasant's illnesses .In one example of the death of a contract labourer in Bhagtuana village the landlord not only refused to pay the treatment expenses, but also pressurized the labourer's family in paying the dues. He even threatened to confiscate the labourer's cattle. The Union challenged this. Through militant struggle the peasants prevented the landlord from gaining a single penny.

In Various districts in Punjab the Punjab Agricultural Workers Union has carried out alternative flood relief. The so-called social welfare schemes were exposed. Numerous cases concerning yellow cards, house grants and flood relief were settled. Corruption of authorities was exposed.

Lastly the Union played a great role in the election campaigns in exposing the nefarious ruling class politics. The Union explained the anti people policies of the state and how the people were enslaved through Imperialist policies like globalization. Rural labouring sections rose up like a tornado in the "Long Live the Revolution Rally!" The Union played a great role in enhancing their political consciousness.

2.Balahar Vinju land struggle

The most significant struggle led by the Agricultural labour Union was at Village Balahar Vinju.The village backward class elements had been cultivating the fields containing 18 acres for a considerable period. The Village head, in connivance with a Congress minister stage a conspiracy to usurp this land at throw-away prices through governmental auctioning of this land. Through a continuous protracted struggle the villagers resisted evictions. The peasants heroically resisted the police repression in addition to that of goondas. Although the authorities succeeded in auctioning the land in a closed-door auction under the vigilance of heavy police escort, they failed to evict the villagers and seize the disputed land.

This struggle had important phases At first when the government had decided to auction the land the peasants held a series of meetings, rallies and demonstrations. The Harijan community as well as large sections of the middle peasants signed an appeal persuading the authorities for leasing the concerned land, only to the agricultural labourers. A deputation of 250-300 men, women and children under the leadership of the Union met several authorities with regards to their cause. The mood of the village peasants was so militant that the village head when coming for the auction had to call of the auction to declare that the land would be sold to the Agricultural labour.

This irritated the Congress leaders who retaliated by calling an auction and calling for a seizure of the agricultural labourers land. The peasants under the Union fought a do or die battle. They went to the field sand staged their Red flag. Now religious ruling class parties used the issue to win votes. These included the Bahujan Samaj Party. The Union activists effectively refuted religious forces. The Union explained how through reciting religious scriptures opportunist political forces can divert the struggle.

With great determination the Union activists resisted the police forces they surrounded jeeps250 people surrounded the police station demanding the release of an arrested worker. The protest was so militant that the police had to release the arrested worker.

The Police counter retaliated raiding houses of many activists. On August 4th a public conference was to be held which the police tried to prevent the Peasant's Union from Staging a conference. They arrested electricity workers Etc.However after a determined protest of 225 people in Bhatinda district the arrested workers were released.

August 13th was the day of the next auction. The Congress leaders tried to trick the peasants by stating that the auction would be cancelled and land distributed among the labourers.The leaders of the peasant Union explained the workers what the Congress leaders were upto.The Congress leaders spread the word that Gullzar Singh ,a Congress Minister would cancel the auction and distribute the land. The Union told the peasants to cancel the rally if they were awarded the land. The Congress leaders in an embarrassing position had to cancel the land.

After that Tarsem, a prominent Union leader was arrested. The peasants through militant demonstrations attempted to secure his release. A deputation of Agricultural Workers and employees met the district authorities and asked the S.H.O to r3elease all men arrested from the village and stop repression on Tarsem.The Police were prepared to release Tarsem on the condition that no legal or mass action would be taken against the Police. On August 28th, it was known that the concerned district Inspector had come to the police Station. Women of Balahar Vinju rushed to the Police Station and within an hour assembled and started a demonstration which stopped only after the Inspector promised that Tarsem would be released on 29th August.

In Bhatinda on September 2nd the Union decided to organize a militant protest however later cancelled it. The Police were not prepared to release Tarsem.They implicated him in a false case and sent him to Bhatinda jail, and also prepared a false certificate that he was arrested in an injured State. The Union now decided to hold their protest rally on September 11th on the day a convention was taking place on the joint merging of the Dehati Mazdoor Union and the Pendu Mazdoor Union into a single organization. The Police refused to grant permission for the Unity Convention with the state of turbulence in the area.

