farmers delhi barricades

“They may kill me but they cannot kill my ideas. They can crush my body but they will not be able to crush my spirit”. These statements of Shaheed Bhagat Singh still echoes in the minds, hearts, ideas and soil of India. Though the colonisers killed him and finished his body, but the spirit of Shaheed Bhagat Singh continues to live among us. Many so called leaders came and went but Bhagat Singh remains as one of the tallest martyrs of India. This is the spirit that the farmers and all those who have been standing with the farmers to protect democracy, secularism, socialism and republic against an undemocratic, autocratic, fascist government. Irrespective of facing all the naming, blaming, tear gas, lathi-charge, etc., of this government, they have been sticking to their demands.

Shaheed Bhagat Singh further declared, “Any man who stands for progress has to criticise. Disbelieve and challenge every item of the old faith”. This historical truth spoken by Shaheed Bhagat Singh years ago remains relevant and revibrating at this crucial juncture of Indian history. If the Indian farmers and Indian citizens facing one of the severest cold of the recent past, loosing over 100 farmers and supporters as martyrs for their struggle. They are not demanding for some subsidies from the government. They are also not limiting their movement just for the repeal of the farm bills. But they are demanding for re-establishing a democratic, secular, socialist and republic India. The planning, the guidelines issued, the way they proceeded with the “Farmers’ Parade on the Republic Day establishes this face.

Dr. Ambedkar’s three warnings in his last speech to the Constituent Assembly resonate even today and further establishes the fact that if Indians do not wake up, understand the reality of the country being pushed to the brim of fascism and authoritarianism, mobilise everyone to fight against these forces and re-establish what Dr. Ambedkar dreamt of India, it would be too late. His prophetic words were, “On 26th January 1950, India will be an independent country. What would happen to her independence? Will she maintain her independence or will she lose it again? This is the first thought that comes to my mind. It is not that India was never an independent country. The point is that she once lost the independence she had. Will she lose it a second time? It is this thought which makes me most anxious for the future”.

It appears that the warnings of Dr. Ambedkar are becoming a reality. There is anarchy all around in this country. All the governments right from the time India attained independence have tried to ‘rule’ the citizens. Hence, they have instead of engaging in governance have taken to liberal democratic, populist and power oriented government. But the present regime has taken totally to anarchy and authoritarianism. The citizens of this country are feeling throttled by this fascist and undemocratic regime. More and more, anarchy is becoming a way of political, social, economic and cultural life of the nation.

Anarchy the Form of Government

In political science, anarchy is a movement which is sceptical of authority and rejects all involuntary, coercive forms of hierarchy and in extension calls for the abolition of the state which is supposed to enforce rules and regulations. Based on the available data and also the historical development of this country, Dr. Ambedkar possibly cautioned about anarchy from the point of view of the people. But if Dr. Ambedkar was present at this time, he might have bemoaned the anarchy Indian republic today is witnessing and what it witnessed on the Republic Day by the government of India and many state governments.

Those who were following without bias the farmers movement from September 2020, would vouch for this fact that the farmers have been proclaiming and adhering to a democratic, reconciliatory, progressive and solution seeking thought and procedure. Due to this only they were ready for dialogue with the government and attend 11 rounds of talk. Though every round led to greater hardening of the stand from the government, the farmers did not take to any aggressive posture or path. In continuation of this practice, they also declared ‘Farmers’ Parade’ on Republic Day and had issued strict guidelines.

But as claimed by the farmers, civil society activists and social media persons, the farmers were following the rule of law. “We were peaceful yesterday, today and will be peaceful tomorrow also. We invite people of this country to join us in this peaceful protest,” Krantikari Kisan Union leader Darshan Pal told PTI yesterday [NDTV, 30/01/2021]. The farmers’ united organisation also claimed that, their protest has been wracked by multiple instances of violence over the past many days, which the farmers assert was a result of the government’s moves to misrepresent the entire agitation and break it up eventually. However, they claimed that the protest has only gained strength now, with many more farmers reaching out in support and physically joining them at the many protest venues around Delhi.

The government instead of addressing this issue in a more peaceful, progressive, reconciliatory and solution seeking stance, has taken to vindictiveness. It appears that the government has taken this fully and totally as a prestigious issue and is blaming, naming, harming, frightening, using divide and rule policy and taking revenge. It is reported that the government has located huge amount of force and given them order to chase them, beat them up and force them move out of the border. That too at the mid night time. Instead of exploring ways to work out a solution that is accepted not only for the farmers but also for the entire nation, the government is trying all the dirty tricks to discredit, dismantle and destroy the farmers’ movement.

