Archive for the ‘Punjab’ Category

17
Apr

Farmers Protest: Storm at Protest Sites

   Posted by: aman

Day 143

Toll 376

#FarmersProtest

Storm at Protests

Last evening, around 7 pm, I called a friend in Delhi. He said a storm has just ended – dust, rain, strong winds. For a moment, I forgot the farmers and asked him if he was fine. He said yes, he is home. Safe.

As soon as the call ended and I looked at the computer, the effect of the storm on the protest sites was clear. Many tents had been uprooted, water had entered habitations, farmers’ meagre belongings were soaked in water.

Add to this the harvest period in north India. Once again the shortage of gunny sacks. The confusion that the government’s insistence on Direct Bank Transfer is creating, arthiyas are forced to seek guarantees for payments against collection of grains. Seems in India, the farmers are perpetually in the eye of storms.

Yet, there is quite a literal storm building – rumours of a government’s proposed Operation Clean to end the protests forcefully citing the rising COVID-19 numbers in the country. There is news that the Centre is entrusting the Operation to the Haryana government. The Samyukt Kisan Morcha has yesterday said that these are rumours and farmers must not panic. This could be psychops – psychological tactics.

The fact is, no one knows. We now know we cannot put anything past this government. Actually, we can never put anything past any government. In 1984, no one expected the Army to invade the Darbar Sahib premises. Yet, it did. Operation Blue Star took place. Heavens forbid an armed action takes place this time – it would be severely counter-productive.

The question is: does the government care? Has the government cared about how the pandemic has hit India this time? Over the last year, the government had enough time to ramp up medical infrastructure, it did not. Now we are running short of vaccines, testing kits, PPEs, hospital beds, crematoriums. The government remains busy trying to win Bengal elections.

The greatest storm is in the heart of the citizens of this nation. What do we do? We can’t keep blaming nature alone for storms and rains and scorching heat and pandemics. There has to be accountability by those we elect to govern us. This accountability seems to have blown in storms in the last seven years. There is not even a squeak from media asking any legitimate questions to the government and people are outraging on social media. This is collapse of a system. This is breakdown of that single sense that keeps selves, communities, nations going – trust in the system. The sense that gives us the feeling of being safe.

Meanwhile, post-harvest, thousands of farmers are arriving soon on Delhi’s borders. Armed eviction, if it happens, will cost the government a lot. But the blood, hope it does not spill, will be on all our hands.

 

16
Apr

Farmers Protest: Fire at Singhu

   Posted by: aman

Day 142

Toll 374

#FarmersProtest

Fire at Singhu

As the nation burns in the flames of Coronavirus, reports emerge of multiple bodies being consigned to one pyre, crematoriums being hidden from public view, yesterday a fire took place at the Singhu border.

Having braved the chilly winters, one of the coldest in decades, the untimely winter rains that turned tents and mattresses soggy, the protesting farmers had now remodelled their protest sites for the scorching summer. They have made habitations of wood and straw, synthetic nets and placed desert coolers and refrigerators. All of these are immensely combustible, the sites are now literal tinder boxes.

As previously reported, right-wing saboteurs continue to invade the protests sites. For recce to assess how to sabotage the protests, for theft, for inciting violence, for bringing infamy upon the protesters. In spite of farmer vigilance, yesterday an unknown person set tents on fire near Rasoi Dhabha. Reports vary but at least three tents, a car, many personal belongings went up in fire. Thankfully, no one was severely injured. There were no casualties.

The fire brigade arrived too late. By then the youth had doused the flames. The larger question union leaders are raising is why is fire brigade not available on site? Why isn’t the government taking steps to provide safety measures on the sites? Of course, the largest question is why isn’t the government repealing the laws and ending the protest?