The Union now decided to hold the convention secretly. On September 11th 500 Union Activists assembled at the teacher's home in Bhatinda, holding a demonstration despite heavy rain and water knee deep on the roads. All this was done in a secret manner so that the police would be unaware of it, until the demonstration reached the district Courts, where a memorandum against Police Repression was given to the district officer. The first joint meeting of the D.M.U(Dehati Mazdoor Union-meaning village workers Union") and the P.M.U(Pendu Mazdoor Union meaning Agricultural Workers Union) was held later in the evening150 delegates participated.

The agricultural workers from a totally unorganized force now were a militant surging contingent. From a submissive and hopeless position there force was like a spear piercing through the ruling class forces. A militant spirit reverberated in their hearts. A statement of a villager, "So small a village has kept the police of the whole district on the toes for a month, that is not a small achievement," testified this. "We may or may not get the land but we will never leave the organisation." The significant note to me made of the Balahar Vinju Struggle was the peasant's collectively fighting for their rights over land .

Having failed in their attempts to divide or suppress the Agricultural labourers during the latter half of 1993,the Congress I Leaders of the area and the district authorities teamed up with the local chieftain of the village for launching a united mass repression on the Agricultural labourer's movement. They sold the said land through an open auction to the brother of the Sarpanch and 3 others of the clique. At very cheap rates. They did this on 29th January with the help of a huge deployment of the police force and despite the protests of the Harijan community of the village. The Agricultural labourers however maintained their determination and resolve Even as they went to redress the Punjab and Haryana Court they relied on the mass mobilization of Agricultural labourers.

They brought clear instruction from the Court that it should not dispossess the agricultural labourers from there land until the matter was decided. The Court decision was a thorn in the flesh of the ruling clique.
The Teasing question for the Agricultural labourers was the method of seizing the land. They decided in the community meeting of the village that they would take possession by irrigating the land on the due date.

The Sarpanchclique threatened them with dire consequences .Showing valiant courage, a team of 70 to 80 men and women of the Harijan Community, along with 8 to 10 men from the Jaat Peasantry, armed with traditional weapons, trudged on to the fields in a procession. The Sarpanch clique counter retaliated by bringing the Sub divisional magistrate and the Deputy Superintendent of police, who ordered the peasants to disperse. The Sarpanch began to abuse them but displaying great valiance and courage the peasants stood their ground withstanding all the threats.

The Sub divisional magistrate went to the extent of announcing that the labourers will not be permitted to claim their land. He made a false plea that the order did not mention the specific land referred ..4 0r 5 labourers were called to the police Station. However the whole team of Agricultural labourers reached the Police Station they raised slogans expressing the injustice meted out to them. They decided to launch a case against the Sarpanch for using abusive language and for issuing threats. In the next few days, the representatives of the labourers met the district6 authorities.

They were reluctant to implement the Court order. The High court had stated that no one could take possession of the land until the high court passed an order. To play a trick the Sarpanch clique now stated that the land was government provincial land which could be sold through open auction. This was a major lie because the auction order of the same authorities had itself referred to it as Nazool land.The anti-labour class character of the authorities was fully exposed.The Agricultural labourers now decided to launch a two-pronged strategy .

One was to gain a clearer verdict in the high court and compel the authorities to implement it, the other was to mobilize people of the area by exposing g the anti-people character and role of the district authorities and thus add greater pressure. The Punjab Agricultural Workers Union held a state level conference on 1st July in Balahar Vinju Itself. The district authorities banned the holding of the peaceful conference there, imposed section 144 of Cr.P.C.,and rushed 300 to 400 security men to seal of all the entry points in the village. The labourers were denied there democratic right to struggle.

Heroically the labourers were undeterred. A team of 150 labourers and employees supporting their cause demonstrated at the district headquarters raising slogans condemning the authorities. The Venue of the state conference was shifted to Sewewala where 1000 Labourers with other revolutionary mass organizations participated.The Road traffic was blocked for half an hour. Effigies of the Sarpanch district authorities and Punjab Government were burnt and resolutions were passed supporting the Balahr Vinjhu labourers Struggle and condemning the district authorities. About 125 people held a protest rally in Balahr Vinju village itself.

Two further incidents had outstanding impact. All Entry points to the village had been sealed off on the day of the meeting with a huge deployment of police force. Later an angry batch of men and women from the Harijan Community went to a check post and scolded the police force present in that area for blocking their way to the fields. The force was forced to flee1In the subsequent incident one of the labourers was detained by the police on the pretext that he was calling for a rally in the village. Within minutes 150-200 men and women from the community rushed to the spot and gheraoed the jeep in which the boy was detained. The boy was freed. What was of great relevance was the words of a policeman stating, "What is the use of Imposing section 144 in such situations, the Govt just earned a bad name for doing so for nothing!

