Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

31
Mar

Farmers Protest: Belagavi Mahapanchayat

   Posted by: aman

March 31, 2021

Day 126

Toll 336

#FarmersProtest

Belagavi (Belgaum) Mahapanchayat

Did we urban folks know that since 2000, for 16 years, North Karnataka has faced drought or flash floods. Both have devastated the farmers who in spite of sowing Ragi, a dry-land crop, have not been able to get adequate harvests.

Just like we urban folks perhaps do not know that today the Samyukt Kisan Morcha with support from the Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha and Hasiru Sene is organising a huge Belagavi Mahapanchayat. This Mahapanchayat on the back of two earlier ones at Shivamogga and Haveri is expected to draw 50,000 people. Lapdog media, even print, is not reporting it.

Like it is not reporting that a Mitti Satyagraha by the National Alliance of People’s Movements is on in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Assam and Punjab. Given how the government disrupted the farmer leaders’ press conference in Ahmedabad three days back and arrested farmer leaders, it is significant that a Mitti Satyagraha is starting from Dandi today and will reach Shajahanpur on April 5 and from there to Tikri, Singhu and finally Ghazipur.

You may remember the right-wing call a few years back for iron from each village of the country to build the Sardar Patel statue which was finally given to a Chinese firm. The Mitti Satyagraha is not like that. This is soil from the nation which will go into making the Martyr’s Memorials of the farmer’s protest on the borders.

Unlike the Patel statue, these memorials won’t be ticketed. All they need is your support. Unlike the elections where people have not even cast their vote and there is talk about how many MLAs the BJP will buy in each state, the farmers are challenging the paradigm. To know it, we urbanites will have to stop relying on lapdog media for news and open our eyes and ears.

28
Mar

Farmers Protest: Emperor’s New Clothes

   Posted by: aman

March 28, 2021

Day 123

Toll 330

#FarmersProtest

Emperor’s New Clothes

No one can deny that we are tired and angry. One-hundred-twenty-three days of protest in extreme winter, sudden hail and rains, and now blistering summer, is no joke. Three-hundred-thirty people are already dead, many more are injured, many have fallen ill. Yet, there has been no word from the government. No effort to resolve the issue and send people home honourably.

We are angry.

The protests sit on a tinderbox of public discontent. For the last four months, farmers have, to the best extent possible, been non-violent. That is why we need to be careful, very careful in how we protest. Apart from the fact that violence derails us, violence is exactly what the government wants from us. Violence can become the government’s excuse to use repression. Violence could lead to escalation. We want resolution, not escalation.

What happened yesterday with Abohar BJP MLA Arun Narang in Malout – pushing, shoving and tearing of clothes in public – is to me a heat of the moment incident. From reports and videos it seems the intent was to throw black ink, but police was taking Narang in and out of a shop, anger built up, the shoving and stripping took place. Narang did not suffer any major injuries. He was discharged from hospital soon after.

Yet, the incident fails our test. No doubt, when hundreds or thousands of people protest there is no saying when the outburst can turn even slightly violent. That is why we need to be careful. There is much anger on the ground, simmering now for many months. If we do not take a stand against such outburst there is no saying who and where can do something slightly more drastic and that would risk not the protests – for they will go on nevertheless – but the goodwill the protests are generating world-wide.

In this battle of people vs powers, this goodwill is our greatest achievement. That is why look at was stripping someone means. Let us ask ourselves if physically stripping someone the best way to advanced our cause?

Yet, we must also notice that stripping someone, while disrespectful, also means uncovering, revealing their truth. Remember the Emperor’s New Clothes? Since day one of the protests the Emperors’ lies are being shattered, their dark truths are being exposed. I feel, we really do not do need to strip people literally, physically.

We walk a razor’s edge, let us walk it with dignity.

At the same time, the right-wing needs to realise that the method of mob violence, of group attacks, of noise and disturbance that they have used in the past have now come to haunt them. They turned democracy into mob rule, now they need to learn that mobs can also expose them.

It is Karma.

27
Mar

Farmers Protest: Gujarat Model

   Posted by: aman

March 27, 2021

Day 122

Toll 326

#FarmersProtest

Gujarat Model

Right from around 2011, the right-wing has pushed the Gujarat model of development. By the time the fact-seeking journalists could really assess the claim, it was too late. The BJP, having discredited the government of the day UPA 2, especially the Congress, was well on its way to power. I remember many stories in those days questioning the Gujarat model but they did not find takers. The mood of the nation had changed.

