Thousands of farmers have marched close to 40 km from the western state of Maharashtra to the state capital Mumbai to demand the transfer of forest land to villagers who have worked the land for decades.
The protest which took place on Thursday is the second major demonstration against the BJP government with the first occurring in March when over 35,000 farmers marched over 180km from Nashik to Mumbai, led by the left-winged All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS).
In March they had seemed to reach an agreement with the government accepting most of the demands in writing but farmers complain that the government has not acted upon said demands.
With a general election set in May the protests are set to rock the BJP’s support. In 2014 rural farmers had overwhelming voted in support of Modhi but there has been a sharp fall in their incomes. Protesters demand the implementation of loan waivers which were promised by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis last year as well as the recommendations of the MS Swaminathan Commission which calls for 50% higher prices for crops and produce; the return of land rights to tribal farmers as well as compensation and relief for a drought they have suffered.
Protest leaders met with Chief Minister Fadnavis and other representatives on Thursday to speak about the issue. Whilst this occurred protesters reported harassment by forest department officials and Pratibha Shinde, general secretary to Mocha, a group organising the protest, maintained that they would not leave.
“We will continue protests in Mumbai until the government gives us written assurances around settling around settling our problem in a time bound manner,” he said.
In June 2017, though the state had announced a farm loan waiver of 340 billion rupees protest leaders have complained that it did not reach those farmers in need.