For the next 15 days, the people continued to exhibit their determined resolve. Incidents of getting boys freed from police custody by mass pressure and thrashing elements from the Sarpanch clique were such examples. On 15th July 200 men and women of the Harijan Community held a militant demonstration in the district courts of Bhatinda For 4 hours they raised militancy slogans and raging speeches. The nefarious policies of the Sarpanch,the district authorities and the Punjab Government were explained and condemned like a spear piercing flesh.

The correct revolutionary leadership continuously educated the peasants about the politics of the land issue and how it was connected to the need of building an agrarian revolutionary Movement. No Armed Squads replaced the collective revolutionary Actions of the masses and the people from their own revolutionary Experience gained an experience in mass revolutionary Struggle. Through Experience the Peasants understood the anti-people Nature of the Ruling Class Parties and the police force. In Mass revolutionary Struggle through their own experience the masses understand the enemy and the appropriate methods to combat them. The effort of the Union in holding their Unity Convention Secretly after the authorities denied formal permission and hold the protest rally showed the tactical experience gained through struggle. The peasants were now further drawn towards revolutionary Class Struggle and the need for a cohesive peasant organization.

Only militant organised resistance would liberate them. The protracted struggle of the peasantry against the onslaught of the Sarpanch clique and the authorities was a great education to them about the nexus between the landlord classes and authorities. The fact that the court order could not be implemented and that only their organized struggle could win them justice was a great lesson. Through the Struggles of the Punjab Agricultural Labour Union the Agricultural labourers learnt the importance and the gains of their collective, organized Struggles for land and their own self –defence.No political armed Squads could substitute this.

They also understood the futility of court orders and authorities implementing Justice and gained further confidence in building their own organizations. The landless and poor peasants gaining political Consciousness through their own struggle and experience is a major task in building a mass agrarian revolutionary line. This can create a strong revolutionary peasant movement and prepare the ground for setting up armed revolutionary base areas and armed agrarian Revolutionary Struggle.

3.Struggle for residential plots in Lambi region of Muktsar

In Muktsar district in Lambi sub-division in the assembly constituency of Prakash Singh Badal,president of the ruling class Akali Dal party, owns hundreds of acres of land.The contradiction between feudal landlords and the masses are acute.
To gain votes in the election the joint Akali-B.J/P govt announced some so-called welfare schemes for the scheduled castes of the rural areas. These schemes included a free plot from the village common land and a house building grant for the Scheduled caste families who either had no house of their own or had house to accommodate their families.

The State Committee of the .P.K.M.U(landless and agricultural Workers Organization) decided to initiate an exposure campaign o exposing how the govt.was hardly serious in implementing such schemes.

The P.M.K.U called a meeting. It was decided that actually the basic demands of he landless labourers should be projected, particularly the demand of land to the tiller., linking them with partial demands and other current pressing problems to make people aware of their complete rights. It was also discussed as to which points of political understanding of the P.K.M.U. can be explained linking them with specific demands of the campaign. It was also decided that the activits and the mass leaders would have to go through a thorough study of the conditions of the masses to know how many families in the village were genuine claimants of the govt.welfare measures.

The investigation revealed that there were 61 families in 6 investigated villages who had no house and did not get the plots announced by the govt.,there were 48 women who were denied the Shagun of Rs 5000 each and 99 cases of genuine claimants to govt.pensions who received no pension.

A propoganda campaign was launched in the area of Lambi.Thousand wall posters were put up and 5000 leaflets distributed. Mass meetings were organized in 15 villages in which 885 landless labourers participated. Charters of demands of every active village Unit of P.M.K.U. were presented by mass deputations to the concerned govt Officials. A mass deputation used to begin it's march fro the village and travel to the place where it would present the charter of demands. It would then conduct mass meetings, rallies and flag marches in each village. Over 3000 landless labourers wee reached.

The Ruling class Akali leaders connived and tried to win over the foremost leader of the Lambi Committee, a resident of the Singhewala-Fatuhiwala villages. They announced a list of 144 families of these villages that were promised residential plots. A programme was launched where the letters of the title were to be distributed to the 144 persons.500 persons gathered in the public function called the Sangat Dashing.(Sikh religious ritual gathering).

