Do Or Die

2020 Farmers' Agitation in Indian Politics

Radhakanta Barik

Indian democracy has reached a stage of no return after 2019 general election as Modi and Shah are ruling without following the Rule of Law. They enacted a law CAA which violates the right to equality among diverse religious groups. They withdrew the basic policy of reservation in promotion with the help of Supreme Court. In six years term Modi has not built any public hospital or university and on the contrary all these public institutions are going to be sold to some private players as the decision has been taken in the previous budget. During Covid-19, millions of workers lost their jobs and they walked on the streets. Not allowing basic facilities like public transport, specifically trains, is against democracy. Modi government has brought the legislation against farmers without holding a discussion neither with the opposition nor farmers interest groups. All the laws against working class have been passed without any discussion in the parliament. Accountability is the most important component of democracy but here no accountability as all public institutions such as CAG, Election Commission and Judiciary are getting manipulated by Modi government. All these actions show that democracy in India is shrinking. Mr Kant, a loyal bureaucrat after retirement has been reappointed by Modi who is telling that Indian public are demanding more democracy which is hypocritical as civil servants should not speak out these things. He is violating the rules of civil service as he is a loyalist of Modi brigade.

Indian politics has a reached a stage of no return. It is going to be more towards to people of India. Today the people of India are asserting. The preamble of Indian constitution has come to work at the grass roots level. So it seems. Farmers' agitation is the starting point which has got a united struggle against the Modi regime. Modi is facing the challenge from people of India. The judgment on peasant protest by the Supreme Court is not a judgment. It has given a comment on the movement. That they have right to protest. But the real story remains unanswered as the constitutionality of the three agricultural laws got challenged in the court. As these laws are unconstitutional as agriculture is listed in the state list. So prima facie they are bad in law. For one thing Modi is behaving like a monarch rather than an elected leader of Indian Republic.

Rural people have a different scale of measuring wealth. Some years back they used to measure in terms of land. Now they look at the productivity of land. Who has produced how many quintals of rice? People discuss his name, not his father's name. Producer is getting recognised not by the family name. The same way people look at individual labour what is his earnings. It is measured in terms of his income per month. Labourers who are working in the Middle East have better income. Slowly society is coming out of ownership of land to a scale in terms of market economy. Farmers because of procurement price have been able to live with some respectability. This has encouraged them to invest in agriculture with an aim to improve their productivity.

Ashutosh Varshney an American neo con writes about the farmers politics as mass and elite conflict. He has poor understanding of two states such as Punjab and Haryana regarding the elite having their roots in agrarian society. Most of the industrialists have roots in agriculture and they carry the surplus and invest in industry. This is the strength of two states and its economies. It is unlike Gujarat where the industrialists are professional banias have no roots in agriculture. They have shifted to Bombay for doing business and many of them turned into industrialists. Five of these industrialists supported Modi as a candidate for the post of Prime Minister. After winning as the Prime Minister he is trying to twist the public policies to satisfy the needs of these five industrialists. They have made money by doing business with Modi in terms of defence production and demonitisation but today struck up doing politics with the farmers and workers. These movements are rooted in economy and the farmers are not ready to lose their land as they have a strong attachment to land. Allowing the contract farming is affecting their economy and psychology as well. Their children are everywhere in the world in academics and business and farming. Such a strong bond cannot be underplayed. They are the backbone of the farmers' protest against Modi. They look at Modi as the agent of these five industrialists who are sitting in Bombay having no root in agriculture or culture of India. Here mass politics has brought close affinity with the elite politics which stand on its own and are not going to be cowed down to the six rounds of discussions with Modi's ministers. They have to withdraw the agrarian laws which affect the interests of farmers all over India. This movement has taken a shape of all India character as it is creating hope for democracy where every class has right to bargain with the government.

After testing the popular support for the farmers' protest from the Northern India, specifically UP, Rajasthan and MP today the government is seriously rethinking of its rigid stand on the demand of peasants. It seems that in a country like India the peaceful peasant struggles launched by Gandhi, Nehru and Left created fear in the minds of the British rulers. Today the same peaceful movement has created fear in the most powerful regime of Modi and Shah in Delhi.

