Archive for the ‘Punjab’ Category

Recently, The Better India quoted from PANJAB to explain a people’s protest 115 years ago – Pagri Sambhal Jutta.

Please see here …

Dear Friends,

Outlookindia recently asked me for my view on the announcement to repeal the draconian farm laws given that farmers have not gone back home.

Here is my piece that talks about what this unilateral decision by PM Modi illustrates: trust deficit in society, dent in Modi’s strongman support to Hindutva eco-system, and finally opportunity for civil society.

‘The most common assertion for this sudden announcement is: it is timed for the Uttar Pradesh and Punjab elections. If that is true, it is half the story. The full story is, the BJP realised, in spite of its vicious attacks, the farmers protest has gained popular support. As the farmers protest prolonged, the right-wing propaganda machinery failed, more people learnt of agrarian distress, they could relate to it through their own impoverishment. The support of the poorer classes, which the BJP took for granted through religious polarisation, is fast vanishing. This erosion goes back to demonetisation, to mismanagement of taxes, the fact that in seven years our economy has tanked and the Sensex has risen multi-fold.’

Thank you Chinki Sinha and Satish Padmanabhan for the invitation. Please read article here …


Farmers Protest: Modi

   Posted by: aman


Posted November 21, 2021

Day 361

Toll 672


At this stage of the farmers protest, Modi’s announcing the government’s intention to repeal the three draconian farm Laws seems to be the best development to energize the protests.

Frankly, last few weeks, with the harvest and sowing season, many protesting farmers and labour had returned home. SKM had appealed to them to return. The return was slow. The announcement has served as a new current which has energised the batteries worn over a year.

Many friends of the protest have been advising farmers to treat Modi’s announcement with caution, not vacate the protest until the Parliament actually repeals the laws.

The farmers are aware. In my experience, I see no set of people more repeatedly betrayed by governments than the farmers. Everytime the farmers protest, if governments agree to demands, they dither on fulfilling them or just do not fulfill them. Political parties habitually announce sops and policies for farmers in elections and when elected do not implement them.

That is why farmers won’t step back until the laws are actually repealed and a framework to implement MSP is worked upon. We must note that while laws were a spin on a stressed agrarian system, implementation of MSP can open a door out of agrarian distress.

The good thing this time is that a stunned mainstream media, whose rug under the feet Modi has pulled, will not harangue the protesters. The protesters will not have to defend their position. The public perception is now firmly with the protests.

In every village in Panjab, Haryana, west Uttar Pradesh, people are raring to reach Delhi on November 26th to mark one year of protests.

Tomorrow is a Kisan Mahapanchayat in Lucknow. After their stock taking meeting yesterday, SKM has decided to continue with their limited Parliament March to Delhi during the winter session of the Parliament.

The Parliament March starts on November 29th. 500 farmers will March everyday through the session to Delhi on tractors and bullock carts. I love the symbolism of bullock carts against a propaganda machinery supported through satellites.

Kabir says: jeet nishan ghuraunga – I shall mark my victory. The farmers too will do that.

Dear Friends,

my piece in The Wire on Modi announcing yesterday that the government will repeal the draconian Farm Laws. I argue that if BJP intended to use Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary to win Panjab over, they might be disappointed. Farmers believe the victory is through their tireless efforts, Baba Nanak’s blessings and not through the Sangh which carries itself as the arbitrator of religion.

Thank you Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty for the invite to publish. Please read here …


Farmers Protest: Voila

   Posted by: aman

Day 357

Toll 669


Please tell me how do I make sense of how the ‘powers that be’ treat Panjab?

- For years it is straw & smoke, then voila: all clear.

- For months it is pandemic & terrorists, then voila: Kartarpur corridor.

- For a year Centre does not listen to protests, then voila: CM agrees to all demands.

- For a decade there has been no money, treasury empty, then voila: temporary & contractual employees to be regulated.

- For two decades colleges are running on roughly half strength of lecturers, then voila: we shall hire, test scheduled.

There are many more instances but can anyone tell me why there is not even a semblance of governance in Panjab?

It is through such adhocism, whims and fancies, feudal behaviour that the ‘powers that be’ repeatedly assert how they do not believe in due process, in improving people’s lot, in fact, in democracy.