A deputation of the P.M.K.U went to the venue of the programme to present their grievances. About the implementation of the declared govt Schemes and to present charter of demands. Gurdas Badal ,brother of the then chief minister who was then present, ignored the deputation .The P.M.K.U.leader angrily caught hold of Badal and condemned him openly for not redressing the gathering.Gurda Badal terminated the programme and the P.M.K.U leader tore up the official letter.

The Union leaders using great tact converted this function into a rally of the Union. And explained to the masses that tearing up the letter did not mean that they did not want the people from demanding anything from the govt. Threatened by the offensive Akali leaders offered 40 more plots to the landless labourers. Of he twin villages along with an offer to the Union leadership that the distribution of the plots would be made with the Union's consent.

The P.M.KU.correctly anticipated how the Akali leaders were trying to trick them. On the day of the next sangat Darshan by the chief minister in the village, there was heavy deployment of police forces not only around the venue of function, but in the streets of the labourers.The P.M.K.U boycotted the function.Tht day a heroic act was performed by an ordinary villager who was a landless labourer.A policeman rushed into his house when on duty deploying himself on top of the roof as part of security duty. The labourer ,who was the owner of the house was furious and ordered him out. The policeman left. This revealed the animosity in the oppressed classes and the political effect of the P.M.K.U's activities.

The P.M.K.U in Lambu area wished to implement the road of self –reliance by the are-level team of mass leaders.They decided that the people of twin villages should be fully mobilized and a demonstration against the sarpanches should be organized as a first move. After consultation with the masses the demonstration was held
the demonstration was held with about 150 men and women against the panchayats of Singhewala village and Fatuhivalla village.

They came to know that the Sarpanch was out of town. A demonstration was taken into the house of the Sarpanch in Singhewala.When the Sarpanch saw the demonstrators he was infuriated and insulted the villagers, condemning their march. In anger the villagers tried to retaliate ,but were cooled down by the P.M.K.U leaders.
After this incident the sarpanch instigated the 67 landless families who had received plots against the P.M.K.U.leadership stating that the P.M.K.U desired to cancel their ownership of plots. They explained that only if he was supported their plots would be protected.

This affected the plot –owners thinking and their support to the P.M.K.U were neutralized. However the P.M.K.U re-explained them the situation and persuaded the plot owners to not oppose the allotment of land to the landless labourers whether the family qualifies for it within the govt.criteria or not. The P.M.K.U turned the situation in their favor but again winning the support of the overwhelming majority of landless labourers.Under the leadership of the P.M.K.U ,the people of Singhewala succeeded in getting 67 plots.

In July 2002 the 2nd phase of the campaign was started. Now the Congress had won the elections. The new party promised the same welfare measures, in it's election manifesto.

In Lambi area the P.M.K.U staged an indefinite sit-in before the office of the B.D.O on September 16th 2002,inspite of many hurdles, the indefinite sit-in started on the bare ground before the office of the B.D.O in Lambi.Various hurdles ,such as acute shortage of funds as well as transport difficulties had to be overcome. On the start of the programme the B.D.O.officer disappeared.

The masses resented his and throughout the day unleashed a barrage of slogan shouting,songs,speeches Etc.Sowing daring courage, the women stayed ,inspite of being persuaded by the men to return at night. In the evening, with 70-75 people left behind, the rest went to various villages to mobiles support. This resulted in the number of participant villages rising to 6 from 4, and the number of people from 125 to 150.

The area committee called a meeting of activists of the area ensuring the continued participation of the masses, and the continuous supply of food. It was decided that for mobilizing all types of support for struggle, the P.M.K.U leaders and activists should visit new village's everyday. A group of 8-10 people met people from all walks of life in Lambi and explained and projected the demands of the struggle.They asked the people for support, from direct participation to contribution of bread,milk,vegetables sugar, tea ,firewood Etc.

In a most convincing style the issues of the struggle were explained. The people responded with great sensitivity and donated 3 overhead covers for a gathering, and promised daily supply of food, milk Etc.Some families contributed wheat flouyr.People donated Rs 900 infunds.Landless labourers of a nearby village Khudian donated a bag of wheat flour.

Even after a week of the sit-in the B.D.O was untouched and ignored the P.M.K.U leadership. After 4 days of sit-in the area committee reviewed the situation and it was decided to burn the effigies of the Congress rulers in a new village .Effigies were now built in 11 villages and between 100 to 250 people participated in every village.2000 people participated in the programme of effigy burning. A poster was put up on the walls of 26 villages. On the 7th day ,atlas one member of the authorities came to address the gathering of the P.M.K.U .However the B.D.O.never explained his attitude and the revenue officer had to criticize the B.D.O.The B.D.O now had to beg pardon for his ignorant and negligent attitude.

After 6-7 rounds of negotiations ,an agreement was reached. This stated that the P.M.K.U.would be recognized. On September 25th 2002 the B.D.O addressed a gathering, explaining the agreement. The landless labourers were brimming in joy with confidence. The revenue officer however expressed his helplessness to fulfill the demands of the plots because ,he explained, it was out of his jurisdiction.So,he sent a letter to the district authorities with his positive recommendation giving the same justification of demands as was given to him by the P.M.K.U leadership.

Though the sit-in was conducted successfully, some important demands were not fulfilled and thus it was essential to change the venue of the struggle to Muktsar city, to target the district adminstration.On the last evening of the sit-in ,more than 125 men and women, along with their maker-shift kitchen, traveled to Muktsar.The Deputy Commissioner at first blew up in a fit of temper and commanded the eviction of the camped men and women. However the P.M.K.U leadership stood firm and ,the DC.was virtually forced to negotiate. Substantial demands were agreed to like involving disbursal of funds for housing and latrines,provison of land for collecting dung, preventing police intervention on behalf of absentee landowner, and provision of food-for-work employment.

Some of the P.M.K.U's demands wee not conceded .The details of the agreement were noted, copies made, and it was decided that the P.M.K.U leaders could check the implementation procedure after 10 days. Only after the gathering outside had approved it, the Union leaders decided to withdraw the struggle.

This sit-in struggle started by 125 persons from 4 villages ,but was extended to 600 people from 17 villages with a positive balance of funds, even after spending Rs.10,000 on the Struggle. The conclusion-the successful performance of the mass deputation at the district headquarter-gave an enthralling finale to the highly successful struggle. Above all it instilled a spirit of self –confidence and self –reliance in struggle and boosted revolutionary class consciousness. The painstaking mass revolutionary approach of the P/M.K.U was depicted.



4.August 2008 report from Muktsar



On August 21st 2008,a clash of agricultural workers occurred with the police at a place 2km from Badal,the native village of chief minister ,Prakash Singh Badal.The villagers had started to sit in front of the residence of the chief minister’s family, in order to get an agreement implemented. The police armed with lathis,tear gas,rubber bullets and a water cannon ,were adamant that police barricade would not be broken by the landless peasants holding class-hatred of the feudal landlords and the government.


Infact the clash made the agricultural workers more rebellious and they blocked the grand trunk road.The news spread like wildfire and contingents from other villages came in to join the struggle.200 peasants from the BKU(Ekta-Ugrahan)from Bhatinda and Lambi.


The police forces were so demoralized that they began to beg the leaders for a compromise,without carrying out any retaliatory campaign.There were 6 rounds of negotiations before arriving at a written agreement.The most difficult demand to fulfil was the public apology by police officersDuring the lathi-charge,2 police officers had used legally prohibited caste-based derogatory words and were now made to pledae for pardon publicly.Earlier the adminstartion insisted that the concerned officers would beg pardon in a closed door meeting nad not in public.Finally they had to beg befoe around 50 people.


Apart from fulfilling the demands related to building of latrines in a village and providing plots for dung-hills in 2 villages ,compensation of 3.8 lakhs was provided to 32 people for the August 21st clash. An annual pension of Rs.3600 was given to a woman of the village Singhewla and 75,00 to family whose breadwinner was killed by the Khalistani terrorists.An agricultural labourer was awarded Rs 25,000 as compensation for an injury received in a lathi-charge on March26th,2008.


The accomplishment of these demands  were not the principal task achieved.What was created was a great morale in the landless peasants who now made the authorities beg to them about concessions.One worker stated: “See the might and prowess of our unity!The whole range of officers ,from the DCP to the SSP were looking like goats before us!” Awoman celebrated distributing sweets and remarked “ Sons,why should I not sweeten your mouths,when you have emerged victorious from a clashwith the police.,wheras earlier I had seen many beaten back by the police.”There was widespread praise amongst the camp of agricultural labourers.The consciousness of the agricultural labourers was greatly enhanced  and the PMKU broadened it’s hegemony in areas while the administration felt humiliated.




