The real achievement of the farmers’ agitation is that it has united the people who were till now divided on caste and communal lines
There was no progress in the eighth round of talks between protesting farmers’ unions and the Government on the three farm laws on Friday. So what will be the next move of the growers? The farmers have besieged Delhi for over a month now and one of their leaders, Rakesh Tikait, had earlier announced that they would join the Republic Day parade on Rajpath with their tractors on January 26. They are already taking out tractor rallies on the outskirts of Delhi. But when they try to enter Delhi from outside, it is very likely that the growers will be stopped by the police. By force if need be. To allow a mob of protesting farmers to storm Delhi and join the Republic Day parade means surrendering authority and losing face. And no Government will allow that. So, a violent confrontation on the borders is likely. However, one hopes that things will not come to such a pass.
By their long-drawn agitation, the farmers have ensured that the three laws, though in the statute book, cannot be implemented on the ground, because the atmosphere is so emotionally surcharged in Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh (UP) and some other States. One would not be surprised if the grain silos built by some corporates are soon attacked, like the 1,500 mobile towers in Punjab. About 800 million of India’s 1.3 billion people depend directly or indirectly on agriculture and almost all have sympathy with the agitating farmers. Also, many industrial workers, lawyers, intellectuals, sportsmen, Bollywood actors, ex-servicemen and so on are supporting the stir. Even soldiers and policemen would largely be sympathetic, as a jawan or a policeman is a peasant in uniform, or the son of a peasant. Though being a member of a disciplined force he cannot express his sympathy openly.
And what about the farmers’ votes? Till now our politicians had been successful in keeping growers divided on the basis of caste and religion, but this agitation has united them. So how will that affect the next elections in Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Assam this year and in UP, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat next year? Most of the voters in these States are farmers. This is the real nightmare for the ruling party today.
The real achievement of the farmers’ agitation is that it has united the people of India who were till now divided on caste and communal lines. This was exploited by our crafty politicians. Our people were so divided and polarised on the basis of caste and religion, that unity was missing and we were often fighting each other. Till of late, most of the stirs in India were either religion based e.g. the Ram Mandir movement, or caste-based like the Gujjar, Jat or Dalit agitations. The anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protest was perceived by many as a predominantly Muslim agitation. Anna Hazare’s fight against corruption soon fizzled out too. This disunity was a problem to which Indian thinkers could not find a solution for decades and it had become a dilemma for the country. Suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, the farmers of India, one of the most neglected sections of our society, have resolved the problem which was plaguing the nation for long. By using their creativity they have forged a unity among our masses which was missing for decades. Their agitation has smashed the barriers of caste and religion and people have risen above them. Also, they have kept at a distance our politicians, who have no genuine love for the country, but are only interested in power and pelf, for which they polarise Indian society by manipulating and spreading caste and communal hatred, only for creating vote banks.
The farmers’ agitation is on a real economic issue because the growers were not getting adequate remuneration for their produce. It is not on an emotional and sentient issue like building a temple. The farmers’ agitation is a milestone in our country’s history. It will result in creating a political and social order under which India rapidly industrialises, gets totally transformed from an underdeveloped to a highly developed, prosperous country, which ensures a high standard of living and decent lives for all our citizens. As a great Asian leader said: “When hundreds of millions of peasants rise like a typhoon or tornado, it will be a force so powerful and so swift that no power on Earth will be able to resist it.” The national aim of the united citizens must be to transform India from an underdeveloped to a developed, industrialised country, for only then can we get rid of our poverty, backwardness, massive unemployment, appalling level of child malnourishment, almost total lack of proper healthcare and good education for the masses and other social evils. Such a transformation is only possible by sweeping away all the filth of feudal thinking and practices (in the form of casteism, communalism, superstitions and so on) which had gathered over centuries in India. The farmers’ stir is a step towards that national unity.
(The writer is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. The views expressed are personal.)