Agrarian Riots: The Countryside is on Fire

Hardnews Bureau

Five farmers were shot down by the Madhya Pradesh Police force in a merciless manner. This was just one of the many examples of police brutality that farmers have been subject to of late. Attention must also be paid to the tactic of recategorising peaceful protests into riots to justify the deployment of contingents of Rapid Action Forces, the Central Reserved Police Force and imposition of curfews as seen in Mandsaur and Nashik last week. Farmers are coming out on the streets all over the country – from Tamil Nadu to Punjab – in large numbers to protest against the near total collapse of the agrarian economy. The heavy-handed response of the state to quell these protests is what is even more disturbing. 

These protests have been, in the last three years, categorised as ‘agrarian riots’ by the NCRB. As shown in a story by Hardnews last year, both the NCRB and local police stations in Jharkhand and Bihar – two states that recorded the highest riots – did not know about this classification. Why? Because before 2014, this classification did not exist, it was a classification created to ensure police violence can be used on protesting farmers. Last year, there was a 327 percent increase in the number of agrarian riots, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.  

History has taught us the purpose of categorisation: to allow for newer forms of regime control, much like in the erstwhile British-led colonial government. However, the purpose of the category of ‘agrarian riots’ is plain and simple, to justify the use of violence on farmers protesting against land acquisition. Jharkhand last year saw a staggering 9000 percent increase in agrarian riots, and also saw the highest number of incidents of police firing. Similarly, now in Mandsaur, Nashik and several hundred other places there would be a growing incidence of State-orchestrated violence against farmers protesting against fluctuating market prices, drought and land acquisition.  

There were 7 agrarian riots per day in 2015, this number is expected to go up in 2016.