In district Muktsar, the present chief minister of Punjab,Prakash Singh Badal resides.The chief minister himself is one of the biggets landlords.There are feudal landlords in many of the villages,each owning hundreds of acres of land.A surplus of 3.16 lakh acres are owned by just 7200 families.In a survey conducted by peasnt prganizations it was revealed that in March,2008,101 agricultural labourers from 26 villages of the district have commited suicide .


In 2005 the PMKU entered the village of Lambi where there was no peasant organization redressing the problems of agricultural labourers. In its propoganada it redressed burning partial demands, including the oppression of landlords-police combine linking them with basic demands particularly with the demand of land distribution and real democracy. As the anger against the tyranny and expoitation was burning among the agricultural labourers,the propaganda and agitation of the union got a tremendous response from a section of the labourers.Many successful struggles were waged against the oppression of the landlord-police combine.Usually an act of oppression by an individual landlord against an individual or a few individual landless labourers were becoming the issues of the struggles. In these militant struggles only relatively advanced upper layer of labourers participated ,thus limiting the extension of mass base.It was very difficult to fight successful struggles on economic demands  against the landlords because they were able to portray such struggles waged against all landowners and upper-caste population.Thus,raising economic demands was not preferable.


So the leadership decided to agitate for welfare schemes like old-age pensions;shagun scheme,grants for renovating house and for building pucca;free allotments of plot for houses; and distribution of wheat and pulses on subsidized rates.


Feudal forces usually control the distribution of grants in a village who deploy grants to strengthen their dominance over the agricultural labourers and other poor of the village. The PMKU made a preparation for this demand in their charter. In preparing the demand charter the union narrated : “A significant aspect of the method of revolutionary mass work is connected with delineation of the demands of the related section sof the people.This method demands that the selection of the demands should be based on the investigation of the concrete living condition sof that section of the people .Further, a demarcation between propaganda demands and struggle demands should be made. This does not depend upon subjective thinking of a leadership but in accordance to the interest and current fighting mood expressed by the people, in relation to various demands.”

“Accordingly the union leadership had done investigation in more than 30 villages of the district to prepare a charter of demands .Those demands were included into a list of struggle demands about which the workers were most concerned and ready to struggle for. In the next phase of the explanation about the struggle demands ,particular attention was given to propagating how these demands  are ultimately linked to those basic economic demands which are essential to radically change their present conditions. Thanks to the time and energy invested in the selection of demands, during the meetings with unio leaders,government officers were forced to admit that demands were justified.”


Most of the union leaders and activists in this district are illiterate. When asked to address a gathering or initiate negotiations with government officials they are usually reluctant and diffident, feeling only literate people can do this job. But the process of concrete investigation to project the demand charter and explaining these demands to ranks relating to the revolutionary context inspired confidence in the illiterate sections in justifying and projecting their demands.


According to a report of the P.K.M.U.: “though it is  necessary for every section of the people to project their justification of their demands among the masses of other section s of people to win them over and to obtain support for the struggle on such demands ,it is necessary in the case of agricultural labourers.”


After the concrete investigations about the implementation of welfare schemes ,many write ups went to the press detailing the number of deserving persons /families  who were denied the benefits of those schemes. Some newspapers regularly published such write ups making these attempts of the PMKU a sort of campaign exposing the deceptive nature of these populist policies. The CM was informed through a letter about the administration’s ignoring the implementation of the agreement.Finally,a written notice was sent about the sit0in at Badal village,15 days in advance. A letter was addressed to the people of the village to participate in the sit-in.


According to a report of the Union:

“In order to advance any struggle in a revolutionary direction, apart from other factors, the factor of making a concrete assessment of negative and positive assessment of ourselves as well as for our adversary becomes extremely important. The prestige of the adversary should be eroded by projecting their negative aspects and weaknesses. Our weak points shoud be pin-pointed and appropriate steps should be taken to strengthen those aspects.Assesment should be made of the resultant situation of the possible enemy attack and our forces should be duly prepared to counter the possible attack.’


