The farmers and the Govt’s rallies will run parallel on Republic Day. Which one makes the point?
From first being noticed to gathering worldwide recognition to now cruising at a steady momentum the farmer’s protest has been going strong since it emerged from Punjab and Haryana, joined later by the other states of India. Amongst everyone but mainstream news outlets that keep ignoring the protests, acting like they don’t exist.
The farmers have remained steadfast, refusing to buckle down. It has been a show of strength vs greater strength, violence against humanity interspersed with many heartwarming images, and episodes of humanity.
Farmers from all over the country started showing solidarity with Punjab, and today we’re seeing Haryanvis, Tamilians, Andhra-ites and even Maharashtrians at the Delhi border, standing shoulder to shoulder with the Sikhs, demanding justice, asking for the 3 ‘black farming laws’ to be repealed.
To put it in simple terms, the new laws allow corporations to dictate the prices of produce, thus putting the already vulnerable farmers at greater economic risk. This report from the Economic Times shows that around 42,000 farmers committed suicide in 2019. A government that cannot provide basic necessities to its people doesn’t deserve to exploit them.
The farmers have organised themselves well, and their representatives, the farm leaders, are constantly in discussion with a shifty central government that always keeps backpedalling on its promises, or keeps pussyfooting and doesn’t make any in the first place. These farmers may be simple folks, but they aren’t fools. An attempt to taint them by the ‘Godi’ media severely backfired, and today mainstream news anchors aren’t even allowed close to the Singhu border.
This report by the New Indian Express says that even though the BJP government agreed to two demands which they termed ‘minor’, those two are yet to be fulfilled while major demands go ignored even now.
The same report quotes a stalwart among the farm leaders, Balbir Singh Rajewal, President of Bhartiya Kisan Union, Punjab as saying “On the demand to repeal the three central farm acts, the central government had asked farmers’ organisations to come up with ‘alternative proposals’ and we responded by saying that there is no alternative other than repeal. The government has refused to agree, even in principle, to our demand for legal right to purchase at MSP”.
This is a clear stalemate.
The farmer’s reaction to being stonewalled by the government? A show of solidarity and strength, via a parade of their own, on 26th January. The matter is before the Supreme Court, which decided to relegate that decision to the Delhi Police, according to this report.
On Republic Day, as the central government flexes its might in its own parade that happens every year, the farmers this year shall be showcasing their dissatisfaction with the farm laws, via a peaceful rally. According to Krantikari Kisan Union President Darshan Pal, “We have given a call for a tractor-trolley parade into Delhi from the borders of the national capital on January 26. This tractor parade with the national flag will be called ‘farmers republic parade’ and will take place after the official parade.”
The ‘Kisan Parade’ as christened by Pal, shall occur parallel to the actual Republic Day parade, an act of defiance on behalf of the farmers against the tyranny of the ‘black laws’, as the farming fraternity calls it.
The farmers are already mobilizing themselves already in preparation of this Republic Day march. They are already carrying out practice marches in preparation, sometimes even in inclement weather. Early January saw them brave the slush and cold rain, setting up tents to ensure everyone remained as close to comfort as possible.
But the government isn’t keen on budging either.
According to this report by The Telegraph, after a sixth round of formal negotiations, things yet remain unresolved. The government and farm unions may have reached some common ground to immediately resolve the protesting farmers’ concerns regarding the rise in power tariff and proposed penalties for stubble burning. However, they remain deadlocked over the main points of these new laws. The 3 laws that need to be repealed, and a legal guarantee for the minimum support price. Time has now passed slowly, and now as this report from Business Standard says, the 9th round of talks simply ended with fixing a date for the 10th round of talks. The report states that the government asked protesting farmers to form an informal group, to prepare a concrete proposal about their objections and suggestions on the three farm laws for further discussion. They also fixed January 19th as the next date of talks. The steadfast unions stuck to their main demand of a complete repeal of the three Acts.
Surely the farmers aren’t going to compromise on their demands.
50 and counting farmer lives have already been martyred to the cause, according to farmer leader Gurnam Singh Choduni who said in this report, “In our last meeting, we posed a question to the government that will you buy 23 crops on MSP. They said ‘no’. Then why are you misinforming the people of the country?”
“Misinforming”, and “misinformed” ironically, is one among the myriad other tags the BJP government liberally hands out like PayTM cashback coupons, to anyone who disagrees with the BJP’s policies. That percentage of the populace is slowly growing. This time, the government has stirred a hornet’s nest, inviting the ire of people who are used to extreme weather and ungodly working hours.
The Supreme Court isn’t helping either. Long ago, there were faint hopes of it taking suo moto cognizance of the matter. Fast forward to today, and the Supreme Court after all its deliberation has decided to allow the Delhi Police, under the Home Minister, to take charge of the situation and act as they see fit. Maybe this decision was taken considering the excellent way the Delhi Police handled the riots that ravaged the national capital. The blatant bias shown by them set a stellar example, as is highlighted in this report by Scroll.
26th January two parallel rallies will run. The government will of course be presiding over the traditional Republic Day parade, taking place in the heart of the Capital.
The other rally will be a massive show of strength by the farmers. An organised peaceful assembly of tractors as far as the eye can see. Braving the inclement weather, a hostile government and other extremes to demand rightfully, what is theirs.
National media will focus on trying to divert the issue away from the farmers, and try to discredit the rally as usual. Or maybe they have a new trick up their sleeve to distract the
9 pm television audience. Whatever be the case, the rally will be out in the open to see. As of now, the decision is mired in a deadlock with the farmers being steadfast, and the other side not giving in.
26th January could be quite the memorable Republic Day.
Rayomand Engineer: A freelance journalist and writer based in Kolkata, India. I love writing about the environment, wildlife, society, politics, discrimination and for the marginalised.