Farmers’ strike ends in a fiasco

By K N Pandita

That the 53-day strikes by the farmers ended in a fiasco did not spring a surprise to anybody with an understanding of the democratic arrangement of our politics and the astute manner in which the government handled the situation. During the long period of the strike there surfaced numerous occasions where people began to apprehend a physical lash likely to take shape.

If we take the statements of the government-issued either by the Agricultural Minister or other official news outlets, we can understand that the government, knowing that the farmers had no case, yet did not close its doors for exchange of ideas and consideration of what the farmer leadership had to say either to the government or to the people at large.

The crucial point in this narrative is that the government minced no words in telling the farmers that the new laws enacted and called reformative laws were essentially meant to save the farmers from the clutches of the middlemen. The government lobbies tried to make it clear to the farmers that an option was given to them to sell their products either in the mandi or to a third party if the farmers found that their product would earn a higher price. To save the poor farmers from the iron fist of the middlemen speaks for the honest intentions of the government in respect of the farmers in the country.

This movement, which turned anti-government, was stoked by the middlemen who have been making enormous profits by receiving huge commissions. These middlemen have their vast network and hundreds of thousands of people are involved in the thriving business of receiving a commission. Those who are at the helm of the commission receiving chapters are well known political leaders. Some of these leaders were holding the portfolio of agriculture also. But nobody ever cared to bring about drastic reforms in the marketing of the agricultural product in a manner that the middleman is eliminated and huge money-making machine functioning at the cost of the farmers is shut down. A report published by a national newspaper said that in Maharashtra a particular person who is the enjoying of monopoly for obtaining commission and arranging the supply of sugar to the government and various state agencies earns the hefty amount of commission to the tune of ten thousand crore rupees. Similarly, a monopoly holder in Punjab, who until recent days was also a powerful minister, receives a commission to the tune of five thousand crore rupees a year.

From day one of the agitation, the farmer leadership adopted something like a hostile attitude towards the government on an issue that could be discussed in a cool atmosphere and without surcharged emotions. It showed that before the farmers made a move towards Delhi on their tractors, they were already brainwashed and told to behave in a hostile manner. Eleven rounds of talks were held. The government conceded one of the meetings that it would keep the new laws in abeyance for anything between one and one and a half year. The farmers pooh-poohed the government. The Prime Minister appealed to the farmers to try to understand the spirit of the new laws. With folded hands, he told them publicly that he was immensely caring about the interests of the farmers and all laws were brought in keeping their larger interests in view. But the farmers tried to laugh at him and shower sarcasm on him. This was clear that the protestors did not show any respect to the state, its laws and its authority. They behaved as if they had come to dictate terms to the government.

The saddest thing about this agitation is that it was hijacked by interested groups and parties. The Khalistanis, Leftists, Congress and pro-Pakistan elements became very active. They joined the farmers, snatched leadership from their hands and drew an anti-national agenda for them. It was clear from the body language of the farmers, from their slogans and their handbills that they were on an anti-national path. Khalistanis were conspicuous by sticking Khalistani posters and the large size photographs of Bhindranwale on their tractors. Many among the leaders who became very vocal are known leftists and have a criminal record. Most of those who claimed to be the leaders of the farmers do not own a single acre of land nor have they any following with the farmers.

The fact is that the Khalistanis in Punjab and elsewhere in the country as well as in Canada tried to make a Khalistani issue. The Khalistani flag usually called Nishan sahib was hoisted at one side of the Red Fort. The government tried its best to see that the situation normalized before the Republic day celebrations so that everybody enjoyed the big day with gaiety and job. But the farmers were obstinate and they announced they would bring out tractor rally saying thousands of tractors would roll down the Janpath where the official parade would take place. The government invited the farmer leadership for talks on the proposal of tractor march. A formula was arrived at the two sides signed the agreement which laid down the route the tractor rally agreed would adopt. They gave a word of a peaceful march and not provoking the police or vandalizing the government property. Against all these clauses of a written agreement, the farmers’ tractor rally arbitrarily removed the roadblocks meant to control the traffic, turned towards Red Fort, entered the Red Fort, attacked the police personnel injuring nearly 80 of them as they were attacked with lathis, and swords. They were on a rampage and a situation of chaos ensued. The police were not ordered to use force or fire at the threatening crowds. Scores of injured policemen are hospitalized some with serious injuries.

All this was done on Republic Day. These people showed not an iota of respect for this great national day. They desecrated the national flag, the ramparts of Red Fort which symbolize India’s struggle for freedom. The Khalistanis thought they had found an opportunity of avenging themselves for what they call atrocities against the Sikhs. The Khalistanis with a strong Sikh following in Canada pressurized the Canadian Prime Minister who issued a statement asking PM Modi to withdraw the Agricultural laws to assuage the “hurt” feelings of the Sikhs in Canada. We know that PM Trudeau has a strong vote bank with the ex-pat Sikhs in Canada. But he should understand that India is also a democracy and we do have the vote banks if that is the criterion.

In short, this was another Shaheen Bagh like an attempt by the opposition, the dissenting elements, and communalists and anti-democracy segment in our country who made another attempt to dislodge Prime Minister Modi. Congress leaders one by one supported the Khalistanis and the Left who were running this agitation. Nehru used to say that India has no danger from external enemies but only from internal enemies. One important lesson that the farmers’ agitation has taught the nation is that every India has to remain cautious against the saboteurs who are out to break India by means and methods available to them. It is heartening to know that the entire nation has condemned the hostile and aggressive behaviour of the farmers on the most pious day of our nation meaning the Republic Day. They tried to bring a bad name to our democracy and our national pride. They stand humiliated and demoralized. Indian society has no place for such anti-national elements.

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