It needs to be reiterated here that a democratic, secular, socialist and republic government which is supposed to ensure anarchy does not take place has ended being anarchic in thought, idea, policies, plan, program and above all in its governance. With a majority both in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, by pitting Hindus against Muslims, by projecting that the majority is threatened by a small minority, by riding high on the support of andha bhakts, through threat lining up the media to speak, write and project the lies it is churning out, by engaging in lie, falsehood, cheap and popular slogans, the present regime is engaged in anarchic government.

The Prime Minister instead of overseeing the inoculation for COVID-19, was once again engaged in useless talk. He said, “A new world order will take shape after the coronavirus pandemic and India will have a major role to play in it”. What role , Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday at a meeting of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which governs at the centre. The Finance Minister was saying during the budget presentation that the government is willing to talk point by point on the farm bills. The Finance Minister seems to be totally unaware of the fact that the farmers have totally rejected the farm bills and are willing to pay any price for this. Only an anarchist government can pretend not take note of this fact.

The wide gap between the billionaires of India and the poor has widened much faster from the time lockdowns were thrust upon the people in the name of COVID-19. The World Bank has calculated that if countries act now to reduce inequality global poverty levels will return to their pre-coronavirus levels in 3 years instead of over a decade from now. For instance, Mukesh Ambani’s company Reliance Industries specialized in petrol, retail, telecommunications and farming doubled its wealth between March and October 2020, reaching $78.3bn, and he jumped from being the 21st richest person on Earth to the 6th richest. During that period, the average increase in Ambani’s wealth in just over four days represented more than the combined annual wages of all of Reliance Industries’ 195,000 employees (Oxfam 2020 Report).

Conscious citizens are worried of the fact that what the virus has laid bare is the brutal precarity of the livelihoods of most of humanity. In normal times, the majority of people scrape by on incomes only just above the poverty line. Now starvation and death are starring at over 60% of the population. According to Professor Himanshu of JNU, “What is particularly worrying in India’s case is that economic inequality is being added to a society that is already fractured along the lines of caste, religion and gender. Even during normal times, ordinary Indians were not able to access the health care they need. 63 million of them are pushed into poverty because of healthcare costs every year, that is, almost two people every second. What is more glaring and depressing is that it would take 941 years for a minimum wage worker in rural India to earn what the top paid executive at a leading Indian garment company earns in a year.

Coming on the heel of this unprecedented pandemic, the citizens of the country that the Budget 2021-22 would be pro-citizens but it ended up being a budget of the corporates and for the corporates.  The government’s own data points towards a scarry present and future of the economy of the country. Union government’s Economic Survey 2020-21, released on January 30th says India has “charted its own unique trajectory”. Indeed, India’s draconian countrywide lockdown was unparalleled. It pushed more people out of jobs and sent many more millions back into poverty than any other country. Starvation is starring on the face of many poor and vulnerable. Women and children are the worst affected.

The political will of the present government is very clear to the citizens of India as for as the economy is concerned. As argued by Gautam Modi,  “The government has committed to institutionalise India’s already high and growing income inequality, but it will allow the unbridled growth of corporate private capital. This is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s growth model—creating an economy driven by the brute power of private capital and advancing mass poverty”. If this is not economic anarchy what would one call this.

While the central government is totally engaged in anarchy, even the state governments do not lag behind. Bihar government under Nitish Kumar ordered the promotion of 20 of its Indian Police Service officers. As per News 18 on 30th January, 2021, these 20 IPS officers along with the promotion will be eligible to move from a salary of Rs. 78,800/- to Rs. 2,09,200/- All those who follow the decline of Bihar day by day would remember this picture of a patient walking around with oxygen equipment in the absence of proper medical care. Or the child at Muzaffarpur railway station who was trying to wake up his dead mother, a woman who like the others were forced to walk back to her home in Bihar.

Nitish Kumar does not have money to attend to the dire health needs of the people of Bihar but can double the salaries of the officers. Due to utter lack of employment opportunities in farm and non-farm sectors in Bihar, the people of Bihar are forced to be distress migrants. While they were earning a living and supporting themselves and their families in the name of the pandemic, they were forced to walk back thousands of miles. When they lose their near and dear ones, they were not given any compensation. Since, Nitish Kumar wants to be saddled in power for some more time, he has not opened his mouth about the draconian farm laws. If this is not anarchy, what else can be called anarchy in Bihar.

In similar sense of anarchy, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh also has been behaving in an arrogant manner and has been issuing extremely undemocratic and inhuman statements. Being the Chief Minister of a state whose population fully depends upon agriculture right from September, 2020, he never made any attempt to listen to the protesting farmers. But repeatedly used threats and warnings. India.com reported on 28th January, 2021 that a massive police deployment has been ordered at Ghazipur Border As Farmers Refuse To Vacate Protest Site. It was also reported that the police were given free hand to vacate the farmers. But it is in the same Uttar Pradesh practically girls from weaker section have been raped by party workers who predominantly come from the dominant caste. No one is booked for this heinous crime. It is Bihar and Uttar Pradesh which witnessed the highest number of migrants returning back home in the most dehumanised manner.

