Archive for the ‘Punjab’ Category


Farmers Protests: Harvest of Dissent, Baffler

   Posted by: aman

Dear Friends,

A few days back Sharanya Deepak interviewed me on the farmers protests. Please read her piece that mentions PANJAB, my quotes and much more in this prominent Left-wing American journal. This is an in-depth piece on the protests – explaining the Laws and the resistance, weaving in a plethora of voices.

Let the voice of farmers reach all corners of the world. See more here …

Thank you Sharanya.

Sayantan Bera from Mint looks up the faces who are negotiating with the government in the farmers protests. he mentions PANJAB and quotes me as well.

“Unless you get the cow-belt to protest, the goals of the movement could prove to be elusive,” said Sandhu.

Do see more here … Faces of Protests_Mint_07012021

Facebook January 7, 2021

Day 43

Water and fire are both cleansing elements – embodiment of energies. Water’s property is having cleaned, it carries all the dirt in it and itself needs to be cleaned for use later. Fire, on the other hand, burns all and is always pristine clean.

The Fire practice is ancient, it is about survival, it predates organised religion. One of the earliest signs of civilization: in jungles when hunter gatherers used it to prevent attack from wild life, to cook food, to keep warm in the open. In the sub-continent, the Dhuni, the Havan, the Homa – whatever you may call a burning fire – has been part of Vedic religions and later Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism.

While Havan and Homa are for particular religious events – oblations; Dhuni is an unbroken tradition of fire to honour Shakti – the primordial cosmic energy. In that sense, kisani, farming, too pre-dates religion, is about civilisation.

This Dhuni under the Ghazipur Flyover started on November 27th when farmers from west UP just arrived to protest the Farm Laws. It remains a constant fire, embers in day hours, flames in night.

Veteran farmer leader Ranbir Singh, extreme left says, ‘This dhuni will continue until we are here, until the government repeals the Laws’.

Ranbir ji knows, he was in Delhi with Baba Mahendra Singh Tikait in 1988. ‘Even that time the Rajiv sarkar had to concede to our demands. What is this government? See the Tractor March on Thursday, then see it on January 26, you will know.’

Dear Friends,

it is always a pleasure when a book of its times is read in the current times and is found relevant. Sukhjit Singh reads PANJAB: Journeys Through Fault Lines in the context of the farmers protests.

From the first words, ‘Je ho ji tu samjhe mahiya, Oho ji main hain nahin’ ‘What you know of me, my dear, I am not that’, as the epigram to the last words 553 pages later, ‘However, like all communities painted into a corner, Panjab is a lot about not accepting how anyone understands it,’ Amandeep Sandhu’s ‘PANJAB – Journeys Through Fault Lines’ is an attempt, not the first, nor hopefully the last, but a sincere, detailed, timely and a significant one, at understanding the enigma that is Panjab. …

Should Sandhu have undertaken his journeys and made this call of his Panjab much earlier? Because it appears that Panjab has heard him. It has risen.

The fault lines are being challenged.

For more see here …

Facebook 31/12/2020

Dear Friends,

I am sure over the years you would have noticed my posts have been political, they call out wrongs by government or political parties, but they never promote any political party. This is because for a very long time now I have believed political parties in India, whatever be their compulsions, do not represent the general will of people in the country.

I know most of us look at our society in terms of political parties but I feel that is because we are accustomed to the ritual of electoral democracy, not because any political party actually serves anything more than their own needs. I confess, I do not know what is the solution, but I find my own time best fulfilled if I spend it listening to people instead of politicians.

That is why this post is an exception.

Yesterday, my MLA Sowmya Reddy from Bengaluru joined me at the #FarmersProtest at Singhu border. It was clear between us that she is coming like an ordinary citizen, coming to experience how farmers have mounted and are sustaining the biggest uprising against the Hindutva government propaganda machinery.

Sowmya was quite moved upon looking at the trolleys, the people, the food and medical stalls, the posters, she remarked: ‘I thought people in a protest would be angry, edgy. This is a Mela – a fair!’

