Friday, June 18, 2021
 
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Farmer's strike has notable lessons



K.N. Pandita



The recent strike by sections of Punjab-Haryana farmers may not arguably pass for a nationwide strike. Nevertheless, some political opposition parties and those with vested interest tried to expand the strike to other states as well. Thus behind the cover of farmers' protest, these political parties have been trying to challenge the sovereignty of the Parliament. It is politics of disruption and not of nation-building. However, notwithstanding its geophysical aspects, we should not shy away from making a dispassionate analysis of the upsurge because for more than one reason it is a notable event in the contemporary political history of India.
To bring pressure on the Modi government thousands of farmers from the states of Punjab and Haryana blocked the main entry and exit routes to the capital city of Delhi and paralyzed the entire transport system. They refused to assemble at a specific open space in the town where the Home Ministry was prepared to provide them with logistic facilities so that normal traffic was not disrupted. Most of the farmers came on their tractors, trucks, wagons and cars purposefully to strengthen the siege of the highways. They carried with them eatables, furnishing and bedding etc. and some unidentified organizations provided them with freshly cooked food. The protesting crowds refused food and tea arranged by the government as a gesture of courtesy. This indicates that the bundh was meticulously planned and it is not a fitful reaction to the new laws.
Politically oriented anti-government and anti-Modi slogans were raised frequently. It showed that the protestors designed to score a political victory by ousting Modi government and not get their grievances redressed. The dharna reminded one of Shaheen Bagh episode. Political undertones of the dharna were conspicuously eloquent.
The activists of opposition parties grabbed the opportunity and almost hijacked the protest rally. In the garb of protesting farmers, they began delivering threats to the government from the farmers' platform. The Home Minister addressed the media channels that the welfare and safeguarding the interests of the farmers was the foremost priority with the Modi government and the new laws passed by the parliament were strictly in their interest. He added that in the past dissenting political parties had demanded passing of these laws. The Modi government took the initiative and brought to completion a task which his predecessors had once mulled over. He assured that the government was prepared to talk to the representatives of the farmers on the issue. This assurance was given by the Home Minister publicly.
Several rounds of talks were held but with no concrete result. As the interaction proceeded, the disgruntled farmers continued their hostility, raising unbecoming slogans. The norms of addressing the government or the Prime Minister were thrown to the wind. One got the impression that the farmers had not come really to get their problems solved but wanted to pour out disgust against the government. All opposition parties came out in support of the protesting farmers.
In such a situation, any responsible opposition would play a mature role to de-escalate tension and normalize the atmosphere. It would lend its helping hand in bringing about an amicable settlement of the issues involved. But unfortunately, the opposition parties, whether on national or on a regional level, began acting like hungry wolves to seek their pound of flesh. Their all efforts converged on bringing about the downfall of the government and not redressing the grievances of the farmers if any.
The lesson one can figure out from this situation is that despite seventy-three years of democracy, our nationalist sentiment is frail and vulnerable to the claptrap of political rant. One more lesson that we should learn from this event is that only a very thin line separates self-aggrandizement from nationalist predilection. Party workers can go to any length in removing the elected government instead of removing the hardships facing people or those in the way of a sincere elected government in alleviating the grievances of the people.
When dialogue between the government and the farmers did not make headway, the Congress President, playing the politics of vendetta, gave a call for Bharat bundh. Don't forget that the culture of Bharat bundh is closely associated with the Congress, tracing its history to the days of the freedom movement. But curiously, shorn of its traditional popularity and bereft of its spatial dimension, the present Congress remains unfazed by a call it gave with no takers.
Who are the ring leaders of the protest dramatics and what is their motivation, is a very pertinent question? Knowledgeable sources are if the opinion that a variety of stakeholders have jumped on the bandwagon and the entire show is almost a replication of Shaheen Bagh episode. Most of the ring leaders from Punjab are well-known affluent Leftists with clout in the Punjab peasantry. Besides them, there are Khalistanis and Congress loyalists as well. Remember that the slogan of Khalistan Zindabad was also raised by a section of the protesting crowds during Delhi bundh. The Congress came out in open to oppose the government proving that they are pursuing political vendetta and not the debilities in new agrarian rules.
The Congress, after its defeat in two successive parliamentary elections, has abandoned the standard role of genuine opposition in and outside the parliament and taken a hostile and antagonistic role bordering on a personal vendetta. Disrupting the sessions of the Parliament, opposing every bill brought by the ruling party irrespective of its merits and demerits, contradicting all facts and figures provided officially by the government to the parliament, undermining the mega developmental projects envisaged by the government and criticizing the government for its domestic as well as foreign policy without understanding the nuances, that is the attitude adopted by the party now at the backbenches in the parliament.
Not only that. The Congress loyalists and beneficiaries of expatriate Indians, especially in the UK and USA, have embarked on a massive anti-Modi mission and are whipping up class, sectarian and communal passions among the broad sections of Indian society by manipulating media and other sources of public information. The Khalistanis are working hand in glove with the Pakistanis in foreign capitals in encouraging anti-India protest rallies, whipping up sectarian passions by publicizing fake and false stories or visuals to malign the Indian government. A close study of their activities will reveal that there is only the personal vendetta against Modi and no word about the so-called stifling of the farmers.
It is to be noted that under the new law, farmers have the freedom of selling their products to any buyer, private or public, without any hindrance. The need to introduce the new law arose because some middlemen were not only amassing mountains of wealth by way of commission from the government and favours from the farmers but were reported to be misusing the enormous amounts in various activities that were not at all desirable as far as the national security is concerned. The middlemen have created a mafia that would want to prevent the farmers from selling the crops to a buyer ready to pay a higher price to the benefit of the farmers. It is this mafia which has given space to terrorists, anti-national elements, moles of international terrorism and drug trafficking.
This is a battle between the forces with vested interests and self-aggrandizement on the one hand and those of nationalists supporting the uniform distribution of wealth to the benefit of entire Indian society. The former has unleashed a vicious international disinformation campaign to malign the Modi government. Their problem is a simple one. The source of loot and vandalizing of public property has been brought under check by the new agricultural laws passed by the Parliament. This law disallows the concentration of capital outside the public domain. It is a death knell to the monopolization of sources of production.




(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University, Srinagar)



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