Kolkata: As the talks between a select group of farmers and Home Minister Amit Shah concluded Tuesday night, one of the union leaders caught the eye for his rather droll summation of the stalemate.
Asked by waiting journalists on what transpired at the meeting, Hannan Mollah, the 76-year-old CPI(M) politburo member and general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, quipped: “Kuch nahi. Murgi baethi rahi, par anda nahi diya (Nothing really. The chicken sat but laid no eggs).”
While this reply has earned him social media infamy, Mollah isn’t an unknown entity — particularly in his home state of West Bengal. And he is also no stranger to farmer movements.
In the political wilderness since 2009, Mollah, an eight-term MP from West Bengal’s Uluberia Lok Sabha constituency, has a reputation of reviving and aiding farmer protests and movements across the country.
In 2018, he had launched the Kisan Long March in West Bengal but that didn’t go anywhere. Now, however, he is slowly becoming the prominent face of the farmer agitation against the three controversial laws passed by the Modi government.
Speaking to ThePrint, Mollah insisted that the farmers’ agitation isn’t confined to only those from Punjab and Haryana. “This is of course a national movement. It is the ruling party at centre that tries to portray it as a Punjab-Haryana centred movement. But it is not,” he said. “The success of the Bharat Bandh call reflects its reach. If the government does not repeal this act, it will soon feel the tremors from all parts of the country.”
Mollah also added that the farmers would not go back with “half-baked” solutions this time, and that there would be no retreat until “the black farmer acts are repealed”.
“We have not received the letter about the proposed amendments as of now,” he told ThePrint Wednesday morning. “But we do not need amendments. We would not agree to anything short of withdrawal of the acts.”
By Wednesday evening, the farmers did just that. They rejected the Modi government’s proposed amendments to the new agricultural laws, reiterating that nothing short of a repeal is acceptable to them.
The leader bridging the divide
Despite his political antecedents, Mollah has been embraced by the protesters. Surinder Singh, the Kisan Sabha’s Rohtak secretary, told ThePrint that this is due to the fact that he is present in most such agitations.
“From the land acquisition bill, the Mandsaur agitation to the current farmer protests, Hannan Mollah is the one who helped make these movements broad based and acquire a national character,” Singh said.
“In the ongoing farmer agitation, under the umbrella of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), Hannan brought together unions from different parts of the country — not just from Punjab,” Singh added. “He has made farmer agitations broad-based in the last few years and ensured that they are not sidelined.”
Avik Saha, general secretary, AIKSCC, told ThePrint that Mollah’s nature has endeared him to the protesters.
“He’s the most soft spoken of all the farmer leaders and has an amazing grasp of the issue as he has been a farmer leader for 40 years,” Saha said.
“He knows farmer politics and farmer agitations. While he represents the AIKSCC, he’s universally respected despite all the differences that the farmer organisations have. His position is far above his party. As things are coming to boil, he’s the voice of sanity in this movement.”
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The CPM MP-turned-farmer leader
The son of a jute-mill worker from West Bengal’s Howrah district, Hannan Mollah joined the CPI(M) as a 16-year-old in the 1960s.
Mollah had his early education in a madrasa in Howrah’s Chengail but completed his education at the prestigious Presidency College (now University) in Kolkata.
He made it to the state CPI(M) committee in 1980 and almost three decades later, was inducted into the politburo, the party’s apex decision-making body, in 2015.
In between, Mollah held the Uluberia Lok Sabha constituency for eight terms between 1980 and 2009.
Since he lost the 2009 elections, however, Mollah has taken a backseat from party activities. He also had a fallout with party leaders after he expressed his displeasure over the land acquisition process in Singur in 2008.
Senior Kolkata-based political analyst Samir Das told ThePrint that Mollah had almost been forgotten even in West Bengal.
“Mollah almost became a non-entity in Bengal after he lost to Trinamool’s Sultan Ahmed in Uluberia in 2009. He is more known as the general secretary of AIKS,” Das said. “He is believed to be close to CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury but if he identifies too much with his party, he will lose steam as the leader of the farmers movement.”
(With inputs from Sravasti Dasgupta)
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Better put ear to the ground. Other wise all these “Data” will evaporate in the storm sweeping the country and Your kind will be left with having to survive on chemically manufactured food !
The best way to tarnish any anti Govt agitation, is to name them Pakis, Jihadis or even blunt Muslims. With Mr Molla at the helm of farmers’ agitation, gives an effective tool to the Govt to discredit the whole agitation.
It’s getting increasingly clear that farmers protest is now been taken over by misdirection indulged by pro china left-wing radicals .
As was the case in 1962 war were the same left wing radicals supported china against INDIA.
Now With china preparing to launch another war left wing radicals are trying to create anarchy by supporting jihadist anti CAA PROTESTORS earlier and now by misdirection of farmers.
Government should move ahead with reforms in agricultural sector which are much needed and ensure 94 percent of farmers are given an option of direct benefit transfer instead of being blackmailed by 6 percent farmers who are destroying environment by producing low quality wheat and rice that is bought by government at high prices and sold via ration shops almost for free.
Also there are millions of workers in cities and towns of INDIA who are extremely poor and INDIA’s meagre resources must be distributed among them as well.
Also jihadist groups have infiltrated this left wing radical groups and hence present ever more danger to peaceful Indians.
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