Archive for the ‘Punjab’ Category

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 …

19
Nov

Farmers Protest: Voila

   Posted by: aman

Day 357

Toll 669

Voila

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.

16
Nov

Farmers Protest: Pollution

   Posted by: aman

Day 355

Toll 665

Pollution

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.

1
Nov

Farmers Protest: Lines

   Posted by: aman

Day 340

Toll 655

Lines

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.

30
Oct

Farmers Protest: Accident

   Posted by: aman

Posted on October 28, 2021

Day 336

Toll 647

Accident

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

Injured:

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

20
Oct

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.

16
Oct

Prior Notice

   Posted by: aman

It is my habit to give prior notice hence giving one here about my interactions on Facebook.

Whether it is through my books or my posts here, I seek to expand understanding and create friendships. However, I now see that won’t be possible on Facebook. The medium started as a dorm call, moved to picnic pictures, morphed to election campaigns, and has finally become a cess pool breeding hatred and polarising society.

It became crystal clear yesterday on my post to inform people about what happened at Singhu the previous night. I posted because no media at that point was reporting it. Apart from information, like I do with long posts, I touched upon context and appealed for peace and restraint which is most important when such provocation takes place.

However, the post became a forum for many to project their self-righteous pontifications. Even those who know me for years displayed utter ignorance about me and chose to respond only to that post without even looking at the timestamp. All they did is issue certificates, pass judgements.
Frankly, when such a gruesome event has happened and people are not shocked but eager to make their points and shout, I wonder about how we ourselves have normalised violence. I am stunned.
Yes, over the last year, I have mostly used this medium to articulate the farmers protest. I am doing that for three reasons:

1. I felt the work was an extension of my book PANJAB through which I had learnt something about the land and people which mainland India does not make an effort to learn.

2. It remains an attempt to fill in a gap which mainstream media has created by not covering the protests.

3. It is a way for me to remain connected with the largest stance against neo-colonisation which will crush all of us.

However, the past year has been exhausting and my engagement here keeps me from work I must do – make books.

Hence, I will continue to articulate the farmers protest as long as they last. But once they are over, I will retreat from this medium at least in terms of making regular posts. As I said, I came here to engage not indulge in hate. This medium has failed my ask from it.

15
Oct

Farmers Protest: Sacrilege

   Posted by: aman

Day 323

Toll 638

Sacrilege

A very unfortunate incident transpired at Singhu border last night. At around 3 am, a man, seems Panjabi, name not yet known, wearing traditional Sikh kachera – drawers appeared at the makeshift mobile Gurdwara at Singhu border. He sought to pick up the Guru Granth Sahib and insult it.

The Nihangs, in whose camp the Granth Sahib is located, apprehended him in the act. The man confessed to being sent to the protest site by his backers to commit the sacrilege. He is in the Nihang custody, the police has reached the spot.

This is a heinous attempt to discredit the protests. The issue of sacrilege is deeply problematic and provocative for the Sikh community and for Panjab. Since incidents of sacrilege started in 2015, they have not yet found any resolution. They have claimed one government and two chief ministers but not been solved. This has created a deep schism in the minds of people regarding both: how democracy works and if democratic system deliver justice.

There is palpable frustration, cynicism and hopelessness in the system. When that happens, dejected by modern systems, people lapse back into earlier ways of being which they imagine worked for them better. Among Sikhs, it is that anyone who is wrong must be punished – sodha. Barbarically, the Nihangs cut off the wrist of the man. It is brutal.

We must keep in mind the protests against Farm laws and to legalise MSP have remained a perception battle. While the protesters have displayed immense resolve, resourcefulness, and repose in their leadership. The mainstream media has constantly denigrated the protesters, flung labels on them and yet the protesters have responded with dignity.

All this will be tested now. A crime has been prevented. The criminal is in custody. We need to trace the man’s backers.

Let us maintain calm, not let this incident take a communal turn, and stay focussed on the core goals of the protest.

Update: I am hearing the man is dead. The brutality meted out to him has cost us the opportunity to identify his backers.

14
Oct

Farmers Protest: Panjab

   Posted by: aman

Day 322

Toll 638

Panjab

Border State watchers: BJP need not fight elections in Panjab.

Panjab’s area is 50,362 square km

Panjab has 553 km border with Pakistan.

To checkmate ex CM Amarinder Singh’s national security narrative, new CM Channi asked Central Home Minister to increase central security forces to stop drugs and arms smuggling. As a result, central security forces now are free to penetrate 50 km inland.

Now, do your math. 553 km x 50 km = over 25,000 km

That means half the state in under central security forces. Which means the Centre rules half of Panjab.

Do you feel the pain of constant police surveillance?

Note: just blocked a national security apologist and deleted his comments. If anyone has to retort, answer three questions:

a) Why abrogating Article 370 did not stop militancy in Kashmir?

b) Why China has made repeated incursions into their side of the border and what has India done to stop those?

c) Please re-locate to Panjab border. I will facilitate that. Then we can talk.
Picture: Internet.

PS: for the record now Channi is opposing the Centre’s move. The decision affects West Bengal, Assam, Tripura as well.

The recent take over of half of Panjab by security forces is a repeat of a three millennia long history. Panjab has been and remains a casualty of geography, a casualty of history, a casualty of politics.

It is Panjab’s fate.

tak patree waleya lekh mere
mere hath wich wingian leekan ne

mere dil da mehram aawega
ya halle hor udeekan ne

lakh waar duavan mangiyan ne
kai waar baharan langiyan ne

mainu puch ke das taqdeeran ton
aje kiniyan door tareekan ne

mere rona rabb manzoor kare
meri zaat nu eho udeekan ne

see my hand o reader of palms
the lines on my hands are crooked.

will the one who soothes my heart come?
or is there a wait still?

a million times I have prayed
a million times spring has passed.

ask my fate and tell me
still how far are the dates?

may God accept my tears
my kind only wait for that.

No, no one in mainland India gets Panjab. Some try, but they can’t. For they have not endured Panjab’s tragedy on their bodies.

So, please, keep the dignity. No ‘national security’ remarks here please.

Reshma here …