In democracies leaders are called upon time and again to resolve protests of people. In fact this is a primary responsibility of democratically elected leaders and the sense of responsibility should be all the greater for leaders who have received enormous respect and trust of people, like a leader like Shri Narendra Modi of India. Time and again people of India have voted for him with high expectations and trust.
While resolving a protest by troubled people like farmers and workers and other sections who have a strong sense of needing a justice based response, how should a top leader like a Prime Minister of a country respond? Surely he ( or she) should respond with a kind heart, and his main focus should be , as far as possible, on meeting the demands of protesting people with dignity and friendship. Even if the protesting people have said a few harsh things, it does not matter– the Prime Minister is supposed to be big enough and big hearted enough to take this in his stride.
In the on-going farmers’ agitation the entire country has shared the distress and small joys of protesters, their songs and simple assertions , their determination as well as the warm-heartedness seen in sharing food and goodwill with all and sundry. Not often do we see protestors from far away villages who carry and cook food not just for themselves but also for the poor people of the protest site. Some homeless children who live and work near the protest site said recently that they have never eaten so well and with such dignity as during this protest. Such are the blessings and such is the message of Guru Nanak.
In such cases we surely need all the kindness from a top leader of the country. As I have argued repeatedly in these columns and elsewhere since the farmer’ protest started, the Prime Minister should resolve this issue very quickly by accepting the two main eminently reasonable demands—repeal the three controversial farm laws and withdraw the legal cases foisted on the participants of this movement in the course of their participation in this movement. Apart from their wrong content, the entire process of bringing in the three laws( first by issuing entirely uncalled-for ordinances and then following highly hurried, non-consultative methods in the Parliament) was most undemocratic and for this reason alone the laws should be repealed and the entire issue considered afresh on an clean slate with an open mind.
This by itself will certainly not resolve the farming crisis and the rural crisis but this will prevent it from worsening further. This will also help to create conducive conditions for a wider dialogue in more relaxed conditions. You cannot have such a wide , extended and many-sided dialogue in conditions of agitation, brinkmanship and tensions. Above all, the prime minister should consider that resolving this issue without further delay in conditions of friendship, kindness and dignity will bring happiness to a very large number of people, and the primary task of any leader is to bring happiness to his people.
On the other hand the top leadership also has the option of course of taking the terrible path of creating divisions, tiring out protestors, making false or exaggerated accusations, trying to spread fear , using force etc. which will only lead to immense distress and discontent, long- term simmering resentment and numerous other serious problems for our country.
The problems of troubled people are best resolved by a kind heart, not by a 56-inch chest.
The Prime Minister should remember this and act without further delay to resolve the issue of farmers by accepting the demand of repealing the three controversial farm laws.
By responding to farmers with a kind heart the Prime Minister will only be serving the people’s interest and hence the national interest, but only incidentally, in the process his own stature will go up nationally and internationally.
In addition another urgent consideration which needs the immediate attention of a kind heart is to extend the free food ration scheme for at least another six months, from December to May. The hunger situation in Covid times demands this, we have the surplus grain for this, so why the delay or the hesitation in extending this scheme which directly benefits the most needy sections.
Bharat Dogra is a freelance journalist and author whose reporting on development issues in English and Hindi has been recognized in the form of several prestigious awards. His latest books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, Kathin Daur Mein Ummeed ( Hindi Poems) and Sachai Ki Kasam ( Hindi short stories). Web-site –bharatdogra.in