Reinventing Indian Republic

In political theories, ‘Republic’ is ‘public affair’, that is, the power is held by the people and their elected representatives. In republics, the country is considered a “public matter”, not the private concern or property of the rulers. But the above cited instances and the style of government goes to establish this fact that there is total anarchy.

In contrast to the government, farmer leaders say that the number of participants at the prominent protest venues – Ghazipur, Singhu, and Tikri – was swelling following the police’s alleged high-handedness on Thursday night. While the government operated in a mood of vindictiveness, the farmers organised fast on 30th January, 2021, from 9 am to 5 pm and appealed to the people of the country to join them to pray for peace and non-violent mode of protest. “The way the government is spreading planned lies and violence is condemnable,” the Samyukta Kisan Morcha statement said.

Joining the farmers on the same day at the Press Club in Delhi a group of senior academics, activists and lawyers, stood in support of the on-going farmers’ movement, to strongly condemn the government’s attempt to criminalize and break a legitimate people’s movement.

Despite the clear, unequivocal condemnation by farmers leaders, of any violence on January 26, the government has activated the criminal justice machinery to lodge FIRs against them under a range of criminal laws, including shockingly an anti-terror law, the UAPA. This is now becoming a familiar playbook of the ruling establishment, last seen in the winter of 2019, when the equal citizenship movement against the CAA-NRC, and its young leadership, was similarly vilified, terrorized, charged under UAPA, and arrested. The speakers demanded an unconditional withdrawal of these motivated FIRs against the leadership of the farmers movement, calling it a brazen misuse of the police and the law to silence people’s legitimate democratic expression.

Till few months ago, no citizen in this country dared to speak, write and act against this government. But from September, 2020 when the farmers began their protest to demand the scrapping of the farm laws and moved over to re-establish a democratic and pro-citizen government, there have been huge upsurge to say not to the sinister plans of this government. On 3rd February, 2021 students, youth and activists gathered in thousands to express their solidarity with the farmers and to say no to this government. Interestingly, the media too which was sold out to the fascist, undemocratic and authoritarian government too took the side of the protestors. Thus, Indian republic is being invented today more than ever in this country.

The world watched with great dismay the reaction of the Indian government and its stooges to the solidarity statements made by some activists and artists. What they said was that they are in solidarity with the Indian farmers’ movement. The Indian celebrities who were silent so far even after 61 days of protest by the famers and over 100 farmers’ death, suddenly became ‘deshbhakts’, that is, lovers of their nation. While the common Indian lost his or her employment and are forced to starve, these actors, cricketers did not utter a word. No one is asking them to speak against the government but at least express their solidarity and ask for amicable solution. But instead they were quick to rush to criticise the other celebrities.

Actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha talking to NDTV on 5th February, spoke out against the coordinated pushback against international celebrities supporting the two-month-long farmers’ protest, saying it amounted to interference no more than Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s endorsement of Donald Trump ahead of the US elections. He further said, “This tweet business by international celebrities, we highly appreciate that. After all, our own Prime Minister has said a couple of times that we are living in a global community. It is not only an issue of India but the issue of our farmers who have been sitting for 70-75 days for their most justified demands and almost zero-degree temperatures and facing all the obstacles”.

It is pertinent to note that Akshay Kumar who mints crores of rupees through his films, was one of the first ones to ask the film fraternity to contribute generously for the building of the Ram Temple. The Ram Temple itself is in a crisis mode. But he had nothing to say about the farmers’ movement. It is the fear of facing the goons of the BJP and RSS who will block his films he kept quiet and now have become vocal about celebrities outside the country.

Quite contrary to the hypocritical celebrities of this country, the farmers and civil society has been waging relentless was against this regime. Mahapanchayats have been organised even in Uttar Pradesh, a state which has come to be known for threat, intimidation, blame game, love jihad, rape, murder and vindication. Irrespective of the government imposing 144 in the name of maintaining law and order, there is no difference in the spirit of solidarity among the farmers, students, youth, women and social activists. Sabrang India reported that on 5th February massive number of people gathered in Shamli.

mahapanchayat

What the farmers’ movement has communicated in clear and categorical terms is the need and the commitment to re-establish democracy, secularism, socialism and republic of the people of India and not the politicians. Gandhiji’s prophetic statement resounds repeatedly, “Civil liberties consistent with the observance of non-violence are the first step towards Swaraj. It is the breath of political and social life. It is the foundation of freedom. There is no room there for dilution or compromise. It is the water of life”. Farmers’ movement supported by the citizens of India is inching towards that ‘Purna Swaraj’, that is, total freedom and governance as dreamt by Gandhiji and demanded by the citizens.

Prakash Louis is Founder of Indian Christians for Democracy


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