Home > 2021 > ’Violent’ Farmers and ’Peaceful’ Rulers | Sukumaran C.V.

Mainstream, VOL LIX No 8, New Delhi, February 6, 2021

’Violent’ Farmers and ’Peaceful’ Rulers | Sukumaran C.V.

Saturday 6 February 2021, by Sukumaran C.V.

The farmers have been protesting against the corporate-friendly farm bills for over two months. Modi government talked many times with the leaders of the protest and all the talks failed only because the government participated in the talks without an open mind. The government was/is not ready to revoke even one of the farm laws. No government which is committed to the wellfare of the ordinary people can callously watch thousands of farmers continue their protest against what they perceive as threat against their interests, living day and night on the streets. Mr. Modi hasn’t even once met the agitating farmers or their leaders till date. The laws must have certainly been made on the behest of the PM. But in any of the talks in which the representatives of the government and farmers participated, the PM was conspicuous by his absence. Why doesn’t he meet the protesting farmers? Why hasn’t he met the people when they were protesting against the CAA? He spends time to participate in meaningless rituals like the shilanyaas of Ram Temple in Ayodhya and of the quite unnecessary Central Vista project in Delhi, but he never spends time to see people when they were dying on the streets because of his totalitarian ’reforms’ like the demonetisation and laws like the CAA and the farm bills.

The writers and activists who participated in the Elgar Parishad on December 31, 2017 as part of the 200th anniversary of the Bhima Koregaon war have been languishing in prison. Many of those who protested against the CAA are being persecuted. The farmers are now called anti-nationals and Khalistan terrorists.

The proposed tractor rally on the Republic Day would have been the most grandiose and peaceful one than the Republic Day parade which showcases missiles and other destructive weapons and in which this year the secular democratic India had to shamefully witness its PM and other Ministers supplicate and clap on seeing the tableau of a temple comprising saffron-cladded rishis and the statue of Valmiki writing the Ramayana! But the government tried to create difficulties and hurdles for the farmers to disrupt the rally and make it violent.

While the police were creating hurdles by closing the roads with barricades and concrete slabs, the historic places like the Red Fort stood defenceless and the people like Deep Sidhu who has nothing to do with the farmers’ protest or rally misled people to enter the Red Fort and to resort to vandalism. Deep Sidhu has no connection with farmers but with Modi and the BJP. He is the person who hoisted the flags on the flag post in the Red Fort. But he is still at large but the innocent farmers are being arrested!

The Modi government’s callous behaviour is explicit in almost all people’s protests. And it always tries to attack peaceful and genuine protesters with violent mobs created by the blind followers of Modi and BJP. In the history of Independent India, mob violence started exactly in 1992, on December 6. The Shiv Sena enacted this mob violence in Mumbai in 1993 and hundreds of innocent people were killed in the name of religion. It resurfaced in 2002 in Gujarat when Modi was the CM. And it has metamorphosed into a pan-Indian phenomenon when Modi reached Delhi in 2014.

It was Mr. Manmohan Singh, the Finance Minister of Narasimha Rao led Congress government, who opened the flood gates of liberalisation in 1991 and ever since the governments of India whether led by Congress or BJP, have been protecting the interests of the corporate business against that of the people.

Arundhati Roy says in her book Broken Republic: “In his autobiography, A Prattler’s Tale, Ashok Mitra, former finance Minister of West Bengal, tells his story of how Manmohan Singh rose to power. In 1991, when India’s foreign exchange reserves were dangerously low, the P. V. Narasimha Rao government approached the IMF for an emergency loan. The IMF agreed on two conditions. The first was structural adjustment and economic reform. The second was the appointment of a finance minister of its choice. That man, says Mitra, was Manmohan Singh.”

And when he became the PM, says Ms. Roy, “[Manmohan] Singh has stacked his cabinet and the bureaucracy with people who are evangelically committed to the corporate takeover of everything—water, electricity, minerals, agriculture, land, telecommunications, education, health—no matter what the consequences.”

Today the poor, the farmers, the Adivasis and the Environment are suffering the worst consequences. And Mr. Modi is following the policies of Manmohan Singh more vigorously than the UPA governments because there is nobody to oppose him. In the BJP, what Modi says is the law and Modi will say only what is useful for the corporate business. In the Congress there were people like Jairam Ramesh who fought (though unsuccessfully) against the ’corporate takeover of everything’.

See what the environmental conservationist Prerna Singh Bindra says in her book The Vanishing: India’s Wildlife Crisis: “In May 2009, things changed rather dramatically, when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) came to power for its second term, and Jairam Ramesh, from the Indian National Congress was appointed environment minister. To say that Ramesh rocked the boat would be to understate things. He became the country’s most visible environment minister, and his ministry’s most vocal critic. Ramesh brought in transparency, with the MoEF website giving unprecedented access to documents and government orders. He was accessible, and involved varied stakeholders—affected communities, concerned experts, scientists, etc. in the decision making process. He was a rare politician who understood that economic growth at the cost of ecological security could not be sustained. In an interview, Ramesh admitted to me with characteristic candour that ’environmental regulations today, whether they relate to the environment or forestry, meet industrial not environmental objectives’.

"The National Green Tribunal, a special environment court to hear grievances about green violations in short deadlines was set in 2010. Ramesh refused to give a nod to a few big-ticket projects which would have grave ecological impacts or had grossly violated environment norms. These actions became highly controversial and earned him the moniker of ‘Dr No’.

