Farmers’ agitation: A movement for and by sharks, political opportunists & the educated illiterates

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Hooligans in the garb of farmers stormed the Red Fort on January 26, the Republic Day of India. (Photo: AP)
Hooligans in the garb of farmers stormed the Red Fort on January 26, the Republic Day of India. (Photo: AP)

For little over two and half months, farmers’ agitation has brought normal life and business activities in and around Delhi to a standstill. On January 26, they indulged in unprecedented violence in parts of NCR (National Capital Region) and even pulled down the national flag on the Red Fort but no one talks about this shameful act any longer. Their only concern is why barricades have been raised on roads and cases are being registered against rioters.

Parliamentarians are upset that they are not being allowed to meet the protesting leaders. Someone should tell them that thousands of daily commuters are feeling the same pain and frustration that squatters are inflicting on them by blocking roads. It was never meant to be a protest to seek removal of infirmities in the three laws through constitutional and legal means because it was led by a deadly cocktail of rich farmers who did not want to lose their financial control over procurement of farm produce, opposition political parties and dumb-wits like Rakesh Tikait who are incapable of understanding the significance of a transformational initiative.

It is jarring music to ears when these protesters call themselves ‘Annadatas’ as if they give grains for free out of piety. These so-called ‘Annadatas’ of Punjab, Haryana and western UP believe that India will become a mortuary for starved people if they stop growing grains. Someone should remind them that they produce just 61 million metric tonnes, whereas the remaining 223 million metric tonnes comes from other states which is more than enough to feed Indians. And, what about million others who are creating wealth in the country and also helping them to grow more through their scientific and market interventions.

It is still a mystery what these farmers were going to gain by taking a tractor rally to Delhi on a Republic Day? Storm the parliament, gherao the President and Prime Minister, keep them as hostages and force them to repeal the laws on the spot? Or, was it to paralyse the city until their demands were met? The purpose could never have been to hold dialogue for an amicable resolution of the issue because the means they were using for it were a rampaging mob and tractors that were used as tanks against hapless policemen. It is becoming clearer by day that they neither have specific proposal to rectify or improve upon the existing laws, they have no faith in courts nor they are sure of mobilising public opinion to force PM Modi to quit and have a government that buys their insane demands.

Overwhelming majority of agitators including Rakesh Tikait, BKU leader and his comrades are not educated enough to comprehend the nuances of the Acts. Their simple mind can look at things only in black and white. No wonder, they insist that APMCs must remain, MSP must have the backing of law and three ‘Black Laws’ must be withdrawn. The reasoning given is also simple: The Acts will ruin their agriculture income forever, and their lands will be swallowed by crony capitalists (whatever that means.) For all one knows, Rakesh and his gullible supporters may be unaware that chakka jams and trampling of tricolour are not the legally recognized instruments for redressing grievances.

The agitation has done lot of good to Rakesh Tikait, in particular. A non-entity till the other day, he has emerged as a powerful voice of rioting farmers. No wonder, every opposition leader is making a beeline to pay obeisance to the man. Western media and phoney international celebrities have gone gaga over him. But before it is too late, he should realize that he is actually a pawn in the hands of political parties who want to milk him to garner votes and Sikh farm leaders who have changed gears after facing a backlash for the tricolour insult and have instead been propping him up to keep the stir alive.

The reactions by Modi baiters to January 26 mayhem are bizarre. They want us to believe that BJP had infiltrated goons to provoke riots so that Kisans get discredited. They are giving undue credit to BJP for possessing a skill that they do not have to fine tune the nature and extent of violence to such minutest details. If they want to give credit, they should credit them for foolishly hoping that protesters would abide by the guidelines agreed earlier with Delhi Police.

The question is why did the police not prevent unruly protesters and tractors from forcing their entry in Delhi. The reason is obvious. Police did not have enough forces to stop them. The only available option was to ask protesters to leave not before 11 AM and follow designated routes, so that by the time they enter Delhi, there would be enough forces released from 26 January parade to handle the crowd. But protesters proved smarter. They left at 8 AM and rushed to Delhi around 11, catching the thinly deployed policemen with their pants down. What happened subsequently, we have all seen.

As usual, intelligence failure has been blamed for what happened on January 26. The government actually had all the intelligence about the ring leaders, their real intent to violate police guidelines and cause widespread violence and presence of miscreants. But the question was whether to carry out preventive arrests of leaders on the previous day and be ready to open fire should the crowd offered violent resistance. It was felt that opening fire would be an inevitability since there was not enough force (about a lakh) to physically hold back the farmers who were equipped with lathis, spears and swords. The only option left was to avoid at any cost turning the protest sites into killing fields when Republic Day function was only a few hours away. Imagine the relish with which Rihannas, Trudeaus, Manish Tiwaris, liberals, communists and their likes would have taken seeing agitators fall in heaps to bullets. The government denied them of this pleasure and turned to Delhi policemen to take the hit on themselves with maximum restraint.

This tamasha is not going to go away soon. Opposition leaders have smelled blood in the farmers’ protest. With state elections lined up in the next two years and parliamentary elections in 2024, they are desperate to keep anti-Modi tempo alive to take shine off his development armour. They have already red-flagged their intent. They boycotted the President’s address to the Budget session of the parliament and since then, they have been staging walk-outs and disrupting proceedings in both houses. They will now go all out to join the farmers in all forms of protest in various parts of the country. Now that police have swung into action against rioters and their leaders, we will also hear of repression of farmers and assault on freedom of speech and protest. They are adamant on keeping the agitation protracted until PM gives in. But they forget that no PM from any party or alliance can afford to set a precedence that encourages protesters to get their demands met by resorting to violence rather than taking recourse to legal means.

Adhatiya (farming commission agent) attacking policemen with swords.
An Adhatiya (farming commission agent) attacking policemen with swords.

The only way forward for farmers is to give up their blind approach of “my way or high way” and engage in discussing provisions that they think hurts farmers’ interest and suggest specifically what amendment they would like the government to make to the laws and why. This is possible only if they keep off politicians out of their discussions and harness services of agriculture economists who can take up their cause in their interest. Can they do it? It is doubtful.        

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