On Ambedkar Jayanti, the Haryana CM had announced the unveiling of a Babasaheb Ambedkar statue at village Badauli. The farmers opposed the CM inaugurating the statue. They were fine with anyone else inaugurating the statue. Quietly, the CM cancelled the event. On April 14, all protest sites celebrated Babasaheb Ambedkar. A few days back Hanumangarh parliamentarian Nihal Chand ran away from facing people in Rajasthan. Amidst whatever little reports we get on the current reality of India, no media reports the groundswell against the BJP. How long will this chimera last?

Meanwhile, as COVID-19 rages through the nation, the government’s only focus seems to be Bengal elections. There are reports that the government has completed an aerial survey of the protest sites. Once the government is done with Bengal elections, it may propose talks with farmers. If the talks fail, there could be armed action to evict farmers.

Day 139

Toll 367

#FarmersProtest

Dear Friends,

three days back, MAJHA HOUSE hosted a discussion on the deaths at the ongoing farmer protests. Quite honestly, I was struck by the manner in which archival activist Anuroop Kaur Sandhu spoke about her work over the last many months.

Dr Simmi Waraich supported us with her analysis and commentary. Other mental health workers contributed through commentary. Thank you Preeti Gill and team or all your support.

1.39.44 hours. Do listen!

12
Apr

Farmers Protest: Green Revolution

   Posted by: aman

April 12, 2021

Day 138

Toll 365

#FarmersProtest

Green Revolution

Since the beginning of the farmers protests people have asked: why are Panjab and Haryana alone protesting? Now, of course, the protests have spread to west UP, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Odisha, Bihar and Bengal. Yet, the question continues to be posed as an insinuation.

Vandana Shiva has been one of the leading alternative agrarian economists. In her work on after-effects of the Green Revolution in Panjab she had understood and proposed that one of the most dastardly state actions Operation Blue Star and the years of militancy in Panjab had its roots in the early disenchantment with the Green Revolution.

Sadly, over the last many years Shiva has crossed over to the right-wing Hindutva camp. For the moment, let us keep Shiva’s individual politics aside. In this excerpt, Shiva once again traces Panjab’s rising to protests now and before Operation Blue Star to the Green Revolution which she says was a deliberate making of a genocide.

In ‘Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines’, I saw current Panjab as an aftermath of both the Green Revolution and Operation Blue Star. I learnt that the two were linked but unlike Shiva – perhaps through hindsight for I came many years after her – I traced three reasons for Operation Blue Star: law and order, separatist threat, farmers’ protest. The context being Akali resistance to Indira Gandhi’s Emergency that had got her riled up with Sikhs, the river waters issue that had been pending since re-organisation of Panjab in 1966, the Anandpur Sahib Resolution and so on.

Listen to the video. English, 9.56 minutes.

Dear friends,

about three weeks back, a group named We Support Our Farmers hosted a panel discussion on the ground situation of the famers protests and the continuing urban apathy.  It was an interesting discussion.

Please see here …

9
Apr

Farmers Protest: Direct Bank Transfer

   Posted by: aman

April 09, 2021

Day 135

Toll 361

#FarmersProtest

DBT

The Direct To Bank scheme to deposit subsidies and payments directly to beneficiaries was started by the Congress-led UPA government in 2013. It was considered revolutionary as it dramatically cut down middle men and contractors. Now DBT is implemented in up to 317 schemes from 53 ministries. I do not know how the payment route works in all these schemes and ministries. I would love to learn. If you know, please comment.

For the last few years the BJP government has tried to apply this route to make payments on food grains the FCI or other agencies buy from the farmers. In theory, it looks good. Yet, Panjab and Haryana governments – states that have the best Agricultural Produce Market Committee in Asia, if not the world – opposed it. Tt is these APMCs or Mandis that are under direct attack through the Farm Laws.

The reasons to oppose are two:

a) this route of payment side lines the arthiyas – commission agents. Arthiyas are more than commission agents. In the absence of a system by which farmers or farm labour can procure easy, instant loans from co-operative banks or other institutional sources, the arthiyas actually act as the pivot to the agrarian system.

b) given the fact that agriculture is not remunerative, typically a small or marginal farmer takes a few acres of land on rent every season against fixed payment to owner whether the crop succeeds or fails. About 45 per cent land in Panjab is given out on rent and farmed by non-owners. The DBT payment will go to the absent farmers (owners) and not to real farmers (who have taken land on rent).

