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 as the basis of democracy. They enacted a law CAA which violates the right to equality among diverse religious groups. They withdrew the basic policy of reservation with the help of Supreme Court that no reservation in the promotion which affects social democracy in India. 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 Amitabh 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 bhakta of Modi.

Indian politics has a reached a stage of no return. It is going to be more towards to people of India. Today we the people of India are asserting them. This is the preamble of Indian constitution has come to work at the grass roots level. Farmers’ agitation is the starting point which has got a united struggle against the Modi regime. If they fail then Modi will have no future. All his selling of public sector units is going to be stopped by the people of India. Modi is facing the challenge from people of India. For survival of Modi they need to agree to the demands of the farmers which mean that they have to withdraw the agricultural laws and enact a new law. This is going to be negotiated law with the farmers. There is no alternative to it. RSS will be isolated like after the death of Gandhi which will push the BJP into wilderness for two decades. Modi has common sense which is very uncommon. Let us test his common sense that he comes down to discuss with the farmers and settle the issue. Nothing less than it.

The judgment on kisan 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. For Modi he behaves like a monarch rather than an elected leader of Indian Republic. Supreme Court is scared of the mass protest of farmers and they are scared of Modi, Ambani and Adani for which this sort of remark on the kisan movement has come.

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 recognized 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. Labour who are working in the middle East having 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. 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 movement 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 kisans. It seems that in a country like India the peaceful kisan struggles launched by Gandhi, Nehru and Left created fear in the minds of the British rule. Today the same peaceful movement has created fear in the most powerful regime of Modi and Shah in Delhi. Kisan movement is going to win the war if not battle in the end.

NGO 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 know that they are Muslims and they were  advised not to attend the farmers' agitation. But they attended the farmers’ agitation and provided the farmers tea and snacks. A journalist interviewed them and these women activists raised their voice clearly and there is no such difference between Muslims and Sikhs and Hindus among farmers which is absolutely wrong.

After seeing the resignation of a senior IPS officer Jakhar from Punjab government on the issue of supporting the farmers struggle against the Modi government for enacting three agricultural legislation which is intended to handover agriculture to Ambani and Adani. Today a Professor friend told me, ‘how can you be a farmer's son? As you worked as Professor in Delhi.' I answered him that my father as a farmer sacrificed everything for us. He reduced his expenditure to two gamachas and my mother having one torn sari explains that we are children of farmers first then professors. Their memory guides us to work hard in the city of Delhi in the domain of production of knowledge where as my parents used to work as in the production of wealth. They did not get price for their grains for which they suffered worst. Today his grand children working as farmers on the same land and getting procurement price for which they are able to educate their children without so much pains. Farmers’ sacrifice for building the nation can be calculated. Ashok Mitra's study Terms of trade show that for a long period agriculture did not get proper price till procurement price got introduced. I sympathetic with Jakhar a police officer resigning by saying that whatever he is for his father's sacrifice as a farmer.

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 Ambani and Adani are not accepted by the farmers and their sons and daughters wherever they are and whatever position they are holding today. A young scholar went to the site of farmers’ agitation and told them he has never seen a farmer in his short life and he wants 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 has been 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 a critical for survival for 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. In early 1970s a friend of mine with a good public school background and St Stephens and JNU went for an interview for a scholarship where he was put a question: Have you seen farmer? He innocently answered no. He later joined civil service and turned to be a good historian on rural India.

