'Flowers May Be Cut…'

The Modi government has done everything to cut all communications. The roads have been blocked; trenches have been dug to prevent tractors from entering the city; beds of sharp nails have been laid out to injure and hurt intentionally those trying to cross the boundaries. Not only that, files of armed policemen are standing guard to watch out against the enemies, the, enemies of the nation, described variously as 'deshodrohis', 'andolonjivis' and 'parajivies' by the Modi dispensation.

And, on top of all that looms large the long shadow of the massive second wave of Covid-19 pandemic. It has been aggravated to no small extent by the opinionated leader who understands little but has faith in all the Hindu myths and rituals for fighting it. It is dangerous, but as one of the leaders of the farmers movement said, the three livelihood threatening farm laws are even more dangerous.

Delhi feels like a besieged city where even news cannot travel across the border in this digital age. The obliging national media has seen to that. Let alone the official media, even the private media well-paid with advertisements from the government and the corporates are sufficiently compromised. If they do not fall in line lured by lucrative advertisements, they are threatened with legal and tax harassments. Falling out of line is very costly both in terms of money and harassment from this regime. This democratically elected government feels duty bound to silence all dissidents. So fake news, and manufactured news, and propaganda are fed to the public to dry up support for the farmers, treated almost as hordes of terrorist enemies waiting at the border.

And yet, there is a paradox in such situations. Opposite political tendencies gradually build up almost in a dialectical development in any live movement with the action setting off reaction. The more the government tries to tighten its grip on dissent by cutting out all communications and shutting genuine dialogues, the more new ways of communication are invented by the farmers' collective. As the circle of dissent widens, brutal severing of communications begins to create new bonds not visible before. It is a well-known feature of social behavior that people act in greater solidarity to cope with disasters like earthquakes. Something like this seems to be happening.

The immense power of solidarity that moves mountains to fight back the authoritarian imposition of state power materialises only when the traditional fault lines and divisions in the society begin to be overcome. Probably more than any other country in the world India has many such fault lines. It is customary to gloss over them under the slogan of 'unity in diversity' but actual power of a movement does not depend on such high-sounding platitudes. Genuine solidarity is forged through wise handling of these diversities. The most remarkable thing about this farmers' movement is its intuitive and non-doctrinaire understanding of this, perhaps more acutely than political parties. This is why it is different from movements of political parties. And, if this continues like this, it is likely to grow from strength to strength, perhaps even indicating a new direction for Indian politics. The coming of spring seems possible now, maybe inevitable.

 As the farmers camped indefinitely on the border, the Gurudwara culture of 'service to all' like eating and working together broke the barrier to an extent. However this would have remained only symbolic, until the message began to percolate widely that the minimum support price (MSP) for agricultural produce through the public distribution system (PDS) as outlet for availability of food for the poor are two sides of the same food security system. A closer reading of the three laws makes clear how the government was determined to dismantle any such notion of food security system by refusing to legalise MSP, by making free private profiteering the inevitable outcome through deregulation of hoarding of essential commodities including processed food items (like rice) and allowing trading including electronic trading permissible anywhere without tax. Not surprisingly, the support base of the farmers for repealing the laws began to widen as it resonated also with Dalit landless and semi- landless agricultural workers. A dramatic expansion across India started taking place when the traditional 'Khap' panchayats of Haryana and UP that were the bastions of the upper caste opened up their doors as 'mahapanchyats' inviting all to join the meetings against the farm laws. Many people's causes that were dormant for years, many disparate social movements that never captured the imagination of the people, and many mountains of indifferences are crossed. New initiatives spring up to celebrate the innovative genius of the massive movement.

The war has not been won yet, and mobilisation goes on, on both sides. Many flowers may be cut, but 'Spring can no longer be prevented from coming'.


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Vol. 53, No. 46, May 16 - 22, 2021