Farmers Protest: Pollution

   Posted by: aman

Day 355

Toll 665


Today in the Supreme Court on the matter of Delhi air pollution, the Centre admitted Panjab and paddy stubble burning is a minor polluter. This is a huge validation for farmers. See story.

This is exactly what farmers, farmer unions, have been saying for years. Now you see why the SKM put the fourth demand of farmers on Air Pollution Laws. This is what I said in my book as well.

Will now the media that has spent billions of bytes, people outside Panjab who have sent billions of curses, even acknowledge they were wrong? Even admit it?

In fact, the reverse should happen: all farmers should be paid for growing oxygen when they grow food, in two-three cycles each year.

Dear Friends,

a few days back, after Captain Amarinder Singh, ex CM Panjab, held a press conference, Sampath G from The Hindu spoke to me on the developments, the implications.

‘This is the farce of electoral democracy in the country. We are troubled by issues. Not only the farmers’ but many others. The government does not pay attention. Yet, every five years they come to us saying please vote for us. End of the day, none of them do anything. Not only BJP, even Congress or any other. There is a spectacle going on in the country. Unmindfully but willingly, people participate in the spectacle. But the spectacle does not result in anything.’

Since the interview, Captain has announced the name of his party. Here is the talk. 22.17 minutes. English. Please listen.


Farmers Protest: Lines

   Posted by: aman

Day 340

Toll 655


When there is a line – which either someone has drawn or we ourselves have drawn – we engage with the line. We either confirm to the line, let it regulate us, or we push the line, try to break the line. But the real challenge begins when there is no line. For a few days now, with the police removing the barricades at the protest sites, the line that in many ways regulated the farmers protest has all but vanished. This brings the protest into a new phase.

On November 9th, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha is going to hold a meeting to assess how to deal with the new status quo. Meanwhile, there are other lines, life lines, that the government is bent on breaking. These are lines of support from the international diaspora. Other nation states, even if they disagree, have to comply with international protocols. All this under the guise that the protests are anti-India.

The state has now started moving against the protests by targeting the supporters from the Diaspora. Recently, the government has started cancelling NRI supporters’ Overseas Indian Citizen (OIC) cards and long-term visas. In the last few days, two prominent NRIs were sent back from Delhi airport. There are possibilities of students who want to migrate for studies – a preferred way because of the nearly absolute lack of opportunities in Panjab – being blocked from leaving.

For Panjab, this method by the government is a reminder of the infamous Black Lists the government prepared after Operation Blue Star. Many NRIs were put on these Black Lists and were barred from coming to India. It took decades to get names removed from the Black Lists. Now the government has started another Black List.

The question really is: what is India? Is it the land, the people, or the government? The infinitely powerful state assumes it is the government. That is its mistake.

Actually, Diaspora support to the protests has come down since the events of January 26th. No doubt whatever support comes is critical but the fact is most of the protest is being sustained locally, through the resolve and resourcefulness of the protesters and support lines from their villages. How will the government snap those lines?

Once again, the government shows that it only knows high-handedness, not humility. History is witness: powerful, arrogant states, who believe too much in their own powers, do fall.


Farmers Protest: Accident

   Posted by: aman

Posted on October 28, 2021

Day 336

Toll 647


Tragically, this morning at Tikri border, 3 ladies were crushed to death by a speeding truck. The ladies were sitting on the road divider waiting for an auto to take them to the Bahadurgarh railway station. They had been at Tikri for a few days and were returning to their village Dyalu Wala Khiwa in Mansa district.

The deceased are:

Amarjeet Kaur w/o Harjeet Singh
Gurmel Kaur w/o Bhola Singh
Sukhwinder Kaur w/o Bhan Singh


Gurmel Kaur w/o Mehar Singh
Harmeet Kaur w/o Gurtej Singh

Age of all of them is around 50-55.

Driver is absconding. The irony of cow feeding calf on the truck.

Picture: Gurpreet Kotli


Farmers Protest: Khede Gaye

   Posted by: aman

Day 328

Toll 640

Khede Gaye

While doing PANJAB I met many who simply said about the region’s long and factitious history: assin tan ji khede gaye – we have been played. Not everyone you meet when doing a book is eloquent to list out the long-winding reasons which have brought a people and region to discontent.

This sense of khede gaye comes to people when their leaders, representatives, political parties fail to acknowledge their issues and use the same issues to manipulate them. It is utterly tragic for a democracy that people imbibe this feeling. It weakens their trust in systems and what is a democracy without its people?