As the farmers protests started, news came that farmer leaders in Gujarat were under house arrest, the cadre was not being allowed to assemble. I remember a Samyukt Kisan Morcha press conference late December when finally some Gujarat leaders could participate. They had disguised themselves, escaped house arrest and sneaked into Delhi. At one point only 300 out of planned 3000 farmers from Gujarat could reach Shajahanpur.

Yet, the state government’s oppression continued. On March 12, like every year, on the 91st anniversary of Gandhi’s Salt Satyagraha in 1930, the farmers wanted to take out a rally from Ahmedabad to Dandi. When the Seva Dal and other organisations began a rally with 80 tractors, the police detained the leaders and did not allow the tractors to proceed beyond two kilometres. On March 20th, over 100 farmer leaders representing organisations across Gujarat announced the formation of the Kisan Sangharsh Manch or KASAM, a state-wide platform that aims to launch decentralised district- and block-level protest movements against the new laws.

Since, urban India and rest of India remains quite oblivious to what has been going on in Gujarat, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha decided to highlight the police curbs. Yesterday, with all due process in place, Yudhveer Singh, general secretary, BKU Tikait, and other farmer leaders called for a press conference in Ahmedabad. As if on cue, the police pounced on them and arrested them. Leaders Gajendra Singh, Ranjit Singh, J.K. Patel, and others are now in jail. What was their crime? A press conference when the Constitution gives us freedom of speech? But notice, while the leaders are arrested, it is the police that fell in the trap they had laid. That is the nature of power, it can’t resist demonstration.

Similarly, yesterday when farmer leaders in Karnataka were protesting at Town Hall, they were arrested. Kodihalli Chandrasekhar, Kavita Kuruganti, Bayyareddy, trade union leaders and others were picked up by police in Bangalore. Karnataka police also arrested many protesters in Gulbarga. This when the CM of Karnataka, BS Yediyurappa, has built his whole career projecting himself as a farmer leader, with farmer interests close to his heart.

Yet, once again the lapdog media has failed us. There has been hardly any coverage in mainstream media. However, it is clear, the hypocrisy of the government is getting exposed day by day. Their lies and their draconian policies are being challenged. After those Enforcement Directorate cases, after Income Tax notices, after UAPA threatened, after arrests post January 26th – most arrested now out on bail, the message that goes out is the government is desperate, its best intimidation tactics are no longer working. It is now a matter of time.

Gandhi’s Dandi March ended on April 6 – a day the Gujarat farmers wanted to mark. Now, if these leaders are not released, SKM has stated, their leaders will reach Gujarat to mark the day.

How many will the government arrest?

22
Mar

Farmers Protest: Green Towel

   Posted by: aman

March 22, 2021

Day 117

Toll 313

#FarmersProtest

Green Towel

The two Mahapanchayats in Karnataka – Shivamogga and Haveri – in the last two days have been a great success. Today is a march from the Railway Station to the Vidhan Souda (Assembly) against the Farm Laws.

Through the decades, Karnataka has been a land of great social movements and also in the past few decades, extremely opportunistic politics.

The choice of Shivamogga as a venue for the Mahapanchayat was for two reasons:

a) it is current CM Yediyurappa, also known as a farmer leader, home turf. The question is direct: does BJP’s Yediyurappa support the anti-farmer Farm Laws?

b) In 1951, Kagodu, that falls in the Shivamogga region was the site of the first farmers movement after independence of India. Farmers had protested the measuring instrument Kolaga used to measure produce grown by tenant farmers and demanded ownership of land they were cultivating.

Tikait has exhorted farmers to march to Bangalore on their tractors, to lay siege on Bangalore the way north Indian farmers have laid siege on Delhi. That might be a tall order given how splintered the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) has been in the last decades since the passing away of its founder Prof Mahanta Devaru Nanjundaswamy. MDN also collaborated with Tikait’s father, Baba Tikait, to found the Bhartiya Kisan Union in the 1980s.

Yet, the visit by Tikait, Darshan Pal, Yuddhaveer Singh has re-ignited the farmer’s movement. Both rallies asserted the farmer’s role in the politics of the state. Now it is upon KRRS and Hasiru Sena and many other allied organisations to hold up the struggle in the state and in south India.

In Karnataka, the green towel is a symbol of a fighting farmer. Started by MDN, the swirling of the green shawls/towels in a meeting symbolises assertion, consent to a decision by the union members and a bugle call for a collective fight. The green towel is unfurled, it could potentially change the ground.

