The bizarre and medieval fortification by the Delhi Police at the capital’s borders, replete with concertina wires, sharp iron nails, spikes embedded on the road and thick walls, is not so much driven by the government’s desire to simply prevent the farmers from entering the city and spread chaos, but basically to deepen the irrational middle-class phobias, fears and anxieties about how they might get overwhelmed by the unwashed peasants!
These monstrosities built at Delhi’s borders are no-so-unpredictable. They are straight out of the Israeli security forces playbook that has built a separation wall between the Jews and Palestinians as visualized by Zionist thinker, Theodore Herzl, to separate the alleged ‘barbaric’ from the ‘civilized’. Since then, many walls have come up in Israel and its ‘occupied’ neighbourhood for different reasons, but they have the same objective — to demonize those who are on the other side of the fence and to show how they constitute a threat to a so-called ‘peace-loving, civilised and modern’ civilisation.
Instead, the bitter truth is that these formidable walls and fortifications are basically meant for a people living with infinite insecurity and fear in their protected cities. The walls, like Donald Trump’s botched-up anti-immigrant Mexican wall, are a daily reminder that all occupiers and supremacists suffer from a perennial siege mentality, even as they demonise the ‘other’ through such symbols to consolidate their racist, hegemonic and sectarian politics.
After the January 26 tractor rally and the messy violence at the Lal Quila in Delhi, including the enactment of a flag drama allegedly by agent provocateurs who manufactured the license to put up the strangest obstacles possible to prevent the peaceful, resilient and stoic protestors from allegedly ‘threatening’ the cocooned upper and middle-classes in Delhi. To deepen the cliched stereotypes of how ‘uncivilized, barbaric, anti-national and desperate’ these farmers look, the police cut their drinking water and internet and removed their toilets from their protest sites.
Apparently, crass music was put up on loudspeakers at a certain border in total darkness to demoralise the farmers – thereby trying to push them to a mental edge. A Member of Parliament on a visit to the Ghazipur border feared that the agitators would not be able to go anywhere if there was a fire. Apparently, even ambulances could not make way in some places in a crisis situation.
Surrounded by concertina wire mounted steel blocks, walls, ditches- besides nails embedded on the road, they give an impression of permanency quite like the separation walls of the West Bank in Palestine. With a corporate-backed loyalist media operating like a full-fledged fascist propaganda machine demonising the peaceful, mass struggle with fake news, especially on television, this is a classical, text-bookish template, recently experimented with full military clampdown in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370. Many veteran observers had then noted a certain paradigm shift in the ‘national security’ tactics on the ground, and in the lanes and by lanes of Srinagar. Security experts sensed Israeli tactics in the way the Kashmir was being handled.
A look at the separation walls in Israel will show how their playbook has been an inspiration for those who want to ward off the inconvenient. In a paper by Said Siddikki for the Arab Centre for Research and Policy studies titled, ‘Arab-Israel and the Fencing policy — A barrier on every seam line’, the author has tried to break down what is ‘common’ in these ‘separation walls’. It is transparent like daylight that the government has thereby adopted a similar strategy, and in full public and media glare, as seen in the concrete barricades and iron spikes-nails installed at the three borders around Delhi, the epicentre of this massive and relentless mass movement — Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur.
Besides, the same template may be followed in other parts of the country if there are similar protests in the days to come:
1) A barbed wire to ward off access.
2) A 5m deep trench behind the wires.
3) This is followed by a road for surveillance.
4) There is a thick wall followed by an empty space.
5. Iron nails, spikes, concrete barricades.
6) The same kind of fortifications follows on the other side.
WITH SUCH FORTIFICATIONS, very few can escape or enter from these border sites into the capital. For journalists, too, it is an arduous task to travel through ditches and wired-off areas to meet the farmers. They were not allowed to enter the protest zone and report last week. Sometimes, reporters have to walk a long distance of 12 kilometres or more through the menacing wires and abusive cordon of policemen who quite hate what they are made to do every day.
Demoralised and battered after the January 26 showdown when they were also beaten up by a section of the protesters – which was condemned by the united kisan leadership soon after — leaving 300-odd cops injured, the police have been taking out their ire against journalists and farmers.
A young, freelance journalist, Mandeep Punia, was beaten up, psychologically hounded and threatened, and incarcerated for a few days for his steadfast reporting from the site. His crime was apparently because he had exposed that the so-called ‘locals’ who had attacked the non-violent farmers, including women at the Singhu border, were basically not locals but goons led by well-known BJP activists, while being backed by a huge posse of cops. This is a familiar, albeit, sinister pattern, successfully used earlier in Northeast Delhi during the bloody riots in early 2020 to break the peaceful anti-CAA movement – while eventually putting the blame on the victims and thereby victimising, hounding and arresting them and other activists under draconian laws.
The basic endeavour of these terrible and costly exertions is to ensure that no one disrupts the government-controlled narrative peddled by loyalist media that they are dealing with ‘irrational and unreasonable’ people. Indeed, earlier the farmers were branded as terrorists, Khalistanis and Maoists, which totally boomeranged.
While these walls to separate people could be explained by the Zionists who want to keep the Arabs out from their traditional land and homeland and preserve their ‘Europeanness’, this is inexplicable in a country like ours where citizens cannot be constitutionally blocked from the capital if they are peacefully agitating against some central laws. However, the central government has wilfully and consistently built a narrative that a democratic protest is an inconvenience to the citizens and it should be thereby be confined to designated spaces.
This argument has got legitimacy from a judgment by a bench of the Supreme Court on the peaceful Shaheen Bagh protests led by grandmothers and mothers, which had apparently blocked a city road, though the adjacent highways and roads were actually blocked by the police. The judgment wanted these protests to be conducted in only designated places. This judgement was severely criticized as it impinged on freedom of expression and to assemble peacefully.
Ironically, the government and the police did not pick up a page from the enlightened readings and observations about citizens being given spaces to protests, but, rather, used suggestions and templates that serve to squelch, subvert and demonise free expression. Indeed, on the farmers’ struggle, even the United Nations Human Rights body has stated that the Indian government should accept the right to peaceful assembly and expression, online and offline. This has earlier been reinforced by the new US administration, as much as Senators, MPs, and leaders across the US, UK and elsewhere, besides a galaxy of international celebrities, Hollywood stars and social media big names. Indeed, all top international media organisations, including in the West, have done exhaustive and objective reporting on the farmers’ struggle, as much as on the authoritarian and dictatorial tendencies displayed by the current ruling regime in Delhi. Post-Trump, this is real bad news for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who, for some unknown reason, is refusing to the learn his lessons from history.