Mumbai: The Shiv Sena on Monday threw its weight behind the thousands of farmers who marched from Nashik to Mumbai to highlight their problems and said the party would back them regardless of their red flags.
The saffron party also said the role of leaders with communist ideology -- a red flag usually symbolises communism -- in the agitation for a separate Maharashtra cannot be forgotten.
The CPI(M)-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha is spearheading the protest that turned south Mumbai's Azad Maidan into a sea of red on Monday as thousands of farmers carrying red flags converged there after walking around 180 km from neighbouring Nashik district.
The farmers plan to surround the state Assembly complex to press for their demands of an unconditional loan waiver and transfer of forest land to tribal farmers who have been tilling it for years.
"It is possible that the government may talk of assurances to farmers and even deploy some of its ministers to temporarily confuse them," the Sena, an ally of the ruling BJP in Maharashtra and at the Centre, said in an editorial in its mouthpiece 'Saamana'.
"However, seeing their persistence it can be gauged that farmers will not fall prey to any of the tactics," it said.
The Sena added that it would not give importance to what thoughts, organisation and colour the agitation represents.
"They do not have any caste, religion or political ideology...Farmers have red flags in their hands. How can the Sena support them is the question?" it said. "We may have differences... however, their active participation in the state's agitation, especially for Mumbai, cannot be forgotten...those who do (forget), should be considered enemies of the state," the Sena said.
It noted that Shreepad Amrut Dange, Ahilya Rangnekar and Shahir Annabhau Sathe were leaders with communist ideologies.
"Mill workers and farmers were ready to spill their blood for the Maharashtra movement (held in the 1960s for creation of a separate Marathi-speaking state). Today, they are despondent and committing suicide," the Sena lamented.
Lakhs of farmers are yet to get benefits of the loan waiver scheme, the Sena said, alleging that the government only indulged in advertisements for political benefits.
"Today, thousands of 'Dharma Patils' have come to Mantralaya (the state secretariat) chanting slogans of 'Jai Kisan'. Their anger and pain will burn the government," it said.
Dharma Patil, a farmer hailing from Dhule district, consumed poison at the state secretariat in Mumbai, in February and died in hospital a few days later. His family alleged that their land was acquired by the government at a low price for a thermal power plant in Dondaicha, while neighbouring farmers got higher compensation.
He approached authorities many times with his grievance, but in vain, the family alleged.