Archive for the ‘Punjab’ Category

27
Aug

PANJAB: Mention in Essential Reads on Panjab

   Posted by: aman

Dear Friends,

I was pleasantly surprised to see PANJAB Journeys Through Fault Lines mentioned among top seven reads on Panjab on a blog. In fact, on top.

Click here to read.

27
Aug

PANJAB: Talk at IISc

   Posted by: aman Tags: ,

Dear friends,

a few days back, Bitasta Das invited me to speak to scholars and friends at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

Please click to listen to the talk.

10
Aug

Labour Protest: Patiala

   Posted by: aman

Day 258

Toll 564+

Patiala Labour Protest

Right from when the farmers protest began, there have been questions about the participation of labour in the protest. Given exigencies of survival, the need to earn daily wage, it is impossible for labour to be constantly present at the protest.

While land is the major theme of the Delhi protests, the landless do not have the same stake in land as farmers. Then there are the internal dynamics between farmers and labour – especially labour rates for paddy plantation on which this year the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, Kirti Kisan Union, BKU Ekta Ugraha and other unions extended full support and issued statements.

Yet, on the issue of Essential Commodities, upon the threat of corporate farming, the labour has extended support to the farmers protest. Over the last many weeks, seven labour unions in Panjab, have been rallying their people to come together and articulate all their concerns. The culmination of their efforts has resulted in the three day labour rally in Patiala – August 9, 10, and 11. BKU Ekta Ugrahan is arranging langar, doctors from Medical Practitioners Association Panjab is providing free health services.

The location is important given the multiple betrayal of the labour causes by the incumbent Congress government in Panjab. Patiala is CM Amarinder Singh’s home turf. That is why tomorrow August 11 the labour unions will march to Moti Mahal, the CM’s residence.

The labour is articulating the following concerns:

- Labour Codes: changes passed by the Central government last year, not yet implemented. The protest is against further privatisation of lands, resources, electricity.

- MNREGA: 17 lakh families in Panjab have MNREGA cards, but less than 7 thousand families got 100 days work. 2900 village panchayats out of around 13,000 did not offer a single day’s work. Around 56 per cent Labour did not get work for even a single day.

- Land to landless: though in effect, non-implementation of Land Ceiling Act has deprived land to landless. Long pending demand for 1250 square feet residential plots.

- Suicides: micro-finance companies loot labour and cause suicides, what is action against them? 17 per cent famers have lost land and are drowning under debt, committing suicides. Will government provide compensation and jobs to all families (labour and farmer) where the head of the family commits suicide owing to debt?

- PDS for all: right to food should be across the board, to anyone who cannot afford food.

On August 30, considering 31.9 per cent Dalit population in Panjab, CM Amarinder Singh is organising a rally to address the labour. The labour asks:

- 2017 promises: what happened to loan waiver, drug eradication, employment to youth promised last time? Once elected, the government conveniently forgot the labour/Dalits.

- CM/Deputy CM: in the run up to 2022 assembly elections BJP and Akalis are promising Dalit CM and Deputy CMs. Labour asks, we already have 34 MLAs, has that bettered our lot? Forget CMs and Dy CM, we have already have a Dalit President, has that bettered our lot?

With a clear view of their demands, the labour pledge support to the farmers protest. May other states too learn from this mobilization and their labour come out and articulate their demands. Mazdoor Kisan Ekta Zindabad!

Condolence: Last night, Mata Gurtej Kaur from village Bhundar, district Bathinda gave her life at the Patiala Mazdoor Morcha.

20
Jul

Farmers Protest: Survivor Guilt

   Posted by: aman

Day 237

Toll 543+

Survivor Guilt

Through the pandemic over the last year, especially during the recent second wave, a term became quite popular to talk about our experience – survivor guilt. It is surely a valid and relevant term.

Yesterday Jaspreet Kaur and I were talking about ‘survivor guilt’ and we wondered does it apply to the pandemic alone?

Sure, seems like that.

Else, why would their people – sovereign in their lands and homes – camp outside Delhi like this for the last eight months? Why would their plight not move the nation living under concrete roofs, eating chai pakoras and rotis and daals and subzis, that actually these people produce?

The bitter cold, the winter rains, the scorching heat, the heavy storms, the pelting rains didn’t move the country, the survivor guilt does not really apply. It is actually consumerist apathy.

Video by Randeep S Mdk 45 seconds.

18
Jul

Farmers Protest: Boy

   Posted by: aman

Day 235

Toll 538+

Boy

For eight months now citizens and farmers have been protesting at major traffic intersections at Chandigarh. For over four months Baba Laabh Singh, in his 80s, who identifies himself has a Nihang has been camping at Matka Chowk which is on the VIP route. In June, the police tried to evict him, even arrested him to be released later.

Yesterday, for the first time farmers protested against BJP leaders at Chandigarh. The protest against Sanjay Tandon and Mayor Ravi Kant Sharma took place at Motor Market, Sector 48, by activists from Naujawan Kisan Ekta.

