On November 19 the Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi announced the important decision of repealing three highly controversial farm laws. This decision should be widely welcomed cutting across narrow narrow political divides.
The Prime Minister has been full of praise for his government’s farm policies and in fact even for the farm laws even while agreeing to repeal the three farm laws, saying only that as the government was not able to convice the farmers regarding the usefulness of the three laws these are being repealed. This praise is not justified, but we can leave this debate for another day. Now is the time to celebrate the victory of farmers, and also pay our homage to the nearly 700 farmers who died in the course of the year long agitation.
The movement on Delhi borders was only a week away from completing its one year. However if we count the earlier days of sporadic protests then the movement has already completed about 16 or 17 months. The fact that such a long movement continued peacefully while gaining strength and spread, culminating in the acceptance of its most important demand, is quite an important and wider victory for democratic struggles in India and should be celebrated as such.
At the same time this should also be seen as a reconcilation gesture. If the difference between government and opposition becomes so wide that there is no room for dialogue, then this is not good for democracy. So the opposition should on the whole welcome at least this single step of the government, alhough of course there is need to remain critical about the overall farm policy of the government.
The Modi government has been known to be very unresponsive to criticism in the past and this is for the first time that in a very important context it has taken back something that it had been defending and propagating very strongly.Whatever may have been the political compulsions of this decision with approaching elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh , this decision of the Modi government should be nevertheless welcomed for its willingness at last in listening to public criticism and dissenting vews regarding its policies and responding to them in a democratic way.
The fact that such a concilatory gesture has been made on such an auspicious occasion as Guru Nanak Jayanti adds further to our happiness. This is a long awaited day of happiness and we will celebrate it with a great sense of solidarity, at the same time rememberng the martyrs who sacrified their life in the course of this great movemet which, despite several limitations, will be remembered for a long time in the history of democratic struggles in India.
Bharat Dogra is Convener, Campaign to Protect Earth Now. He has contributed nearly 50 articles supporting the farmers’ movement in English and Hindi, while also pointing out some limitations. His recent books include Man Over Machine-A Path tp Peace and Protecting Earth for Children.