NGOs working among Muslims went to provide food and tea to farmers on strike in Gaziabad road who got harassed by the Police men of UP. Policemen wanted to know their religious identity and once they knew that they were Muslims, they were simply advised not to attend the farmers' agitation. But they refused to kowtow to the policemen and provided the farmers tea and snacks. The ploy to utilise religious divide failed.

Modi government wants to destroy the farmers as a class of self respected people who work hard and produce wealth and he wants they need to be servants of corporate houses. A young scholar went to the site of farmers' agitation and told them he had never seen a farmer in his short life and he wanted to understand the problems of farmers by putting question to farmers and all his questions got answered. He had shared a meal with them in langar. And came back to discuss with his friend journalist who was reporting from this site. All her queries he answered and found the problems with the three legislation made without consulting them. He understood the meaning of procurement price which is cruciall for survival of farmers. He put a question regarding the Corona and got an answer that it is a plea of the present central government to create corona authoritarianism.

Surjit S Bhalla writes in his article on Socialism for rich farmers does not explain the anxieties of farming community in general and small farmers in particular who are losing their grains and land to Ambani and Adani and to other agro industries. Lakhs of farmers are on the street demanding for repealing the agricultural legislation as the government had not consulted them. Farming community has survived the history but for the first time they are being threatened of extinction because of the present policy. He does not explain the reasons behind the hurriedly passing out these bills without even discussing the issues with the Opposition. Farmers have right to protest and protest for better treatment from the state which is under Modi has identified with the Ambani and Adani unfortunately. They have been paid compensation in terms of tax concession and various other financial facilities, in return they have not been able to have a positive growth in Industry whereas the farmers with the procurement price much lower than real price are having positive rate of growth of three percentages during Covid -19. State could have done something for the farmers but now these three acts are going to kill them.

Niti Aayog CEO Mr Kant spoke that reforms are not possible in India because "we have too much of a democracy." This is the idea of the neoconservatives of American academy. One of them Ashutosh Vashney teaching in American university wrote an article in comparing reforms and growth in India and China where he blamed 'too much democracy." The failure of Indian development is because of lack of democracy. As democracy believes in discussion with various interest groups and come to a conclusion which is being defined by a liberal political scientist Eastern but here the best example is the passing of three agricultural legislations got passed by the present government without any discussion. When the issue of discussion came up in the parliament and the speaker expelled the Opposition members and passed the bill. Here Kant needs to know how much democracy was there when these bills got passed. Today farmers all over India want the scrapping of these legislations which should have done by the government but government is playing tricks as a sign of too much democracy.

Gandhi's non cooperation idea has been used by the farmers against three illegal legislations. Gandhi's social boycott policy is getting used now by boycotting products of Ambani and Adani. It seems that farmers are proving smarter than Modi and Shah as they are working for the big business. Once their products get abandoned then Modi and Shah will have a crazy moment in Indian politics. This is the strategy introduced by the best manager of Football club Mourino who uses this strategy for stopping the player who sends the ball to the strikers. His novel method worked against the powerful team in the world Real Madrid and defeated them by the English club.

On the political sky there are dark clouds as the Modi government has succeeded to destroy the public institutions. People are losing faith over these institutions. Farmers' movement creates hope and there is lightening coming to earth crossing dark clouds. They can play a decisive role in creating accountability over the ruling establishment. Educated people are returning back from cities as they do not get the jobs. All major public sector industries are on sale to the private players. Farmers have lurching fear in their minds and hearts and they may be losing their land and livelihoods to the industrialists.

It is fascinating to hear the agitating peasants and their leaders having so much clarity regarding the political and economic situation in India. They think and rightly so that Modi does not understand the farming community as he has never lived among them. The economic plight of peasants he does not understand. The Bharatiya Janata Party is basically a party of north Indian traders. All these three laws have come in negotiation with some industrialists not with the farmers. Modi after the general election has forgotten the democratic procedures and for which he is showing his authoritarian personality which is undemocratic. Farmers are not alone and they are being supported by the students and workers and transporters of India. Artists and writers are standing with them. The movement is getting momentum which may destroy the politics of Hindutva. This fear is forcing them to go for discussion with the leaders of farmers.

Vol. 53, No. 30, Jan 24 - 30, 2021