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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 4, New Delhi, January 9, 2021

Modi government getting ready to confront the farmers | Arun Srivastava

Saturday 9 January 2021

by Arun Srivastava

After 40 days of peaceful nonviolent satyagraha, a situation reminiscent of the famous 1942 “Do or Die” movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi, is fast emerging on the political horizon with the farmers’ not willing to accept anything below scrapping of three black farm laws and providing legal status to the MSP acquiring a new dimension and dynamics.

If it was the reluctance of the Britishers to listen to the Indian voice that forced Mahatma Gandhi in 1942 to give the call for quit India movement, this time, in 2020, it is the arrogance of the government not to concede to their demands that has forced the farmers to hold their own Republic Day parade in Delhi in protest against the unwillingness of the government to concede their demands.

The farmers plan to organise the twice-rescheduled tractor rally on the KMP (Western Periphery) Expressway as practice for January 26. On January 23 — the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose — farmers across the country will march to their respective Raj Bhavans since the governors represent the central government in the states.

"Our demands are the same as before-repeal the three farm laws & guarantee MSP. If our demands aren’t met, then, we’ll hold tractor march on Jan 6 and also on Jan 26," said Sukhwinder S Sabra, Joint Secy, Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, Punjab ahead of the seventh round of talks with the government.

Though the Modi government has been inviting the farmers to the table to discuss their problems, its obstinacy to accept their pleas has been at the root of talks. So far seven rounds of talks have been held, but shockingly the government has not shown its eagerness to find a solution.

True enough failure of seventh round of talks held on January 4 did not come as a surprise. It was on the expected line; Modi government would not agree to the proposition to repeal the contentious laws. This has been the part of the strategy to frustrate, exhaust and break the moral of the farmers. Once they are exasperated they will abandon their agitation and go back to their villages.

The design of the government was also manifest in the actions of the ministers who unlike the talks on December 30, did not join the union leaders for the langar food and were seen having their own discussion separately during the break. Through their action the ministers made it explicit that government was ready to confront and there was no going back.

Realising that the BJP-RSS combine led by Narendra Modi is determined to pursue its mission , the farmers have also decided to look for other mode of protest. They have been holding demonstration at the residences of the senior BJP leaders across the country. The protesting farmers have served ultimatum to the Narendra Modi government, vowing to march into Delhi on January 26 and hold Kisan Gantantra Divas Parade without disrupting the official showpiece event if the three new farm laws are not repealed.The farmers made it clear that they had lost faith in the Prime Minister’s words.

Questioning the Niti Aayog’s arguments against food procurement as India has a surplus of food stock, the AIKSCC pointed out that the country also has the maximum and rising number of hungry people. Referring to the Hunger Index, the committee said India’s score had fallen from 38.8 in 2000 to 27.2 in 2020.

While Modi has triggered a farmer revolt his failed promises have attracted the poor and landless labourers to protest at Delhi’s borders. The daily wage earners gathered at the Delhi-Ghaziabad border in support of farmers complain of being duped with the promise of “achchhe din (good days)” six years ago.

Though the farmers have not allowed political parties to share their platform, majority of them are not happy with the role played by the Opposition, especially the left parties. They feel the opposition is not taking position to express its solidarity as a force multiplier. They nurse the view that the entire country would have erupted in protests if the Opposition parties had played a proactive role.

Though the agriculture minister announced that the 8th round of discussion will take place on January 8, going by the mood and posture of Narendra Modi it can safely be said that it would also prove to a futile exercise. The government is trying to engage the farmer leaders in psychological war and is using all kind of intrigue to enervate them.

The farmer leaders also made it absolutely clear; “we will not agree to any alternatives”. It is indeed shocking that the Modi government was pushing its own people to the wall and forcing them to resort to a protracted struggle. While the Modi government has been maintaining the façade of engaging the farmers in dialogue, farmers’ organisation All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), has come out with the accusation that the police in Haryana has been resorting to violent action against them.

In fact thirty-five students of Panjab University have written to Chief Justice of India (CJI) S A Bobde and other judges of the Supreme Court seeking an inquiry into alleged police atrocities on the farmers protesting at Delhi borders against the three farm laws. In the open letter, the students of the Centre for Human Rights and Duties of the university have alleged that there has been "illegitimate use of water cannons, tear gases shells and lathis on peaceful protesting farmers" by police authorities which needs to be probed.