"...Ramesh’s outspokenness and clashes with the corporate sector, and his colleagues in other ministries, were under constant media glare; and his tumultuous two years came to an end in July 2011 when he was ‘kicked upstairs’, as lobbyists unkindly referred to his promotion as Cabinet minister for rural development. Ramesh’s departure was not unexpected. His raising the green ante had raised the hackles of powerful interests, both politically, and in the corporate sector. It was clear that the prime minister was uncomfortable with some of his decisions and positions—one of which was the ‘no-go’ for coal mining in dense, contiguous forest areas which largely proved to be his undoing. Added to this were the big-ticket projects which he had objected to on environment grounds such as the Navi Mumbai airport, the Lavasa Lake City project in Maharashtra, mining in coal blocks in pristine forests, the mega steel project by South Korean giant POSCO. He was, however, to compromise on most, and in each case or project environment logic was trumped by other interests—economical, political or lobbying by industry, foreign policy issues and above all, the need to project India as an investment friendly country.

"The environment vs development debate did not simmer down with Ramesh’s exit. In fact it came to a head with India Today, a major newsweekly, running a cover with Ramesh and his successor, Jayanthi Natarajan, titled ’Green Terror’.

"Green terror?

"I was stunned. Appalled. This was a landmark in India’s conservation history: A country so deeply concerned to nature—where rivers and animals and trees are worshipped—had come to a point where it considered protecting nature a hurdle, even an ’act of Terror’. What made us perceive regulations that ensured clean air and water, nourished soils, provided for healthy rivers and forests—the very basis of life—as nothing less than a nuisance, best gotten rid of?"

Mr. Singh, with the help of Sonia Gandhi, the National Advisory Committee Chairperson of the UPA governments, had to silence people like Ramesh to serve the corporates as they wished, but Mr. Modi doesn’t have to silence anybody because there is nobody in the BJP who can question Modi. Hence the corporates prefer Modi to Sonia or Manmohan not because they are less corporate friendly.

In his 32-minute long speech delivered extempore at the Central Hall of Parliament on 20th May 2014, Narendra Modi said that his “government is one which thinks about the poor, listens to the poor and which exists for the poor. ... The new government is dedicated to the poor. This government is for the villagers, farmers, Dalits and the oppressed, for their aspirations and this is our responsibility.”

That is in words, in rhetoric. But Mr. Modi’s governance since has proved that in deeds, his government is one which thinks about the corporate sector, listens to the corporate interests, exists for the corporate world and dedicated to the corporate well-being.

If Modi had sincerely said that his ’government is for the villagers and farmers’, the farmers from the remote villages would not have been protesting for over two months; if Modi had sincerely said that his ’government is for the villagers and farmers’, he would have met the farmers in person and revoked the farm laws even in the first week of the protest.

Instead of sincerely trying to find ways to amicably end the farmers’ stir, the Modi government is now trying to liquidate the protest by hook or by crook. Police force is used against the farmers, the propaganda machinery is used against the farmers and mob violence is also used against the farmers. In the coming days, it will be very difficult for the farmers to continue their agitation in the backdrop of the organised attack of the police, the mob and the corporate media.

In his article ‘Of luxury cars and lowly tractors’, published in The Hindu (Dec. 28, 2010), P. Sainath says that “over a quarter of a million Indian farmers have committed suicide since 1995. It means the largest wave of recorded suicides in human history has occurred in this country….It means one and a half million human beings, family members of those killing themselves, have been tormented by the tragedy. It means farmers in thousands of villages have seen their neighbours take this incredibly sad way out. A way out that more and more will consider as despair grows and policies don’t change.”

Manmohan Singh and the UPA governments have gone, but policies don’t change and thousands of farmers have been forced to be on the streets in the largest democracy of the world. The condition of our farmers is not far better than what Jawaharlal Nehru says about it in his autobiography: “I spent about two weeks in Allahabad, and it was during this period that I got entangled in the Kisan (peasant) movement... Early in June 1920, about two hundred kisans marched fifty miles from the interior of Partarbgarh district to Allahabad city with the intention of drawing the attention of the prominent politicians there to their woebegone condition... They begged us to accompany them... They would accept no denial and literally clung on to us. At last I promised to visit them two days or so later. I went there with some colleagues and we spent three days in the villages far from the railway and even the pucca road. That visit was a revelation to me... A new picture of India seemed to rise before me, naked, starving, crushed, and utterly miserable. And their faith in us, casual visitors from the distant city, embarrassed me and filled me with a new responsibility that frightened me.” (An Autobiography, Chapter 8).

Can you think that Mr. Manmohan Singh or Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi even once in their life had gone to see ’the naked, starving, crushed, and utterly miserable’ India, which is the real India? If they had, they would not have created the policies that pushed millions of farmers to take the ’incredibly sad way out’. Can you think that Mr. Modi even once in his life had gone to see the ’naked, starving, crushed, and utterly miserable’ India? If he had, he would not have been callously watching thousands of farmers living on the streets demanding the complete repeal of the farm laws they don’t want.

The India today direly needs politicians like Jawaharlal Nehru who are filled with responsibility towards the ’naked, starving, crushed, and utterly miserable’ India; who won’t talk for the poor and act for the rich; who won’t callousley watch when millions of farmers commit suicide because of the corporate friendly policies of the those who rule; who won’t be heartless enough to watch thousands of farmers protesting against the laws that are created not for them.

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