The Indian Farm Reforms Laws of 2020 were rushed through the Parliament of India on 27 September 2020. The RSS-BJP government seemed to be in hurry to impose these laws as the same were promulgated by the President of India as ordinances on June 5, 2020 as part ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ (self-reliant India campaign); a favourite aphorism of PM Modi for imposing a series of anti-people policies during the Covid-19 pandemic times. The RSS-BJP government led by Modi and its cronies in and outside the government claim that the 3 agriculture laws were brought in with the exclusive vision of benefitting the Indian farmers.
On the contrary, millions of farmers protesting throughout the country and thousands of them sitting at the borders of Delhi with their families against these laws are unequivocal in declaring that these laws are the death-knell of the Indian agriculture. The farmers have presented irrefutable facts to prove that Modi government has brought these laws to facilitate entry of PM Modi’s corporate friends like Ambanis and Adanis into agriculture. Modi government through these laws planned to use the might of the Indian State in robbing Indian farmers their lands and hearth which would destroy food security of the Indian people. The Modi government’s commitment to the cause of Adanis and Ambanis seems to be so solid that retention of these laws has become an issue of personal honour and the prestige of PM Modi.
Is not it mysterious that all this is being done by Modi who adores Sardar Patel? The former presents himself as another ‘iron man’ in the shadow of the ‘iron man’, Sardar Patel. His love for Sardar is to be seen and believed; he takes pride in having installed his statue in Gujarat which is the tallest in the world. It was almost a personal project of Modi executed through the Chinese companies.
It is strange that Modi despite a worshipper of Sardar knows so little about him. He remains oblivious of a fundamental fact that Sardar Patel was a Congress leader who, inspired by Gandhi’s principle of non-violence, led a great and very powerful movement of farmers at Bardoli taluka (Gujarat) in 1928. This is known as the Bardoli Satyagraha and the then pro-British English Press described it as “Bolshevism in Bardoli” and Patel as its “Lenin.”
In fact, Patel was awarded the title ‘Sardar’ after this heroic struggle. This peasants’ movement started against the extortionate lagan (22%) imposed by the British rulers and landlords. The aim was very clear; farming for common peasants should become absolutely un-remunerative that they would be forced to sell land to the SETHS (moneybags) from Bombay which, in fact, was happening at a large scale. The large tracts of agricultural land were being bought by Bombay land mafia with open collusion with the government.
It was such a miserable situation for Bardoli farmers that faced with a pauperized future they invited Vallabh Bhai Patel [of Kheda Satyagrah 1918 fame when large agricultural tracts bought by the Bombay capitalists was forced to be returned to the farmers] to lead them. Sardar Patel agreed on the condition that farmers would never submit to the governmental diktats. The situation for the farmers was grave enough; they barely had enough property and crops to pay off the tax, they readily agreed and took oath that they would fight till the end. Sardar camped in Bardoli taluka and organized a team of devoted Congressmen/women workers, both Hindus and Muslims, like Imam Saheb Abdul Kadir, Uttamchand Deepchand Shah, Mohanlal Kameshwar Pandya, Bhaktiba Desai, Darbar Gopaldas Desai, Meethubehn Petit, Jugatrambhai Dave, Surajbehn Mehta, Umar Sobani and Phoolchand Kavi. Led by Sardar they challenged the colonial masters and their henchmen at the ground level. One important fact to be noted is that the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS, which existed during this period, kept aloof from this historical struggle.
The contemporary reports show that The Bardoli peasant movement soon turned into a national movement,
“Workers in Bombay textile mills went on strike and there was a threat to bring about a railway strike that would make movement of troops and supplies to Bardoli impossible. Even the flames of Bardoli had reached to Punjab and many jathas (groups) of peasants were despatched to Bardoli. Yet another strength of the movement came from Gandhiji who shifted to Bardoli on 2nd August, 1928.”
The present nation-wide peaceful farmers’ movement against Modi government’s agricultural laws is the re-ignition of the Bardoli spirit. The farmers fighting to save the soul of India have taken a vow like Bardoli farmers that they would never surrender to the RSS-BJP rulers who want o destroy livelihood of 70 percent of rural households which depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihood, with 82 percent of farmers being small and marginal. The agonizing reality is that a worshipper of Sardar Patel, a Gujarati by birth is leaving no stone unturned in crushing a movement which is only replicating the Bardoli struggle led by Sardar Patel.
Shamsul Islam is a retired professor of Delhi University
Link for some of S. Islam’s writings in English, Hindi, Urdu, Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Punjabi, Gujarati and video interviews/debates: