New Delhi: It is a mega win for the sons of the soil, the reapers of our food bowl – the farmers of India, who have been protesting since November 25, 2020, against the contentious farm laws, that has now been decided to be repealed by the Union government.
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the repeal of the three controversial farm laws that caused massive protests by sections of farmers across the country, Rakesh Tikait, national spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, leading the farmers’ movement took to Twitter to his give his first reaction.
The farmer leader tweeted that the agitation shall continue till the day when the agricultural law will be completely repealed in both the houses of the Parliament. He added that along with the MSP, the government should also discuss other issues of farmers.
The protests began on November 25 last year when thousands of farmers – mainly from Punjab, Haryana and West Uttar Pradesh – marched towards the national capital demanding a complete repeal of the legislations, as part of a “Dilli Chalo” campaign.
The Indian government promulgated the three farm bills on June 5, 2020. The three farm bills: The Farmer’s (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020: the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020. These three Bills saw the agri-sector in India being transitioned from a government-run to a private-run sector.
The Ordinance was passed in Lok Sabha on September 17, 2020 and in September 20, 2020 in the Upper House of the parliament following which farmers in Punjab announced a three-day rail rook in September 24, 2020.
Farmers across India took to the streets in response to a call by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC). After sporadic protests against the new farm laws, including a nationwide road blockade on November 3, farmers’ unions in Punjab and Haryana gave the call for a ‘Delhi Chalo’ Movement. The Delhi Police, however, rejected their request to march to the capital city citing Covid-19 protocols.
Farmers marching towards Delhi faced water cannons, tear gas as the police tries to disperse them at Haryana’s Ambala district. Later, police allowed them to enter Delhi for their peaceful protest at Nirankari ground in North-West Delhi.
Union government’s intervention: Amit Shah, PM Modi comes forward for talks
Union Home Minister Amit Shah offered to hold talks with farmers as soon as they vacate Delhi border and move to the designated protest site in Burari. Howeverm farmers rejected his offer, demanding to hold the protest at Jantar Mantar. In his Mann Ki Baat programme held on November 29, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said all political parties had been making promises to the farmers but it was his government that fulfilled their promises.
The Government’s Blame Game
After multiple Bharat Bandh’s and truck rallies, the farmer leaders continued to reject the Union government’s proposal to amend the three contentious laws and vowed to further intensify their agitation until the laws are repealed.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad alleged the hand of ‘tukde tukde’ gang in farmer protests and said the government was open to talks with farmers, but it was the farmer leaders who are not willing to talk. The government slammed “celebrities and others” for their comments in support of farmer protests, calling them “neither accurate nor responsible”. This came after pop icon Rihanna, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and lawyer-author Meena Harris, niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris, spoke out on the farmer protests.
The cyber-crime cell of the Delhi Police registered an FIR on charges of “sedition”, “criminal conspiracy” and “prompting hatred” against the creators of a ‘toolkit’ on farmer protests, which was shared by Thunberg. The Delhi Police even arrested a 21-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi for allegedly “editing” the toolkit shared by Thunberg.
To substantiate its allegation that the Republic Day violence by a section of farm protesters was “a deep-rooted, well-orchestrated conspiracy”, the Delhi Police has cited a “rise” in sale of tractors in Punjab and Haryana between November 2020 and January 2021. The “sale of tractors rises to a considerable extent rapidly in a well-orchestrated conspiracy and with the sole object…to take tractors to Delhi for agitation and protest,” says the chargesheet.
However, data from the Tractor and Mechanisation Association (TMA), whose figures the Delhi Police has cited, also show a similar high year-on-year sales growth trend across India — at 51.25 per cent in November, 43.09 per cent in December and 46.75 per cent in January.
Spokespersons of Conspiracy – Media Houses supporting the government
The problem with the farmers’ agitation is that these labeling, giving bad names to conspiring for a more vicious attitude towards them did not work. The farmers quickly made clear that it was their sons and brothers who were defending India’s borders. When the labeling strategy fell apart, it was as if the government if India lapsed into a period of confusion. It was during this period that the media was dragooned into supporting the government. Private news channels, some more servile than Doordarshan, continue to spread the word that the government has been flexible and the farmers obdurate. The chaos in Delhi on Republic Day was splashed across top news channels where farmers were almost seen as a terror to the people of Delhi, blamed for causing violence.
Most people find it hard to understand why unarmed farmers should be treated as if they were enemy troops waiting to attack India. It is his mishandling of the farmers’ agitation that even the tweet of a pop star has so rattled the confidence of the mighty Government of India that it soon spread innate numbers of conspiracy theories.
The Martyrs of the soil
Not ‘big’ but ‘small’ farmers have died during the agitation that rocked the Central borders along Delhi. Facing the rain, seated under the scorching sun, farmers have reaped the toil of their long drawn protests that touched almost a year. But one cannot forget the deaths of 600 farmers (claimed by the farmer leaders) that made the agitation sustain for so long and accomplishing the aim all have been protesting long for.
Farmers said though more than 600 activists have died during the protests, they were going to stay put on Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders of Delhi till the Centre repealed the three contentious farm laws.
Even after multiple controversies, efforts of the government to deflect the attention and cause dissentions in farmers’ unity bore no fruits. From talks to clear out the road to Delhi, or asking various groups to prepare to attack the protesters, the farmers agitation saw the rise of the common man, the win of the son of the soil – The farmers have won.