I said, ‘assan nachh ke yaar manavange’ – we shall dance our way to repealing the Black Laws.

‘I swear, the whole of India should see this, the whole of India must rise,’ she said as she delayed her flight, spent more than three hours, partook langar, enjoyed herself and was intensely moved. ‘I have never seen something like this in my life!’

Last night, the defence minister’s statement, the government agreeing that Electricity and Pollution Ordinances will be scrapped, shows us we are all standing on the correct side of time.

We will succeed!

Dear Friends,

one of my pleasures during the Farmers Protest has been speaking to urban India print journalists (non-lapdog media) who connect to learn about rural realities. This is actually ironical or a statement on how far urban India is from rural India. At Partition and Independence 75% of the nation was rural, agrarian. Today 53% of the nation is rural, agrarian. Basically, given increase of population, we have moved 22% people from rural to urban – our bludgeoning urban middle class. We are all one or two generations away from rural India. Instead of talking to me, they can talk to their grandparents.

I love the eagerness, the openness to learn of these young journalists.  Many of them have browsed or read the book. It results in their being able to process what they are witnessing at the protest sites.

Sayantan Bera called a few days back to understand the ‘do or die’ spirit. We talked about how martyrdom is revered in the Sikh religion and Panjab culture. A history of three millennia where Panjab has stood up to defend its land and the Indian sub-continent.

Please see here … Mint_Farmer Protests 24122020

Dear Friends,

It is silly, I guess, but I had a fond hope that someday one of our most revered literary magazines Biblio would review PANJAB: Journeys Through Fault Lines. That day came, and to my utter surprise and satisfaction, Rahul Singh, himself a journalist and man of letters, and son of the earlier chronicler of Panjab, the eminent Khushwant Singh, reviewed the book.

What I found interesting was, towards the end of the review, Rahul says: Is there a way out of the abyss Panjab finds itself in? Sandhu ends on a hopeful note:

‘… Panjab would need a push to bring in a structure where Panjabis not only in Panjab, but also those living in other parts of India, across the border with Pakistan, and in the diverse diaspora, could participate together in re-building Panjab. At the same time, to lift itself from the depression that gnaws at it and erodes it, Panjab needs to rise against patriarchy, feudalism and ritualistic symbolism. Throughout its long history, Panjab has always been more than its geography and its people. It has symbolised an idea of resistance and rebellion. In the past, in spite of grievous wounds, Panjab has always risen and proved its critics wrong. I believe that someday this Panjab too will rise to its challenges—in its own eclectic way.’

Then Rahul says: That is a forlorn hope, unfortunately. However, Amandeep Sandhu has a written a book that is deeply-felt, passionate and straight from the heart, one that is essential reading for anybody who wants to understand a community and a state that once led the way in the country, and which, he believes, could do so again.

Call it serendipity or call it Panjab’s historical task, right now Panjab has risen once again – this time to protect India’s Constitution.

Please find the review PDF here: PANJAB_Biblio_2020

Dear Friends,

A few days back, Sonali Kolhatkar from Los Angles interviewed me on the #FarmersMovement, #FarmersProtest.

Sonali also wrote this piece based on our talk and other sources. Please see here …

Please listen here…

Day 24, Facebook, December 20, 2020

The Supreme Court has asked the government to answer on the Constitutional validity of the Farm Laws within four weeks. That means the farmer siege of Delhi will last at least that long.

Notice, right from the beginning of the Morcha, Union leaders have been saying we are in this for the long haul – New Years, Baisakhi, even next Diwali. Most tractors that arrived to Delhi came with two trollies – one with provisions, another with protesters.

The question is why was this not apparent to the nation? Why does the nation still not understand that farmers have not come to Delhi to negotiate. They are not roughing it out in this cold to compromise with the government. Their demand to the government – to repeal the Laws – has only two answers, either/or: Yes or No. Government saying Yes, means farmers go home. Government saying No, means farmers stay put.

