Mainstream

Home > 2021 > Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Jan 30, 2021

Mainstream, VOL LIX No 7, New Delhi, January 30, 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Jan 30, 2021

Friday 29 January 2021

Tens of thousands of protesting peasants on foot and on tractors participated in a huge rally in New Delhi that took place on India’s Republic Day (January 26, 2021). This huge rally took place peacefully, but a smaller group of several thousand protesters diverted from agreed routes of the procession and indulged in violence …. they were instigated and led by some people who are seemingly close to the ruling party and had camped close to sites of the farmers’ stir but were never part of the movement led by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha — a coalition some 32 different peasant unions currently camping on the borders of Delhi; this lot violently barged their way into Delhi’s Red Fort. It is astonishing that the hundreds of policemen present at the site could do little to prevent the entry of the crowd into the Red Fort.

Union leaders from the Samyukt Kisan Morcha issued appeals for peace and for people to stick to the agreed routes. Farm union leaders called off the rally and dispersed in the evening and condemned the violence that took place and distanced themselves from the rogue elements. But the damage done by a smaller group drew all the attention of the media and gave a handle to the government to tar the whole movement as violent. According to eye-witness accounts, the breaking of barriers on the roads was led by squads of Nihang Sikhs and carried out with tractors using specialised hooks and the police just stood by. It was clear on that day that there was a huge security failure on the part of the police in the Capital of India. How could any large crowd and tractors or procession arrive so easily right in front of the Delhi Police Headquarters and barely a few kilometres distance from Raj-Path, the main location of the military parade that is held on the Republic Day? It was shocking to see the lack of preparedness of the authorities and lack of training of police in riot control and violence; the use by police of very expensive public transport buses as roadblocks showed utter lack of concern for public money. Mobile internet services were suspended in parts of Delhi and some metro stations closed as security forces a regular practice increasingly used these days. The Home Minister, the National Security Advisor and top officials should have taken responsibility but no heads have rolled. In comparable conditions, when a mob, led by ascetics and backed by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Bharatiya Jana Sangh attempted to storm the Indian Parliament to pressurize legislators to criminalise cow slaughter Union Home Minister Gulzarilal Nanda had resigned after the disturbances on Delhi on November 7, 1966.

Now the government is trying to crack down on the legitimate movement. Lookout circulars have been issued against many of the farm union leaders; The Morcha leaders have questioned the police delay in acting against those actually responsible for the violence. A sort of militia of RSS-BJP people has made an appearance at Ghazipur and Singhu border protest sites of the peasants to intimidate people. Similar vigilante groups were actively involved in violence seen in February 2020 in North Delhi. The government and its advisors would be making a huge mistake if they think they can scuttle this protest which has considerable social support in rural areas and enjoys some sympathy in sections of the middle class.

On full display is the intimidating manner in which the police in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh State have registered FIRs against a member of Parliament and senior journalists for allegedly spreading misinformation regarding farmers’ protests in Delhi on January 26. The Editors Guild of India has rightfully come out to point out the high handedness of the authorities.

This ongoing protest movement of the peasantry must be allowed to go on. We see this current agitation by the peasants as an important example of active citizenship where as citizens they have stood up to protest against legislation that was imposed on them without prior consultation and debate. Movements that speak truth to power are important to protect the democratic space.

o o

On another matter that merits urgent attention, there is a deafening silence on part of the government. Thanks to the Mumbai Police, a prominent pillar of the right-wing ecosystem in India, the ultra-nationalist television news anchor Arnab Goswami has made big news. The Mumbai Police have submitted 3000 pages of WhatsApp chats as part of a supplementary charge-sheet on alleged manipulation of Television Rating Points (TRPs) by news channels. These content of chats show that Goswami had advance knowledge of the imminent military action against Pakistan, and he shared it in a WhatsApp chat. How could a journalist get this information in advance? The implication is that someone very high in the government had revealed this information to Goswami thereby endangering national security. This is a serious matter, and the Modi Government must explain and come clean on this issue, Questions in this regard must be raised in Parliament.

Tributes:

Larry King, the celebrated American Radio and Television talk show host known for having interviewed prominent personalities from all walks of life, died on January 23, 2021.

Shaibal Gupta, the political economist who was the director of the Asian Development Research Institute in Patna, Bihar passed away on January 28, 2021.

David Washbrook, the well-known British historian whose work focussed on South India, passed away on January 25, 2021

January 30, 2021 – The Editor

Notice: The print edition of Mainstream Weekly is now discontinued & only an online edition is appearing. No subscriptions are being accepted