Between 28 November and 14 December, I visited the ongoing farmers’ protest at the Singhu and Tikri borders between Delhi and Haryana, and Ghazipur border between Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. The agitation began on 26 November as part of a “Delhi Chalo” rally to protest three recently enacted farm laws. As the protests progressed, I witnessed that labourers and people from working class communities started to join the farmers in solidarity. I heard talk of “kisan-mazdoor ekta,” or farmer-worker unity, and the conversations among protesters seemed to be about the rights of both farmers and labourers.
On 14 December, several members of trade unions were present at the Singhu border. I found a small book stall set up on the road by the Inqlabi Mazdoor Kendra, a workers’ organisation. The subjects of the books ranged from the proletarian class to peasant and industrial revolutions. Four members of Inqlabi Mazdoor Kendra were distributing pamphlets to the visitors. The pamphlets spoke about the unity of farmers and labourers, and contained information about recently passed controversial labour laws as well as the farm laws. “This is the time to unite and show our strength as these farm bills are not only against farmers but also against the labour class,” Nitesh, a member of the Inqlabi Mazdoor Kendra, told me. “We have extended our support to this movement and joined hands with the farmers.”
I also spoke to Shyambir Shukla, a member of central working committee of the Inqlabi Mazdoor Kendra. “We organised protests in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and other places on 5th, 8th and 14th December,” he told me. “There is a huge support coming for farmers from the labour class. This is a movement against the capitalist and fascist approach of the government. We will be fighting together until we get justice.” Shukla added that the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangharsh Abhiyan, a workers’ rights collective which consists of 15 labour organisations, including the Inqlabi Mazdoor Kendra, has given its full support to the farmers.
On 11 December, the Joint Platform of Central Trade Unions and Sectoral Federations/Associations, a joint front of at least ten trade unions, released a press statement which expressed “whole hearted support” and “rock-like solidarity” with the farmers. “The Joint Platform of CTUs and Sectoral Federations/Associations call upon the workers, employees and their unions, irrespective of affiliations, to be ever vigilant and extend our active solidarity to the call of Farmers’ Joint Struggle in the coming crucial period,” the release stated.
Labour organisations have also been protesting against four new labour codes introduced by the Narendra Modi government—The Code of Wages, the Industrial Relations Code, the Social Security Code, and the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code. These codes replaced 44 existing labour laws. Together, they diluted and repealed various longstanding legal provisions that ensured the rights and security of workers. They also excluded a large number of establishments from complying with and enforcing labour laws.