The reason is through these new Laws favouring the corporates, by handing over entire agrarian sector – sowing of crops, to production to storage, to distribution of food – the government is abdicating its responsibility towards food security of India and throwing the baby away with the bath water. The farmers are demanding that the anti-farmer Farm Laws be repealed because they do not solve India’s huge agrarian crises even before these Laws were bulldozed through the Parliament.

The agrarian issues – basic income guarantee, mono-culture, water table depletion, soil erosion, farmer and labour loans, farmer and labour suicides – are structural issues. The farmers are demanding that once these Laws are repealed, implement the Swaminathan Commission Report as promised in BJP’s 2014 election manifesto. (Do notice, that report too is now over a decade old. The crises has further deepened in the last decade. So, even that Report proposals need to be updated.)

To me the matter is so simple but there remains a gap between India’s understanding and the reality of India’s agrarian sector. Functions like arthiyas, conventions like Minimum Support Price, labels like rich farmers, humanitarian efforts like langars of washing machines, water boilers, foot massagers become flash points while the real issues get side-tracked.

Remember for long the government said: uneducated farmers do not understand the Laws which are in their interest. Yet, the amendments to the Laws the government sent as proposals – rejected by farmers – revealed how the farmers actually understand every detail of the Laws and the government quite obviously admitted it was taking the farmers for a ride. So, why does this happen? Why is the nation fooled?

The reason is stories.

While there is a real world we all live in, this world is conveyed to us through either our own experience or through the input we receive through media and friends, social media or news media. Whoever we are, wherever we are, I believe, we all live in stories. When the stories we tell are well received, we feel located. When our stories are broken or we are unable to articulate them, we feel dislocated.

The cyberspace where we are reading this post or the urban locations we live in, are vastly removed from rural agrarian spaces. In the absence of lived experience, we tend to rely even more on media. Yet, it is the media that betrays us. In part because, of course, it is lapdog but also because for a very long time all ‘powers that be’ have understood the role of propaganda in creating public opinion.

The Hindutva forces in the country have excelled in it for the last decade or so. These forces have managed to side-track every pertinent issue in the country to serve its expansionist purpose.

To what effect?

India’s GDP has tumbled in the last decade from 10% to -10%. The Pandemic – vastly mismanaged in the country – has a role to play but the fact is when Demonetization was on, the media never showed how it devastated the rural economy. When Goods and Service Tax was implemented, until it came crashing a quarter back, and even later, the media never showed us what issues it has created for the trader class across the nation. This year, India is 94/107 on the Food Security Index, 14 per cent of India’s population is undernourished while child wasting has risen to 17.3 per cent.

That is why, if you remember, when the farmers reached Delhi and lapdog media, mostly TV channels, swooped on them – like it does on any state going through elections – the protestors threw them out. The protesters know that not being reported about is better than being misreported. This anger towards lapdog media came not only from these channels in the last decade. It has deeper roots – how Panjab has been mis-reported for decades by Delhi-based media.

That is why now the farmers of Panjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, west UP have started their own bi-lingual (Panjabi and Hindi), bi-weekly newspaper – Trolley Times. They have launched their own social media platform Kisan Ekta Morcha.

In fact, a lot of authentic reporting is taking place on Panjabi and Hindi channels on the Internet, on social media. Most of them are free, sponsored by tiny, often one or two person media houses. It is the same with images, with interviews of leaders and cadre of the Unions, with efforts to sub-title videos into English and Hindi. It is the same with twitter hashtags that trend each day. That is why the Hindutva propaganda machinery has completely failed.

This time, the farmers are determined that they will repel the Hindutva propaganda fact by fact, story by story, image by image, tweet by tweet, and they are succeeding. The songs are a bonus.

Simply because those who feed us, sustain us, also know how to inform us. These are the stories we tell. Let us learn from them, educate ourselves.

Dear Friends,

Prof. Gurnam Singh from the UK invited me to be part of his panel on #FarmersProtests in India. For personal reasons, I could not attend but participated through audio messages. One at 11.25 minutes and then towards the end at 1.11.35 minutes.

In Panjabi and some speakers in English. Please listen to the discussion here …