An aside, but significant in the writing of history. Yesterday, in a meeting in Bangalore, Darshan Pal said: when we stopped trains in Panjab in October 2020, we started facing shortage of fertilisers and coal. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal met us on November 13th, 2020. He offered to start goods trains if we allowed passenger trains. We were ready to form a committee and discuss our demands with the government but we insisted on blocking passenger trains. Everything could have been settled, but the government did not start the goods trains and we did not form the committee. Then we decided to march to Delhi.

Rest, you know…

Btw, the Q&A in Darshan Pal’s session lasted over an hour. One of the longest I have seen. While the farmers demands are crystal clear, we all understand them, the long sessions shows how much more the movement needs to be made simple, easy to access. I remember when I came to Bangalore in 1998, the famous MDN led KRRS attack on KFC had happened two years back. At that time, in the heyday of neo-liberalism, the news went out as an incident of outrage. MDN had opposed foreign foods. Now, 35 years later, we are so entrenched. It takes us so long to grasp basics – unlearning is hard!

Green Towel waving sequence from the Shivamogga Mahapanchayat, thanks to Gauri Lankesh News.

22
Mar

Farmers Protest: Shivamogga Mahapanchayat

   Posted by: aman

March 20, 2021

Day 115

Toll 308

#FarmersProtest

Shivamogga Mahapanchayat

Many years ago, a Bangalore NGO started a website called: I Paid A Bribe. It was part of a larger global initiative. Did we ever check out the website? Did we ever make an entry there? Now the Jai Kisan Andolan, part of Samyukt Kisan Morcha, has released an ‘MSP Loot Calculator’ based on facts provided on government websites.

It has already calculated that contrary to government’s assurance that ‘MSP was there, is there, will remain’, farmers in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and others have been denied Rs 140 crore on MSP on Chana – Bengal Gram, between March 1 and 15. The harvest season has not even begun yet, the figures will multiply many times.

It is not just MSP. Since January 11, from previous harvest season, in Odisha, Bargarh district, in spite of receiving tokens for sale of more than 3 lakh quintals of paddy, the farmers have not been able to sell. Since then the farmers have been blocking the Sub Collector’s office by dumping thousands of paddy bags against the non procurement of their paddy. Yesterday, a mahapanchayat took place in Chandikhol, Odisha.
In Panjab and Haryana there were huge demonstrations by Arthiya Associations supported by farmers over changed FCI norms of procurement of grains. A huge mahapanchayat took place in Sitamarhi, Bihar. A Mitti Satyagraha started from Bhiwani, Madhya Pradesh.

Farmers affiliated with Karnataka Raajya Raithu Sangha and Hasiru Sena are on a foot march from Basavakalyan to Bellary – 400 km. In 13 days, they have covered 332 km. The spirit along their route is electric – people are welcoming the marchers, they are addressing hundreds of peasants and poor people at village and taluk level.

Last evening, in Bangalore, farmer leaders paid homage to martyred farmers. SKM leaders have arrived at Bangalore for the Mahapanchayat today at Shivamogga and tomorrow at Haveri.

I hope media covers it. After all this is Karnataka, the ‘messiah of farmers’, CM Yediyurappa’s state. After Hindi imposition which met resistance from the ground, if BJP does not acknowledge the farmers resistance, they can jolly well pack their bags in the next elections.

19
Mar

Farmers Protest: Tikait spins the Vaccine

   Posted by: aman

Day 114

Toll 302

#FarmersProtest

Tikait spins the Vaccine

As is his style, Tikait spins the Coronavirus vaccine. Now this will throw a lot of anti-vaxxers – who generally stand with farmers – into a tizzy but please remember general society does not know all your elaborate arguments. I know you have an uphill task on your hands but please read:

1) Sentiment on ground towards COVID-19 is ambiguous at best. Farmers do not deny the illness but believe if Farm Laws are not repealed, then they would be dead anyway – both metaphorically and sadly in many cases literally.

2) With rising numbers it seems a second wave is upon us. It could also be government is now revealing actual numbers and they never really went down. In the first wave, there was no testing for the virus on the protest sites. There were no documented cases either. Doctors attributed this to open air protests, winds, and generally waning numbers.

3) Tikait is actually using the vaccine to bait the government. He asks, police is getting it, others are getting it, why can’t farmers get it? By raising the question, he is actually asking the government if it believes farmers are equal to others? Or are they deliberately othered? If they are equal, why is the government not talking to them? It is close to two months now.

4) Tikait raises an important point on prisoners. He says, prisoners should be vaccinated. In fact, he goes further and comments on the over-stuffed prison system and says society must know how many prisoners are allotted per barrack. His question is based on one of the preventive measures advocated to stop the virus: why aren’t physical distancing norms followed in the prison?