When it became clear that the bureaucracy was not all serious to implement their agreements, even after 2  months, I t was felt that the situation demanded that the struggle be given a higher momentum. An educative meeting of about 125 activists and leaders from about 20 villages was called.


The 1t point discussed was the achievements of the struggle reached till that time. The administration had been forced to issue blue cards and thus 150 people in 2 villages had got the subsidy of about Rs 5.85 lakh per annum .It was pointed out that the political implications of this victory were far more important than economic relief. The feudal landlords of these villages were determined on denying the deserving familiestheir blue cards,until they bowed down to them and left the PMKU.


In village Khunde Halal the demand of giving plots for dung heaps had been accepted.The value of those plots comes to about 2.7 lakh.Again there was strong opposition by the feudal forces of the village.

The administration was forced to withdraw false cases registered against 47 male and female activists.They were released unconditionally, which was an important victory against police repression.


Next, the positive and negative aspects of the PMKU were discussed .It was mentioned that the Union had it’s mass influence in 24 villages ,and was capable of mobilizing 1000 people.


Emphasis was placed on the fact that though the issues of struggle were small, the remaining demands were related to few persons and villages. The state was delaying it’s implantation of agreements on expenses for building latrines and giving plots  because they envisaged bigger political implications of such small victories of this force of agricultural labourers organized on the basis of revolutionary politics. The small victories would generate bigger victories Thus the struggle of small demands would build a strong revolutionary struggle like a spark lighting a prairie fire.




According to a report of the PMKU:

“It is necessary for the leadership of any organization to adopt the forms of struggle in accordance in accordance to the level of the mobilization,organized force,consciousness and capacity of the related sections of the people. The leadership should go on increasing the level of consciousness and capacity of the organization to make it adopt higher forms of struggle. Wheras forms of struggle higher than the level and capacity of the people create the atmosphere of fear in them, the forms of struggle lower than this level became the source of disappointment.”


In August 2006,the struggle was initiated by presenting a memorandum of demands to the deputy commissioner the fighting strength of the union was limited.It was stressed to adopt the form of struggle which required boldness for facing police repression.


The 2 year long struggle commenced with a sit-in in the district headquarters. A demonstration was launched of about 800 people.The focus of mobilization was the villages of the area and the people were urged through meetings,rallies and demonstrations to participate in the sit-in and register their complaints. This mobilization aroused 1700 people from 35-40 villages  who participated in a demonstration to the district headquarters just 4 days after the start of the sit-in.The DC ,witnessing the great upsurge ,invited the union leaders for negotiations.

The struggle led to agreements whereby fair-price shops were formed in villages ,scheduled –caste certificates were issued to a lage number of persons, free electricity supply was provided and some families got Shagun scheme money.


In 2007 the new Badal government implemented a scheme to distribute wheat and pulse at subsidized rates to the poor familes.Blue cards were issued to deserving families .In 3 villages cards were blocked by the local Akali get these families to leave the PMKU.


After strong preparations a 13 day long sit-in was held at the district headquarters.In this sit-in about a dozen new union leaders were trained as public speakers.Economic self-reliance was also initiated For the first time  the PMKU did not depend on external financial help and arised funds of about 1.5 lakh from their own resources, which was collected from agricultural labourers.


It was also the 1st time that the major part of the affairs was handled by the district leaders themselves..


In view of the district administration’s negligence, a demonstration was held of about 1000 people.Roadblocks were combined with sit-in. In one of the roadblocks a military convoy was blocked and the convoy had to retreat.


The authorities invited the union leaders for negotiations, but they failed.In spite of the 13 day sit-in no demands were fulfilled. On March 26th,2008 a flag match was planned. Now consciousness had increased and the organization enlarged. Thus the sit-in was concluded with this flag march. The negotiations had failed with the administration but the morale of the PMKU members was sky-high, even above the assessment of the leadership. On the same day of the flag march the chief minister was going to tour the very same area .The union leader was quite apprehensive that the authorities might take the decision of the flag march as a plan to sabotage the visit of the chief minister. Thus an emergency meeting pof activists was held to instruct them not to disrupt the CM’s tour and not confront the police.