Until yesterday, the two state governments were opposing the Centre’s push to move to DBT. Yet, when Centre threatened to not procure the wheat this season unless DBT is implemented, the two governments – one Congress, another BJP – capitulated. Panjab is expected to produce 130 metric tonnes of wheat and Haryana 121 metric tonnes. MSP is Rs 1975 per quintal.

This is a blow to the system that has been in existence for the past many decades. No doubt, the system has issues, including how much margin commission agents draw and absentee landlordism. The need is to fix the whole system and not drop DBT from top. The need is for state (and Centre) governments to create a better system and support the farmers’ transition to that system but they failed in averting the DBT from affecting the small and marginal farmers who take land on rent. The move is insidious because when land owners are directly paid, small and marginal farmers will stop taking land on rent and will become labour in lands that are not their own.

It is because of reasons such as these, that the protesting farmers cannot trust either the state or the Centre to protect them and need to continue to protest. Tomorrow, from 8 am, the Western Peripheral Highway around Delhi will be blocked for 24 hours.

31
Mar

Farmers Protest: Prof Surinder Kaur Interview

   Posted by: aman

March 30, 2021

On day 125 of the #FarmersProtests I wish to share this video with you. This is from the long-standing gherao by the Jamhoori Kisan Union of the Adani Dry Port, near Ludhiana, in Panjab. It is an interview in Hindi with Prof Surinder Kaur, 29 minutes, by K Santosh from Workers Unity.

Yes, it is about role of women and women’s participation in the protests but there is something more. I met Prof Surinder Kaur at Singhu and aunty invited me home with the lure of ‘stuffed Makki ki roti’. We know how hard it is make a simple makki ki roti and stuffed makki ki roti is as wondrous as food can get.

Yet, even more fascinating is how I see her daughter and my friend Sangeet Toor function – besides writing for The Wire and The Caravan and Trolley Times, now bringing out the women’s newspaper from the protest sites Karti Dharti.

I realise what makes some of us activists. As another friend remarked, a lot of us are shaped by family, by family values. If the family, the parents, have been actively political, then it runs in the blood. Surinder aunty’s family has been political for decades.

I know this is a long interview but do listen to one of the most comprehensive views on the women’s role in protests. I loved it that aunty mentions another friend Harinder Bindu, Gen Sec, BKU Ekta Ugrahan who is dedicated to the fight her father Megh Raj Bhagtuana was fighting and Jasbir Kaur Natt aunty from Panjab Kisan Union, another friend Navkiran Natt’s mother. The Natts are another family where politics runs in the blood.

Since Panjab has forever been a land of resistance, there are many such families in Panjab. For all of us, middle-class, the clarity in this interview teaches us a lot. Do listen here.

PS: Since the interview is open air, the audio is better over earphones.

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.

25
Mar

Farmers Protest: Bandh Call

   Posted by: aman

March 25th, 2021

Day 120

Toll 320

#FarmersProtest

Bandh Call

Two non-protest but in their ramifications, hugely political developments yesterday.

1) Delhi’s quest for complete statehood has been curtailed. Yesterday, The Rajya Sabha passed The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill amidst, notice a walkout by Opposition exactly the way Opposition was protesting outside the House during when the Farm laws were passed.

While we know the Central government has an agenda to weaken all democratic and pro-federalism structures of the nation, this walkout from the House is confirmation that the Opposition has still not learnt to behave responsibly. Or perhaps, Congress must have smelt this as an opportunity to finish AAP. First, Jammu and Kashmir, now Delhi. What Opposition does not see is this could be a model that can be implemented in any state. Sadly, the Constitution means nothing to the government.

2) Bihar Assembly passes Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021, in a bid to give its police more teeth to conduct searches and arrests without producing a warrant. In the course of debate on this Bill, Opposition MLAs were thrashed inside the House, pushed down steps.