5) It would indeed be wonderful if the government were to listen to farmer leaders. Not on vaccine but their real issues: repeal Farm Laws, legalise MSP. That is not happening. Officially, this is not Emergency when forced vasectomies were performed on hapless citizens.

That is why please do not get agitated and tie yourself up in knots over Tikait’s statement. His statements are a bait. In his own style, he is using the vaccine as a stick to beat the government.

The decision on whether to take the vaccine is still individual, at least for non-government employees which is majority of our nation.

Tikait’s statement here …

18
Mar

Farmers Protest: Defence

   Posted by: aman

March 18, 2021

Day 113

Toll 302

#FarmersProtest

Defence

A few weeks back, an old Sikh on the Singhu border said, ‘I am really thankful to Pakistan and China.’ When asked why, he said, ‘They have not started war with India. Else Panjab would have had to fight both countries.’

When you try mentioning this to ansoojeevi, bhakt, right-wing sitting in TV studios or cushy drawing rooms who label Panjab and Sikhs as anti-national, they do not get it. I hope they would get these figures by their own minister recently in the Parliament.

Here is the contribution of various states to the Army – rank and file. In the graphic, I single out states that contribute over and above their percentage of the nation’s population. Rest all states, contribute below their population. I hope that settles the debate on anti-nationals.

Not that, and I repeat, serving in the Army is the only criteria to determine nationalism. There are many professions one can take on to be good citizens and that to me is enough.
In fact, this government has drawn the biggest wedge between the Jawan and the Kisan, the soldier and the farmer. Now look at another statistic – of resignation from para-military forces.

In the last five years, over 40,000 central forces personnel sought voluntary retirement and 6,529 resigned.

Do these figures tell you something about how our para-military views our government? Does that tell you something about the farmer protests? I hope they do.

Meanwhile, last evening, Ranjit Singh, the young man who was brutally stomped on by police came out of prison on bail.

17
Mar

Farmers Protest: A Million Cuts

   Posted by: aman

March 17, 2021

Day 112

Toll 302

#FarmersProtest

A Million Cuts

For the first time the toll has crossed 300. Yet, there is not a word from the government. In fact, a few weeks back a Haryana leader was crudely dismissive about the deaths. Now, the Haryana government has come out with a new law to suppress protests – Haryana Recovery of Damages to Property during Disturbance to Public Order Bill, 2021. Given this law, the government will find it easier to arrest protesters, impose punishment or dues and supress the voice of the people. Two important protest sites – Singhu and Tikri – are in Haryana.

On the other hand, the Food Corporation of India is coming up with new norms for quality standards and procurement of farm produce. As we know, and is now being repeatedly highlighted through the protests, farming is not the simple throw seeds on ground, wait for rain, harvest, dump in Mandi. Farming is infinitely more complex than us buying what we need off the shelf.

Here is what is already going on since protests began: extreme shortage of gunny sacks to rice shellers. Shellers are the folks who shell the rice from paddy to pack and send it to the FCI to store and distribute. Given the acute shortage of bags, the shellers are clogged with previous season paddy but unable to move it ahead. The pipeline is blocked.

The changed rules limits the acceptance of various categories of paddy/rice:

- Broken grain: 25% is accepted. Now reduced to 20% when on ground broken grain is about 35%.

- Discolouration: 5% was allowed, now reduced to 3%.

- Moisture: 17% was allowed, now reduced to 16%.

- Foreign matter: 2% was allowed, now reduced to 1%.

The changed rules limits the acceptance of various categories of wheat:

- Broken grain: 4% was allowed, now reduced to 2%

- Moisture: 14% was allowed, now reduced 12%; grain won’t be bought even with value cut which was the case earlier.

- Foreign matter: 0.75% was allowed, now reduced to 0.50%

While this will hurt the farmers and the arthiyas, I want to highlight how this is a provision built into the new Farm Laws. In ‘The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020′, see point 4, sub-point 4: ‘The parties entering into a farming agreement may require as a condition that such mutually acceptable quality, grade and standards shall be monitored and certified during the process of cultivation or rearing, or at the time of delivery, by third party qualified assayers to ensure impartiality and fairness’.

Now, no one wants to deliver poor quality of grain. Yet, it is the timing of such new rules – while Kharif season is underway – and their ad hoc nature on what is acceptable or not. It is clear that if the Farm Laws are implemented, there would be many such conditions to curtail acceptance of produce and their sale and these conditions will keep varying according to the needs of corporates.

