Farmers are the new enemy of the Indian State. It has, in recent times, shown to be impatient towards dissent, undemocratic in intent and inclined to end farming, as we understand. Otherwise, what is the reason for the government to deploy medieval forms of fortifications like trenches on highways with ship containers, huge iron, sand, cement and barbed walls, cops ready to charge in full gear in rows of war-like formations, while freely using water cannons in this cold, destroying the food and warm beddings of the farmers, against millions of agriculturalists who face an existential crisis after the government cleared three farm laws without consensus in a truncated Parliament session!
These farm laws will do away with procurement and plus mandis, perhaps, even the minimum support price, and give the freedom for farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country, or deal with international business. Seen as a beginning of corporatization of farming, the farmers across the food bowl of the country are a deeply worried lot. They are unable to comprehend a government that wants to inflict harm on them when they are struggling with such a bad year, with farm suicides, mass unemployment and migration of labour, a collapsed economy, the issue of viability, sustenance and problems of occupational options.
Instead of sympathy, the government has ordered the use of tear gas, water hoses and lathi charge. Its belligerence has been best exemplified by the swollen red eyes of an injured 70-year-old Sikh farmer who told a concerned journalist that he does not need an ambulance or treatment, because the struggle is right here, in the barricades. Another image of an elderly Sikh with a flowing white beard, dressed in white, gently waving off of a belligerent and aggressive young cop with an intention to hit brutally to injure and cause pain to a man who could be his grandfather, has become internationally viral. The poise of the elderly farmer, his gentle, dignified, non-violent and nuanced demeanour, the absence of any hate or anger in his body language, also marks a symbolic moment of great patience and resoluteness which this movement has signified.
It tells a typical story yet again of how cops will be cops – they can be following General Dyer in Jalianwalla Bagh under the British, or the Union Home Minister under the BJP-led regime in Delhi – their character has not changed one bit in post-colonial times. Police reforms, predictably, remains a cliché and a sham.
Farmers, men, women and children, old and young, have refused to budge and have conveyed to the arrogant government that they are here for the long haul. They claim that they have got food grain for four months and soon their cattle will follow them to Delhi. It promises serious chaos till the government relents and agrees to meet the farmers not at a time of their own choosing, but urgently so that an amicable solution can be found and their fears are put to rest.
Instead, the government is invoking the disaster act and trying to drive them to the outskirts of the city to Burari, which the farmers have rejected and called an ‘open jail’. Worse, through its loyalist media, abjectly bereft of media ethics, and routinely selling fake news, the government is trying to brand them Khalistani and secessionists. This is disgraceful!
This is typical of this BJP-led government at the Centre, which criminalizes any and all dissent and then brutally cracks down on any peaceful movement, using the police machinery, fabricated cases and draconian laws. The country has been witness to the manner in which the totally non-violent and disciplined anti-CAA agitation has been smothered or the students’ protests in JNU and elsewhere have been treated. The brutality of the Indian State, abetted by a complicit judiciary, has struck a body blow to our law-based society and democracy, and the values enshrined in our secular Constitution.
THE LACK OF statesmanship, flexibility, consensus and dialogue for a productive creative solution to issues troubling large sections of Indian citizens is so brazenly transparent that even the world seems to have noticed it again and again, including the international media. Witness the Time magazine’s annual declaration of the most powerful people of earth, listing both the prime minister with a symbolic and dark picture, and ‘Bilquis dadi’, of Shaheen Bagh, thereby depicting the tragic contradictions stalking this country since the summer of 2014.
The farmers have known it all along, and so do the workers, who, together, observed November 26 as a national protest day against both the new draconian labour laws being enacted, once again without discussion or consensus with the opposition, affected communities or civil society, and the three farm bills which have been forcibly pushed down the throats of the beleaguered farmers. It does not need rocket science to prove that the bills are nothing but an attempt to organize a legal sell-out of the struggling Indian agriculture and its farmers to favourite industrialists, crony capitalists, powerful MNCs and capitalist lobbies. It follows the proposed privatization of the public sector, universities, banks, railways and profit-making airports, while favouring the favourite industrialists of the current regime in Delhi. So much so, even the Kerala government was reportedly denied the demand to operate the successful Trivandrum airport.
Some industrialists in India too are becoming particularly brazen and thoughtless, following a method in the madness. Clearly, capturing Indian agriculture, and ravaging it thereby for profit, along with the lives and times of millions of farmers, big, small, landless, along with the huge network of ancillary and support chains of entire families and communities, workers and occupations, including small scale industry, is the agenda of these big corporates. That the Centre and BJP-RSS is backing them fully is as evident as the mighty Indian State baring its fangs against peaceful farmers.
Why is the BJP anti-farmer?
Does it have something to do with the fact that it is politically located among the business community and has now mutated into a party that sustains crony capitalists in the name of so-called ‘atmanirbharta’? Perhaps, but the truth is that the BJP believes that it does not cater to these sectoral interests as long as it can use its formidable Hindutva plank to divide people on religious lines. They believe that religious interests will gain primacy over other differences, and they are not wrong.
For an economy which has collapsed with millions of jobless, and in the backdrop of a deadly pandemic which is not anywhere, this is bad news for India, and Indian secular democracy. But, does this government really care?