Among those picked up was a 13-year old boy, whose video from the police van has gone viral. ‘I do not mind going to jail. If I die, ask farmer leaders from Singhu border to collect my body.’

There is a popular slogan among activists in Panjab:

Ki karange jailan thaane?
Lokan de had wad-de jaane!

What will jails and stations do?
People will keep flooding!

That is people’s take on democracy in Panjab. These are the lessons the government is imparting the young generation. Click here to see video. (17 seconds)

 

15
Jul

Farmers Protest: Chaduni

   Posted by: aman

Day 232

Toll 538+

Chaduni

Last night, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha suspended Haryana farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni for one week. In itself, one week is no big deal but the step is to send out SKM’s message regarding the upcoming elections in Panjab in February 2022.

For the last few days, Chaduni has been raising a matter that concerns us all – if we are unhappy with the government, then instead of only protesting, why do we not not form our government? Why should the protesters not form their own political party and fight elections, win and make people-friendly laws? Chaduni terms this argument as ‘Mission Panjab’. He says, Bengal results show us that BJP did not relent on Farm Laws. What guarantee do we have that if, a big if, BJP loses UP elections, it would relent?

Various leaders of SKM are on various points over this argument. If I understand well, and given my experience of Panjab elections 2017, unions like BKU Ekta Ugrahan oppose contesting elections. The reason they give is that they stand in opposition to the entire neo-liberal structure and not merely one government or another, one policy or another.

There is logic to that argument that I find appealing. After all, politics is not a silo. Politicians come from the system. India being a socialist nation, the government cannot withdraw from education, health, agriculture, allied fields. Yet, we know how for the last three decades that is exactly what every party in power does – Congress, BJP, Akalis, JD(S), SP and so on. That is because the neo-liberal framework is designed for government to withdraw and corporate players to take over. Not only in India, even world-wide where countries have adopted neo-liberalism.

In Panjab the situation is especially dire because the executive – bureaucrats and police – are active abettors in this privatisation. There is anti-incumbency but it is because the system is so rotten that it fails. The sand and gravel, liquour and transport mafias thrive. That is why current Congress rule, after a decade of Akali-BJP mal-governance, has not changed the ground reality. Like every state, like the nation, the reason is whatever be the good intentions of a politician, the tweezer grip of corporate houses and the need to deal with unrelenting attack of critics, forces it compromise its policies, go against the people, and benefit money bags. That is the neo-liberal structure.

The nation tried the experiment of a totally fresh, transparency oriented, high on ideals party and government with AAP. Where has that taken us? In fact, given AAP’s example from IAC days, many BJP leaders are now accusing the protests, saying: they are only for politics and not for Farm Laws.

The differences between Chaduni and SKM are not a matter confined to the farmers protest. No one denies Chaduni’s importance to these protest. Remember, the Haryana police barricades on November 26 would not have fallen, farmers would not have reached Delhi’s borders, if it were not for the youth and Chaduni’s union.

The differences in SKM on how to deal with elections are a question that all of us need to ask ourselves as we try to now tackle a government which has completely upturned the norms of democracy and exchanged the country’s socialist character for crony capitalism in the most brazen ways. We also need to ask ourselves: what if there were no elections in Panjab and UP? If the elections were two or three years away like in Haryana. What would have been the farmers take on elections?

The debate is: should we fight the system from within or change the system altogether? We do not have answers yet … What would you do?

 

12
Jul

Farmers Protest: Martyrs

   Posted by: aman

Day 229

Toll 538

#FarmersProtest

Martyrs

Three days back it was Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal’s birthday. Badal announced that if his party wins Panjab elections, his government will compensate all the martyrs on the farmers protest with one government job per family, free education for children and health education for life.

What irony! This is the same party that neglected agrarian woes for the decade they were in power in Panjab. This was the period when the agrarian crises in the nation and in the food bowl of India – Panjab – deepened. According to university studies 16006 farmers and labourers committed suicide. The reporting was fudged.

I witnessed the White Fly protests in Panjab in late 2015, reported on it, wrote about it in my book. As the protests were on, incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib came to light. The people’s attention was distracted. This has been the government tactic for decades now. It has been over five years, the sacrilege issue is still not sorted despite two commissions, various Special Task Forces. The threads of most investigations point to Dera Sacha Sauda, enabled by Badals.

Of course, families of those who have departed must be helped. Their loans written off, their children educated, their families must be taken care. The Sikh Gurdwara management body SGPC – again controlled by Badals – announced a relief of Rs 1 lakh per martyr family in December 2020. When that did not go anywhere, now to gain a foothold in the farmers protest, when SAD declares compensation. Sorry to sound harsh, it sounds like ‘ambulance chasing’.

While announcing the package, Badal said, ’550 farmers have lost their lives.’ You see the toll on all my posts. The number today is 538. Where did Badal get 550 from? Or is he rounding off, wishing more people die at the protests? How cruel and uncouth is that?
Actually, you will see that number elsewhere too. On some other social media handles on twitter and Instagram. There is a bit of a story behind it.