Confirming that tear gas shells were fired, Rajesh Kumar, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Bawal, said: “The protesters said those who had gone ahead did not have enough provisions. They asked for permission to go to them and set up a langar, and were allowed to do so. However, when they got there, the entire group tried to break through the barricades and move forward.” Read more

Meanwhile in a major move Reliance Industries has distanced itself from the contentious farm laws. This is being viewed as a major setback to the Modi government. RIL has said it neither buys food grains directly from farmers nor is in the business of contract farming. The company said, "RIL have not done any ’corporate’ or ’contract’ farming in the past, and have absolutely no plans to enter this business." On the vandalism of towers and telecom infrastructure owned by Jio, the company moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking urgent intervention of the government.

With the Modi government determined not to accede to the farmers’ demands of not allowing unregulated private ‘markets’ in competition with APMCs; giving a legal guarantee for MSP; and, not allowing the entry of corporates into purchase of and trade in agricultural produce, the farmers’ are left with no other alternative but to take their struggle to a new heights. This is for the first time the Independent India has been witnessing this nature of complete non-violent, peaceful protest which has been witness to the death of 57 innocent farmers at the protest site.

The most shocking scenario has been while the farmers wept at the death of each farmer, the ministers participating in the deliberations were unmoved. Today three more farmers died at the Singhu and Tikri borders; they were Jagbir, 66, from Jind district, and Jashnpreet, 18, from Bathinda, died in Tikri, while, Shamsher, 44, from Sangrur. They were found dead inside a truck at Singhu protest site. It is indeed a matter of shame that the government does not feel guilty. For it the farmers’ who died in the chilly winter did not count as human beings.

Nevertheless the agitating farmers have a question for Modi: What are the disadvantages of withdrawing the new farm laws and who stands to lose if they are withdrawn? While the farmers reiterate that they do not need such laws, Modi is insistent, you ought to have these as these are for your welfare. It is an open secret that he has been thrusting these laws down farmers’ throat to serve the interest of his corporate bosses, particularly Adanis and Ambanis, nonetheless he ought to realise by maintaining silence he was pushing the country into a black hole. He is ruining the future of the next generation.

Modi claims that these laws will transform farmers’ lives. If he is so confident then why is he evading them and does not sit with them across the table and explain them the benefits. Instead he has been playing the brain game and using all machination to break the agitation.

Modi is determined to assert his majority-inspired supremacy. But he is absolutely mistaken. Mohan Bhagwat crutch will not help him for long. Bhagwat too must do some amount of introspection. In his quest to transform India into Hindu Rashtra, he will turn 72 per cent of the Indians as beggars, of which not less than 90 per cent will be Hindus. Modi and Bhagwat must stop the implementation of their perverse notion of so called agriculture reform.

Farmer union leaders have warned the government that it should not take their agitation lightly and think that it can be handled like the Shaheen Bagh protest against the citizenship regime. The warning came a day after the younger generation of protesters gathered at Shahjahanpur on the Rajasthan-Haryana border and pushed their way past barricades.

SKM leadership also cautioned that the collective leadership of the movement might not be able to rein in the youngsters if the government continued to test their patience. While the blockade of Delhi will continue, they will broaden the movement by mobilising opinion across the country with a “Desh Jagriti Abhiyan”.

In a significant development the veteran actor and former BJP MP Dharmendra on Monday said he prays with all his heart that the farmers agitating against the three farm laws get justice today. Braving the cold and rains, thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, are protesting at various borders of the national capital for more than a month against the new agri legislations. "I hope today my farmer brothers get justice. I pray with all my heart. Every noble soul will get relief," Dharmendra, 84, wrote in Hindi on Twitter. This is not the first time the screen icon has spoken up in the wake of the farmers crisis. In December, Dharmendra urged the Centre to find a solution to the protests over the farm laws.

The Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) reiterated; “Either repeal the three central farm acts or use force on us to evict us. The time has come for decisive action here and we have chosen January 26 because Republic Day represents the supremacy of the people and also because we would have demonstrated patiently and peacefully at Delhi’s borders for two full months in extreme weather conditions by then”.

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