What has happened in the context of the farmers’ movement in India in recent days has brought joy and pride to its increasing number of supporters. A movement that can spring back to a position of such great and increasing support and strength within just a few days—less than a week—of terrible victimization tactics surely deserves congratulations and praise for its resilience and hard work.
Thousands of farmers are camping in cold weather for over two months for saving farming based livelihoods from the increasing onslaught of big business interests. Despite repression, denial of basic facilities ( such as by stopping water supply or cutting off internet links) and repeated attempts to divide and break the movement, the unity of farmers and their supporters has gained strength.
Despite many sided difficulties increased by the attempts of authorities to deny some basic facilities, women have been joining the protest movement in increasing numbers and also contributing much to the base strength in villages from where food and basic provisions are also sent for protestors.
Even in areas where some disturbances were seen in the recent past, people from various religions and groups are coming close to each other, working and protesting and eating and celebrating together, swearing by their determination to be united and remain firm in a long struggle.
Huge gatherings are being held in many villages of north and north-west India, where people from many castes and faiths come together in very large numbers, not just to express strong support to accept specific responsibilities of what they will contribute. Youth and students come forward with increasing and spontaneous methods of support. For example when the internet connection was denied they immediately thought of creative ways of ensuring that the deliberations of a protest site could still be seen and heard by people in their villages.
Despite the high-level collusion of media with big capitalists which ensures that the views of mainly the big business interests and the government interests are propagated ad nauseam on most TV channels, some media outlets have continued to take the message of the farmers movement to people, and these are getting increasing audience, readership and viewership.
Meanwhile the government has responded by strengthening the barricades at protesting sites, not just raising concrete walls but even hammering in huge iron nails and digging trenches. Blocking more paths creates more problems for nearby people, and those belonging to groups close to the ruling regime are then instigated to criticize and confront the farmers’ movement for creating problems.
Of course all prolonged and big protest gatherings create some problems for ordinary people living in nearby areas, but despite this the farmers movement has on the whole enjoyed good relations with people of nearby villages. Recently there was a keenly contested local election in Sonipat for the post of the mayor of Sonipat, a city which is closest to the the biggest protest site. The candidate of the opposition party Congress which supports the farmers movement won the election while the candidate of the ruling party BJP which is firmly against the farmers movement lost, even though money power was firmly with the ruling party, the BJP, as it generally is.
The farmer movement was hugely in news at the time of the election and the fact that the very resourceful candidate of the ruling party lost in the area close to the biggest protest site is significant. This means that many people who no doubt suffered at a personal level due to the big gathering near their doorstep nevertheless voted for the candidate of the party which is clearly and strongly in favor of the protest. I asked a villager living very close to the protest who suffers daily due to the new conditions (and his neighbors also suffer)regarding how many of them are opposed to any eviction of farmers using force and he said that over 80 per cent of the villagers oppose the use of force in evicting farmers. In other words, even all voters of BJP in the village do not favor the use of force for evicting the farmers and their supporters from protest site. The overwhelming majority want an amicable settlement with the farmers happy.
This is what the nation wants, and the union government needs to understand this. In fact any truly patriotic government should actually take a lot of pride in the courage, determination and unity that farmers have shown in the face of very hostile conditions. Any truly patriotic government devoted to building a stronger and better nation would find a lot of pride and happiness at the willingness and determination of its people for enduring great hardships for the greater common good of the nation, and would seek to harness this great potential for very creative and noble aims. Instead the ill-advised union government has pushed itself into a very uncomfortable corner. It needs to come out of this.
Will the Sangh Parivar help the government to emerge from this corner? The Sangh Parivar always talks of patriotism, nation building, saving rural and indigenous heritage from big business. Now is the time to test how true its commitments are. It should play an important role in helping the union government to come out come of its shell and recognize the unifying and nation-building potential of this movement, helping the government to move towards a path where it embraces the farmers at last and also repeals the three controversial farm laws.
Bharat Dogra is a veteran journalist and author. His recent books include Man Over Machine ( Gandhian ideas for our times) and When The Two Streams Met( Freedom Movement of India).