The number on my post comes from the blog that Anu Sandhu , Amar Mander, Jai Singh Sandhu, Harender Happy have diligently maintained since the protests started. The numbers in this blog come from newspaper reports, social media, information from farmer unions, individual input. They are reconciled every few days and published. It is meticulous and strenuous work. That it is about deaths makes it even more difficult.

I believe, hardly has any such large protest in the world ever generated such exact statistics. They are, in many ways, sacrosanct. They tell us exactly what is going on and will also be a huge resource for historians.

In mid-June, the team collating the numbers suddenly noticed a drop in reporting on the deaths in local Panjabi media. No Hindi media has reported them consistently. We spoke to some of the major newspapers and they promised to resume reporting. That have done it. The team is very thankful to them.

However, in this period ABP news suddenly projected a number which can’t be verified. On June 27, ABP Panjabi reported 540 farmers had died. Some other media and Instagram handles also did that. I can’t say if they they were averaging and extrapolating or they have evidence. No evidence for that number is available.

That is why, I believe the number is 338, elaborately referenced in this blog. Let us please not run other numbers. To me it is disrespectful to those who have departed and to the close to eight month long farmers protest.

Click here for the blog.

24
Jun

Farmers Protest: Tank, Tractor, Twitter

   Posted by: aman

Day 210

Toll 520+

#FarmersProtest

Tank, Tractor, Twitter

Last few days, Rakesh Tikait, did a Modi on the media when he uttered the triple Ts: Tank, Tractor, Twitter. Given his own surname starting with T, it becomes four Ts. I have been hearing him say this since he was touring Gujarat in April but our duh! lapdog media. They wake up now as Uttar Pradesh state elections are nearing.

In all his statements, Tikait is clear that the farmers will challenge the BJP in at least west Uttar Pradesh and try to enhance their reach all over the state. They will not be contesting elections but will make their anguish against BJP – its betrayal to the farmer’s issues, causing economy to fail, lies on employment, mis-management of COVID-19 – heard across the state. The Opposition parties need to wake up to the opportunity. Similarly, the AAP rumour about Balbir Singh Rajewal as Panjab CM candidate is completely unfounded.

Tikait is also quite clear: the protests will last until the government repeals the Farm Laws and legalises MSP. If that takes up to 2024, then so be it. The farmers will continue to maintain pressure. Like at Singhu and Tikri, thousands of farmers have started arriving at Ghazipur border. They are doing so as per the area and date wise roster attached.

At Tikri, considering the damage past storms and rains have wreaked on the state at the Ghadri Gulab Kaur Nagar, BKU Ekta Ugrahan is now building a strong roof and pillar structure. The enclosed area will be 10,000 square feet. It will protect them from the heat hovering around 43-degree Celsius and the monsoon rains.

Pictures: Kisan Ekta Morcha and BKU Ekta Ugrahan, see here…

22
Jun

Farmers Protest: Deewar

   Posted by: aman

Day 208

Toll 518+

#FarmersProtest

Deewar

Across the wall of government apathy around the farmers protest, stand the central leadership and the farmers. They do not dialogue because the elected leaders have not talked for 5 months.

Leader: I am just a phone call away. You do not know how the path you have chosen to walk on will end.

Farmers: we know our path could end in our loss but the path you have chosen will certainly harm all of us.

Leader: I am a fakir. I have played my game. I do not care if I lose or win. But you have time, you have other options, try something else.

Farmer: No, our principles, our rules of engagement do not permit us to walk away.

Leader: Uff! Your principles! What use are your principles? You sit in cold, you stand in rain, you suffer in heat and storms. What have your principles given you? A small land holding, so much loan…

Look at me, look. This is me, that is you. We started together: I selling tea, you farming land. See where you are left behind, see where I have reached. Today I have the army, the police, the courts, the corporates, the banks, the parliament, the policies, what do you have?

Farmer: we have courage, resolve and food.

(adapted from movie Deewar)

Note: Along with 50 trolleys of wheat that reached Singhu yesterday, since young men had to go back for paddy sowing, thousands of elderly have reached Tikri today. The game the fakir has played is on.

 

17
Jun

Farmers Protest: June 26

   Posted by: aman

Day 203

Toll 513+

#FarmersProtest

June 26

As the seventh month anniversary of the protests is approaching, and the government remains apathetic, the Samyukth Kisan Morcha has decided to mark June 26 as – Save Democracy, Save Farmers Day. It was on this day, in 1975, that the Indira Gandhi government implemented Emergency.

The fact is, while it is not declared, since Demonetisation, our nation has been in a state of undeclared Emergency. On June 26, this year, the farmers will give gherao all Raj Bhavans across the country and give memorandums to the respective Governors addressed to the President against the Farm Laws.

Meanwhile, with farmers having to return to sow paddy, the women have once again taken up the gauntlet to keep the vigil on the borders. They have been arriving in huge numbers. Here are two short videos of women and men protesting a few days back when the theme was: free the intellectuals.

Click here to see videos by Randeep S Maddoke