At another level, recently, the Centre has issued instructions making it mandatory for all farmers to give details of land ownership to get MSP for wheat. We are aware that 82 per cent farmers are small and marginal. In order to be able to farm productively, they take land from other farmers on lease for the season or year. This creates ‘absentee landlordism’. In Panjab, almost 45 per cent of land holdings are leased out by farmers to other cultivators.

Absentee landlordism is definitely an issue but this is not how the government can solve it. What this will do is when I as a farmer have taken five acres to cultivate and deliver my produce in the market, the payment will go to the original owner. That would cause conflict between the original cultivator and me. These are the government’s tactics to dismantle the procurement regime and punish the farmers.

Now tell me, what can the farmers do but protest against these million cuts?

16
Mar

Farmers Protest: United Nations

   Posted by: aman

March 16, 2021

Day 111

Toll 296

#FarmersProtest

United Nations

Over the past few weeks, especially after the incidents of January 26th, the farmers protests have gone international. While lapdog media in India is largely blanking out the immense horizontal growth of the protests by ways of mahapanchayats and now election campaigns, on ground the protests are spreading like wildfire.

Of course, for vertical growth we need dialogue with the government which are being consistently denied for close to 50 days now. But then vertical growth can happen in other ways too – through spread and reach.

I was not aware that the United Nations actually has a ‘United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas’, sponsored by Bolivia and adopted by the United Nations in 2018. It is very telling that when it was adopted 119 voted For, 7 voted Against, 49 Abstained. I just looked up the list of votes. Most Yes were from Asia and Africa – the developing nations, and most No and Abstain were from Europe and South America.

India has signed this Declaration.

Yesterday, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha spokesperson Dr Darshan Pal addressed the UN session. His statement is brief but on a loop. Do listen.

We know the United Nations has been rendered rather toothless now. Still, that there exists a ‘UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants …’ and the vote on it is itself an indication on how capital is controlled at the global level. When we look at any protest, any struggle, we need to know what is its highest level of conflict. We know in the case of farmers protests it is not just the current government but the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund. Now, I learnt that a huge ally is the United Nations. How it will play out is yet to be seen.

The Declaration itself is elaborate. Notice how it raises every issue that the farmers are raising:

Article 3: Equality

Article 4: Women

Articles 5 and 18: Right to Nature

Articles 6, 7, 8 and 9: Liberties and civil and political rights

Article 10, 11 and 12: Justice, Right to Participation and Information

Article 13, 14 and 16: Labour Rights

Article 17: Right to Land

Article 19: Right to Seeds

Article 20: Right to Biodiversity

Article 21: Right to water and clean water systems

Articles 22 and 23: Right to health and social security

Article 24: Right to Housing

Article 25: Right to Education

Article 26: Cultural rights, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions

What I found most important and it has been missing in our discourse cantered around monies and requirements of a changed India society over half a century is:

Article 15: Food Sovereignty.

That, to me is core and exactly what WTO and IMF are against so the developed world keeps us the developing world as its slaves – not literally but in debt and hence servile.

On the other hand, at the high visibility Grammy awards, Canadian YouTuber Lilly Singh wore a mask supporting farmers.

That too has gone viral.

15
Mar

Farmers Protest: Campaign

   Posted by: aman

March 15, 2021

Day 110

Toll 296

#FarmersProtest

Campaign

It all depends on what is our news feed, what are our channels of information. If you were me, you would be impressed by now with the effort the farmer leaders are putting in the elections and other states. That too without asking for votes themselves.

Tikait has been campaigning tirelessly in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Bengal. On March 20th he is coming to Karnataka for a Mahapanchayat. Yesterday, I saw Rajewal in a rally in Kolkata. He said they are going to fan out in all 294 Bengal constituencies to carry forward the message: a fistful of rice for every vote. Give us Minimum Support Price.

I keep getting links from friends and family showing me how clearly the world media is calling out the draconian government and its anti-people policies. The farmers protests, today railway employees will join protests, public sector bank employees are on protests, has disrupted and upturned carefully crafted narrative over last seven years. They pull off the veil and lay bare the government’s hypocrisy.

Police has been trying to disrupt the protests – cycle yatra in Tamil Nadu, Dhandi March commemorative in Gujarat. Yet, the tenacious protesters persist. The whole of Uttar Pradesh, much of Bihar and Jharkhand are now lit. As leaders come to south India, given how BJP has bungled with first list seat distribution in Bengal and will in other states, the momentum will continue to grow.

Seriously, what can be a bigger movement than this? What it will achieve, is yet to be seen. I only wish the elections are fair. Many of us suspect they are not. But full marks to farmers for effort and diligence.