It is now 120 hours to the barbaric killing and parading of Lakhbir Singh’s body at the Kundli border protest site. Due to the justifications of the murder by some in the Sikh community, we did loose some of the image of non-violence and peaceful resistance we had built over the last year, at least. That the incident did not lead to any further violence, to riots, is to the credit of the protesters at the sites.

It is also true that it did not become a caste crime as the Sangh wanted to portray it because many Dalit voices from Panjab denied that point of view. Yes, tragically Dalits killed a Dalit but the issue does not end there. We need to interrogate, as another friend pointed out: what is it about religion that pushes people to enact such barbarity while upper castes just wash their hands off?

Much that needed to come out about the incident is available. Much that is hidden will perhaps be revealed much later or never. There is no doubt that the incident was a conspiracy to manipulate the community. I say this because there are questions in my mind that I am laying out. We know, no one in authority will answer them. In fact, spare yourself the trouble of answering them on the post as well. Please.

1. How did a 35 year old drug addict, alienated from own family, who had just Rs 50, reach Singhu border from village Chima Kalan, Taran Tarn? It is 450 kilometers.

2. Who is Lakhbir’s handler ‘Sandhu’? Do you see how killing Lakhbir has cost the community?

3. Why is Sarabjit, the first Nihang arrested, with short hair? No, the excuse that he was recently initiated does not hold good because a Nihang leader Aman Singh stated ‘for long Sarabjit has been our jathedar of horses’.

4. Further, why did Sarabjit himself remove his turban and reveal his coloured short hair? If he was growing his hair, why wasn’t it at least, knotted?

5. Though it is good the accused Nihangs are surrendering, counterintuitively, ask yourself: why are the arrests happening so easily? What assurance do the Nihangs have from the government?

As many are pointing out, the July pictures of Nihang leader Aman Singh with Minister Tomar is not enough evidence pointing to a conspiracy because various farmers leaders have been meeting various government ministers and officials. Also, Aman Singh now says the meeting was because government wanted to persuade them to vacate the protest site. It is basically one version against another and we will never know the truth.

But the question is: while leaders have unions, who will really listen to Nihangs if they reach an agreement with the government on Farm Laws? Do they have a following?

In fact, that is the crux of the Nihang presence at the protests. Many groups, not just Nihangs, are in the protests because they are looking for their own relevance. The Nihangs, make for great visuals of the Sikh militaristic tradition, especially as curious outliers on Holla Mohalla games. Sadly, though the Nihang history is glorious, they had a setback owing to one of their group, Budda Dal’s leader Baba Santa Singh decision after Operation Blue Star.

At that time, the government, mostly then minister Buta Singh, had used Baba Santa Singh to erect the Akal Takht which the Army had broken in its operation. The community rejected the government sponsored Akal Takht. The community tore it down and built its own Akal Takht through kar sewa.

Since then, the Nihangs are mostly in the woods as far as their voice in the community is concerned. They might have advocates but their writ does not run in the community. Do you think the ordinary protester, the real strength of these protests, will listen to them and go back home?

Finally, it is an immense tragedy for democracy that the government does not see what every protester sees: the laws are wrong, just repeal them.

Instead, it chooses to deal with all sorts of leaders and intermediaries, including CAT Pinky in the photograph – ex militant turned policeman who has admitted to being witness to many extra judicial killing and indulged in some himself for which he did jail time – and the very Diaspora groups which it otherwise blames as Khalistani. How blinkered is the government! How wrongly the government believes all these extra methods, including creating disruptions, will break the protests.

These are the nasty games that the government plays which give people a sense of beg played – khede gaye. To me, it is Bebe like this in this video (29 seconds) who uphold the protests. Look at how sweetly the grandmother saying: ‘Won’t Modi will lose one day? It is not that he will win forever, he won’t win …’

It is people like her, their resolve and humility, and not the leaders who form the protests and the government better learn if she continues to feel ‘khede gaye’, if she does not feel addressed, her kind will not move back. It is the government actually that needs a lesson in humility.

No, not even Captain Amarinder’s soon to be launched party will solve the crises for even if Laws are repealed, though impossible because the Laws are backed by big corporates and IMF/WTO, how will the government address the issue of Minimum Support Price? He too is, sadly, looking for relevance.

Video source: Kisan Morcha.