Although the on-going farmers’ movement has faced much repression and victimization and the participants have endured many hardships – at one stage even essential water and sanitation services were disrupted—it has been exceptionally fortunate in one other respect. This is in terms of obtaining the deep affection , support and emotional connect of a very large number of people. The support and concern for well-being of the movement goes beyond fact-based discussions on various issues and demands. I have seen several women and children who are normally busy in their own daily affairs getting extremely tense and on the verge of tears when the farmers face some serious threat. When farmer leader Rakesh Tikait cried suddenly in a desperate situation, tears of countless others flowed uncontrollably. What is more, this happened soon after the worst efforts had been made to give a bad name to the movement. This kind of emotional connect has been seldom seen on such a vast scale earlier, even though there have been so many other movements of farmers.
Having received not just support but also heartfelt affection of people, the farmers’ movement owes it to people and to nation to make more durable and path-breaking contributions. To restrict itself to old tactics of obstructing traffic or trains and speaking of its success and spread in these terms would amount to understating its much higher potential. It should aim for and achieve much higher goals. It should pioneer new pathways for social movements, particularly for those struggles which have to continue for longer periods.
It appears that the movement is now in for the long haul. The movement should use this opportunity to build itself as a truly representative national farmers movement which understands and articulates the concerns of farmers and farm workers from all over the country and not just the green revolution belt. Considerations of sustainability, saving soil and water, protecting pollinators and organisms who help farmers should receive due attention. It should also address the concerns of food consumers for safe , healthy, nutritious, wholesome and affordable food. It is only by careful deliberation of all these aspects that farmers and farmer leaders will form a comprehensive understanding of the farming and food sector, which in turn will help them to take the wider movement of farmers and farm workers forward in a balanced and proper way.
Women in villages where the movement is strong have already shown the way forward by coming out in significant numbers to support the movement, although the difficulties they face are much more compared to men. This further adds weight to the need for integrating the farmers’ movement with a women-led social reform movement in villages, concentrating on several aspects but more on reducing consumption of liquor and all intoxicants, reducing all forms of discrimination ( whether based on gender, religion or caste) , reducing all violence against women and reducing corruption at all levels. This will add greatly to the moral strength of the movement, reduce distress in many ways, increase unity at all levels among villagers and in addition will make available more resources for worthy expenses by reducing wasteful expenditure.
The main demand of the repeal of the three controversial farm laws is fully justified but as there is delay in accepting this there is much that can be done to constantly remain on a path of creativity, improving understanding, reducing distress, increasing unity. At the same time more obstructive and disruptive forms of protest, which open up possibilities for mischief-makers to infiltrate and give the movement a bad name, should be and can be minimized, thereby also contributing further to the peaceful credentials of the movement and allowing it to prepare better for a longer struggle with increasing strength, unity ad support-base.
Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His latest books include Man Over Machine ( Gandhian ideas for our times ) and When the Two Streams Met ( Freedom Movement of India).