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 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 policies are going to kill them. Johny walker sang a beautiful song on Bombay "Bombay meri jan" where he defines the business "gala kata na’, business ‘kahate hai'. Today big business is ready to cut the throats of kisans all over India which is going to be called as freedom of doing business and farmers protest against these business houses will be known as 'too much democracy. After seeing the sufferings of the kisans of India today on the national high way who are protesting against the legislation one remembers the tragedy king of Bollywood Dilip Kumar on his birthday that he acted in a film related to farmers problems in Ganga Jamuna. He carried the sufferings of farmers who used to be subordinated to the landlords. In his  autobiography he mentions it that the sufferings of farmers are still there. His words reverberate in the ears of kisans of all over India. Today Landlord has got replaced with the Ambani and Adani. The Modi is working as villain in the whole script. He carried the sufferings of lovers as they were not allowed to love each other get articulated in a film Devdas. Today Love Jihad is threatening the young lovers of India. He worked as a middle class father getting concerned of the wayward son which is a regular activity in India at the stage of highest unemployment rate. Dilip kumar acted in variety of roles carrying the sufferings of father to kisan to unemployed youth and sufferings of honest officer etc. Sufferings of Indians are best articulated in body language of Dilip Kumar who is in real sense Shakespeare's Hamlet an intellectual and artist having immense sufferings within his heart and mind.

 Niti Aayog CEO Mr Amitabh Kant spoke that reforms are not possible in India because "we are 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 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.
For last fortnight mobilisation of farmers is going on which results in a discussion issues related to farmers in distant villages and small towns and big cities. This is getting debated in the drawing rooms of middle class. Middle class locality of Dwaraka and Janakpuri of Delhi have supported the India Bandha. For the first time middle class are getting into political whirlpool of class politics. As an observer of the political situation one finds that the Love Jihad law has been passed to bring people into social imaginary of religion and caste are not drawing crowd. It seems that class politics is helping the policemen to have a sound sleep in their barracks or homes. No love jihad no lynching any discussion on beef related issues which create a hope that we must start work in a social imaginary of class rather than religion to bring stability to Indian democracy.

Gandhi's non cooperation 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 kisans are proving smarter than Modi and Shah as they are working for the Ambani and Adani. 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. Kisans are proving smarter than the Modi and Shah government.

Success in all India strike has put pressures on the government that today the most important person of the Modi government Shri Amit Shah will initiate the dialogue with the leaders of farmers. This is the strike creates new experience with the farmers as they are people involved in local society. Furthermore agricultural activity is a continuous activity which compels them to stick to their land and home. For almost twenty days they are away from their main occupation. They have taken a decision that they have to sit under the sky which inspires them to keep sitting against Modi government. Any success or failure does not matter as they have encouraged people of India that Modi is tiger in the book not real one. This is going to create momentum in Indian democracy.

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 create 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. This fear has pushed them to the streets of Delhi and  there was going to be Bharat Bandh and the call given by the farmers body at all India level. We as teachers needed to support them which can change the balance of forces against the ruling establishment. This can save democracy.

It is fascinating to hear the kisans and their leaders having so much clarity regarding the political and economic situation in India. They are telling that Modi does not understand the kisans as he has never lived among them. The economic plight of kisans he does not understand. As the RSS and BJP are the parties of the traders who want to make profit out of the difficulties created for kisans. All these three bills have come in negotiation with the some industrialists not with the farmers. Farmers of Punjab has a tradition of fighting their battle as whenever any problem regarding MSP came up and it was the chief minister with kisans were on the Jantar Mantar. That is a sensitive issue for all the Indian farmers and farmers of Punjab. The present government has forgotten it. Furthermore they realized the importance of god and Ram is not their god as whenever they till the land and they find god there. This brings truth regarding their god not their religion. The Ram Mandir issue turned into a dead issue for the farmers.  The criminals belonging to RSS destroyed the Babri Masjid for construction of Ram Temple which is being questioned by the farmers. They find god in their heart not outside their body as Kabir says. All these wisdom they carry from their parents they are guiding themselves in the war against the Modi Shah government. Modi did not hold any discussion on three agricultural legislations raised by the leaders of the opposition on the floor of parliament. The issues are being raised by the leaders of the Kisan movement. The government is being forced to hold discussions with the leaders of Kisans on all these issues but no conclusion. The issue is being raised that those three legislations have passed undemocratically and need to be scrapped. For the first time the Agriculture Minister gave hints that they might go any extent to settle the issues raised by the leaders of the Kisan movement. 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.

Prof Radhakanta Barik (retd), Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi

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Dec 21, 2020

Prof. Radhakanta Barik

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