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

Paranoic Reaction of Modi Government Has Internationalised The Farmer’s Protests | Vijay Kumar

Saturday 6 February 2021

by Vijay Kumar

When the impeachment process of Warren Hastings, the Governor-General of India, started and a couple of months later when storming of Bastille took place, which marked the beginning of French Revolution, Edmund Burke, Thinker, Orator and one of the greatest Parliamentarians said on the Floor of House of Common that “an event has happened, upon which it is difficult to speak, and impossible to be silent”. The ongoing farmer’s agitation and brutal repression by putting iron nails, digging trenches, putting barbed wire and barricades, and thereby reducing the site of agitation as an impenetrable fortress, have made it impossible for any person, concerned with democracy, and human rights to either ignore the onslaught or remain silent on it.

Despite watching ‘CNN’ and reading the ‘New York Times’ and ‘Washington Post’ along with ‘Time’ and ‘Newsweek’ magazines with metronomic regularity, I had not heard the name of ‘Rihanna’ till 2nd February, but on the very next day, Pop Singer Rihanna became a household name in India, thanks to over the top reaction of Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The comments of Rihanna, Greta Thunberg, Swedish Girl and internationally acclaimed Climate Activist and niece of US Veep Kamala Harris triggered panic and paranoid reaction from MEA, and to compound the problem, the Government orchestrated countering comments from hand-picked Cricket and Bollywood celebrities. The desperation of roping in these celebrities speaks volume of complete bankruptcy and vacuous nature of the response from MEA and the Government of India. 

The comments of Rihanna, Greta Thunberg, Swedish Girl and niece of US Veep Kamala Harris may or may not have merit, but nonetheless same were spontaneous, whereas the counter attacks from the cricket and Bollywood celebrities were the result of mechanisation of the government. At the time of writing this piece, even State Department of Bidden Administration has expressed concern over denial of internet facilities and suspension of Twitter accounts at the protest sites by emphasising that the peaceful protest is an indispensable component of Democracy.

India’s Moment Of Post Truth

The unreflective comment of MEA is further discredited by the fact that it is grounded in lies. It has countered the comments by asserting that the three Farm Laws were passed after extensive consultations and deliberations, whereas in reality, the three Bills were rammed down on 20th September 2020, which was Sunday, and passionate plea of the members of Opposition Parties for sending these Bills to Select Committee for in-depth examination and demand for counting of votes were rejected by the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha by allowing the Bills to pass through voice votes in a manner which subverted the sanctity of the Parliamentary procedure.

Erosion Of Image Of Soft Power

Outside the European countries, North American countries, Australia, New Zealand and Japan in the East, India was the signing example of a vibrant democracy. The robust functioning of an independent judiciary, the freedom of the press and autonomous functioning of other institutions made the Indian case unique and different from other Asian or African countries. The imposition of phoney emergency in 1975 showed the fragile nature of Indian Democracy, but the resilience of Democracy was soon restored in 1977. Apart from guaranteed freedom under the Constitution and enforcement of the right by an independent judiciary and the existence of free Press, the Bollywood represented the symbol of India’s soft power. With an authoritarian turn, as evident from the oppression of Farmer’s agitation and denigrating all the institutions, the image of soft power has been ruptured. The clamping of charge of sedition on journalists, activists and even intellectuals has resulted in a complete erosion of soft power. Now it is widely recognized that the US won the cold war, not because of its military superiority, but because of its soft power reflected through the most robust guarantee of freedom of speech and expression, its famous Ivy league institutions, and last but not the least, the soft power of Hollywood. In complete contrast to this, iron-curtain was a defining feature of USSR.

When Clinton Administration in the 1990s was pressing India hard on the issue of human rights violation, particularly in Kashmir, the Indian establishment came out with robust defence by harping on the existence of strong and independent judiciary and free and vibrant media. Today, the independence of judiciary and freedom of the press have completely been subverted, and as a result, the potent defence available earlier has become conspicuous by its absence.

Just as injustice anywhere is the threat to justice elsewhere, as memorably put it by Martin Luther King, attack on democracy and violation of human rights in any part of the world must remain the concern of all global citizens. Putting of iron nails, digging trenches, putting barbed wire and barricades and thereby reducing the site of agitation as war zone and denial of internet facilities and toilets and water & electricity have brought to the fore the violation of human rights on a humongous scale. The women protesters are being forced to defecate in the open. The government has virtually declared a war on the farmers and their supporters whose numbers, paradoxically, are multiplying mind-bogglingly in the country and abroad. This eventually boils down to full-frontal attack on democracy itself, and since democracy is under concerted attack, the democrats and liberals in any part of the world would be failing in their duties if they cannot react and resist to it.

During the freedom struggle, “Act locally and think globally” became the rallying point of Gandhiji. Today in the age of the Internet, the entire world has shrunk into a global village and no country can have hermetic existence. Democratic accountability warrants international scrutiny by all concerned citizens of the world.

The Indian diaspora is unusually large and spread over in every nook and cranny of the world.THE dialectic interaction between Indian and world is described most authoritatively by Prof Amartya Sen in ‘Argumentative Indian’, and in view of its topicality, I would let Prof Sen speaks for himself:

“The existence of a large diaspora abroad is itself a part of India’s interactive presence, ideas, as well as people, moved across India’s borders over thousands of years, enriching India as well as rest of the world. Rabindra Nath Tagore put the rationale well, in a letter to C.F. Andrews: Whatever we understand and enjoy in human products, instantly becomes our, wherever they might have their origin”.

“Indian, including the diaspora, have reason to resist external isolation as well as internal miniaturization. Indeed, the openness of the argumentative tradition militates not only against exclusionary narrowness within the country but also against the cultivated ignorance of well-frog. We need not agree to be incarcerated in the dinginess of a much diminished India, no matter how hard, the political advocates of smallness tried to jostle us.” (See page 86 — Argumentative Indians).

It is the ill-considered comment of lame-brained officials of MEA and vast troll Army that have diminished the image of India.

The peaceful farmer’s agitation suffered a setback when either miniscule part of its own groups or saboteurs stormed into the Red Fort on 26th January. The unfortunate and condemnable act of violence on the Republic day defamed the farmer’s movement, but the ruthless subjugation and massive violation of human rights have led to its revival and is gaining international traction which has been further intensified after puerile statements issued by the MEA against the Twitter comments of innocuous persons from abroad.

(Vijay Kumar is Advocate at the Supreme Court of India)

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