On March 26th,2008 a group of flag marchers were lathi-charged in the area of Lambi block.About 80 men,women nad childen were detained.150 Agricultural labourers immediately protested angrily in neighbouring Singhewala village and 400 persons from Malout,Muktsarand Gidderbaha blocks penetrated into lambi blocks by dodging the police check-posts. In about 18 villages black flags were hoisted on rooftops  and black flag demonstrations were staged mobilizing around 2000 people.Two young activists were arrested and detained while protesting still 250 agricultural labourers not only demonstrated in the streets of the village but even blocked a road manned by those very fortified police forces. It looked like a storm raging and the chief minister preferred not to enter the village for a scheduled public meeting. A deflation of fraternal organizations namely the Lok Morcha,Technical Sevices Union nad B.K.U(Ekta-Ugrahan) met the CM in the evening who ordered the release of 33 men nad 44 women.


In Lambi the PMKU held a rally of about 1000 people against the March 26th lathi-charge.A call was given to flaunt black flags at MLA’s ,ministers and govt.officers visiting the villages.


The impact of the great protest made the CM on his own initiative  hold a meeting  with a delegation of the PMKU and he agreed to fulfill al  the demands of the struggle within one month. Though the blue cards blocked by an MLA were released in two villages and plots for dung –heaps were allotted in one village within the specified time, fulfillment of the rest of the demands took another round of struggle for 4 months.






The Agricultural and landless peasants organization(P.K.M.U) has made painstaking efforts to give a mass revolutionary approach by educating the peasantry, similar to the Red Army during the Chinese revolution. However still the resistance is still at the level of pockets in Punjab and a stage has to be reached when agrarian revolutionary struggles are launched at village,district and state level. Stlll, the movement has not reached one where land seizures or direct struggles for land are taking place.

The method the struggles have been conducted on all fronts display the efforts to painstakingly educate the peasants in the need for self-organisation to assert their rights and the relationship of their struggles with the agrarian revolution. Peasants in Balahr Vinju district led earlier by the by the P.M..U gave a classical display of mass line approach when hoisting the Red Flag and thwarting the police efforts of preventing them from holding their conference. Historic democratic protests were held.In Lambi in Muktsar district in 2008 the struggle was built like an architect building a masterpiece with the creativity of a musician and a skill of medical surgeon. Every staed was articulately analyzed with implementation of appropriate actions.

The way the peasant organisation functioned helped spread peasant struggles to other areas quickly.(pocket level)State level agitations have yet to be launched and this being a class peasant mass organization it will have to play a major role. The greatest achievement of the organization is it's ability to organize the Dalit or backward caste labourers.Today in the Marxist -Leninist Movement it is a major challenge to organize the Dalit caste agricultural labourerson class lines.(Appraisal from Correspondent in Frontline)The struggle in Lambi displays how the union can counter the most turbulent of seas and turn a single spark into a prairie fire.

The organization has also given solidarity to the struggles and demands of the landed peasantry ,on numerous occasions uniting with the BKU(Ekta-Ugrahan)and participated in revolutionary Election Campaignswith democratic mass organizations like Technical services Union,Lok Morcha etc.. What is significant is that the agricultural labour organization has built a movement in various districts Punjab ranging from Bhatinda ,Sangrur ,Muktsar Faridkot, and Ludhiana .In the author’s view no other peasant organization of landless agricultural workers in Punjab or maybe even India has displayed such democratic functioning, such non –mechanical and original and methodical  approach to practice or implemented mass line closer to Marxism-Leninsm-Maoism (or Mao Thought) as the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union.-It strived to adopt a language through which the revolutionary ideology would reach the landless Dalit class and made a concrete study of the subjective conditions prevalent and the required practice and forms of agitation .. The morale of the landless Dalit class has been superbly lifted as well as their class consciousness. It superbly countered repression and although did not build an armed red village self –defense corpses on the practical plane built struggles of agricultural worker’s revolutionary resistance of equal effect to red defense corpses. It combines the qualities of an architect, with a technician and artist. It is an ideal example of methodology in building mass struggle and class-mass organization and not mechanically applying Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. The author has personally attended meetings in the 2012 January state election campaign and observed the receptivity of the agricultural labourers to the ground work of the leadership and activists of the Union. The struggle in one area has an immense impact on neighbouring areas  and a great network is created like a thread meticulously sown. The lesson that the smallest of issues could be converted into major struggles has been like streams flowing into a river is superbly illustrated by the union. The methods of painstaking education and mass- political work mobilization could be written in a textbook for any revolutionary cadre.


Red salutes to the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union in it’s completion of 20 years this year!


I.e Khet Mazdoor Union Punjab means agricultural labourers

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