Today also marks the one year anniversary of how with a four hours notice, the Central government sent up to 3 crore migrant workers back home hundreds of kilometers away, on foot. A fact that we as a nation must be ashamed about.

Friends, what our elected representatives do with our vote is clear from all three instances above. Indeed, electoral democracy in India has become populist autocracy without concern for the rights of those who need the greatest care.
As citizens, the only way we can guard our freedoms is by asserting our voice. Exactly how the farmers have been doing for the last four months on Delhi’s borders. All these months I used to wonder why Delhi is not responding enough. Now, I know: when Delhi has not risen upon it being assaulted, curtailed, its vote stolen, what will it respond to the farmers or anyone else?

But you and I, and hopefully the people of Delhi, can still respond.

Tomorrow is a Bharat Bandh called by Samyukt Kisan Morcha. SKM has appealed for all road and rail transport, all markets and other public places to be closed across the country from from 6 am to 6 pm, Friday, March 26. However, SKM says, this is not necessary for the places where elections are going to be held.
Please join the Bharat Bandh. Let us make it a success.

Lastly, Hardeep Singh Dibdiba, the grandfather of the young man Navreet Singh who was shot on January 26, whose death police claims was from tractor accident, has stepped out of his home, into the protests to iron out the differences between various groups participating in the protest. He has called for a march of the youth today from Moga in Panjab to the Singhu border. It is underway right now. This is democracy – taking everyone along. Salute to Dibdiba Sa’ab’s sense of purpose.

25
Mar

Aaj yaad hai Bhagta teri aati …

   Posted by: aman

Martyrdom Day – March 23, 90th anniversary of the hanging of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar, and Shivaram Rajguru

There are many who say, ‘Oh! The farmers protests have gone on for 118 days, no end in sight.’

That is true. But we forget Sheetal Sathe’s song on Bhagat Singh:

toone to kaha tha, ye aazadi nahin dhokha hai …
itihaas mein bhi hum bhooke the, aaj bhi thokar khate hain …

You had said, this freedom is a farce …
In history we were hungry, today too we are shoved around …

These words by Sathe of Kabir Kala Manch resonate with me because while it is true that India gained notional freedom in 1947, that freedom was for some privileged ones like me and perhaps you. Vast sections of India remained enslaved and we who benefitted from freedoms allowed ourselves to get enslaved once again to crony capitalists.

For its work – singing pro-democracy and pro-annihilation of caste songs, celebrating diversity of religion and languages – the Congress-led UPA government imprisoned Kabir Kala Manch members under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act – UAPA. After they got bail in 2017, in December 2020, under the current dispensation, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) stated in court that ‘translations of songs was proof of violent activities and conspiracies’ against the government. Irony just died.

Now, tell me, is Sathe wrong about Bhagat Singh? Now tell me how long will it take to get freedom and who really stands in the way? It is certainly not the government alone. I feel, pardon me, it is us too. Unless we join the protests, we can’t expect farmers alone to fight for all our freedom.

Today the #FarmersProtests is marking the martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev in a big way. Hundreds of thousands are gathering at Singhu, at both stages at Tikri, and at the Bhagat Singh Memorial at Katkhar Kalan in Panjab. (The venue has shifted to Banga grain market due to inclement weather.)

In PANJAB: Journeys Through Fault Lines, I write: ‘Every age has its battles between the right and the wrong, the just and the unjust and the weak and the powerful. In today’s day and age, while the battle plays out as it has in every other age, one dimension has changed: there is now a tussle between the powerless and the powerful over the icons of the past. Until now these icons were the heroes of the weak and the oppressed. Now the powerful have appropriated the icons—stolen them from the people’s narrative and made them the state narrative. If appropriation of an icon by contrarian political forces is indicative of the person’s popularity, nationally, perhaps Bhagat Singh stands on top of the historical figures of modern India.’ Page 26

Sathe’s song here …