Archive for December, 2020

13
Dec

Bangalore Literature Festival: Session on COVID19

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Dear Friends,

I spoke in two sessions at the Bangalore Literature Festival on December 12/13. In one of them I hosted psychotherapist Anna Chandy and Dr  Farah Adam. The Hindu covered it. Report here.

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11
Dec

PANJAB: Review in Hindi

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Dear Friends,

very touching that even a year and a month after the release of ‘PANJAB: Journeys Through Fault Lines’, reviews keep appearing. This time again in Hindi by Ashutosh Kumar Thakur.

Thank you! Please read here…

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11
Dec

Shekhar Gupta’s Forked Tongue

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Dear Friends,

in the last seven years, we have tried two ways of dealing with propaganda. 1) countering what Godi Media and BJP IT Cell produce; 2) creating our own the narrative.

We have realised, with increasing alarm, that we are unable to counter the Godi Media and BJP IT Cell propaganda. For a simple reason, any debate or discussion needs the other part to be open to reasoning. We have seen the ones who drive such propaganda are not open to reasoning. They only wish to drown out all others.

That is why when it came to #FarmerProtests, I realised I must contribute to creating our own narrative like many like-minded friends are doing. My suggestion to all those being flustered by Godi Media and IT Cell propaganda is: ignore. Propaganda is bad energy, if it does not get a response, it fades very quickly.

Yet, many of you, flustered by the Godi media and IT Cell propaganda keep reaching out to me over inbox asking me to rebuttal it. Frankly, I am also exhausted. Also, I feel this battle between farmers and the government has now gone beyond even narratives. The stances are crystal clear: farmers for people, for Constitution vs government as a front to crony capitalists. It is a battle of nerves and if yesterday’s proposals (see earlier post) are anything to go by, the government is blinking double-quick. It is, quite honestly, only MoSha’s ego that stands in the way.

Yet, I took on one Godi Media here – Shekhar Gupta who does not only enough wrong now but has done grievous damage to Panjab’s narrative for decades. Please read. Thank you Punjab Today.

Please read here …

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11
Dec

Farmer Protest: Farmers Reject Government Proposals

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Day 15. Last night I heard murmurs from urban middle class India: why did farmers not agree to government proposals? The government even agreed to consider Electricity Ordinance, mentioned MSP, allowed state to levy taxes on private mandis, why did farmers not agree? What is really wrong with farmers? They just like to disrupt. Yada, yada …

Yes, dear urban India – so accustomed to haggling over two rupees with the vegetable vendor, but so prompt in paying marked price on branded stuff in malls – I get you.

Please know that the farmers’ demands to repeal all three ‘Black Laws’, making MSP mandatory for all farmers in the nation, and release of all political prisoners are non-negotiable. That is why the farmers do not want some face saving by the government, some middle path, and are calling for a special session of Parliament to fulfil their demands.

The reason is the three Farm Laws are unconstitutional.

Yes, the Laws have been framed by an elected government, but with no consultation with farmer groups. In fact, that was the first questions farmers asked the government? Who did you consult when making these Laws? No answer from government. We know the answer – crony capitalists. The Laws were also bulldozed through the Rajya Sabha by voice vote when the Opposition was absent. The recourse to court is really lengthy and indeterminate because we know the court’s decisions in recent past.

When it comes to Laws, there is always a letter of a law and a spirit of a law. What the current regime does is pay lip-service to the letter – Modi touching the steps of Parliament with his head when he got elected in 2014 – but completely invert the spirit of the law. In this case, while Agriculture is a State subject per our Constitution, the government has used Point 33 of the Concurrent List (which talks about trade of farm produce, look up) and brought in these draconian laws which will affect fifty percent of India – its rural, agrarian economy – and hundred percent food security. The farmers are producers, not traders. This is a very important distinction to maintain.

By scrapping the Essential Commodities Act, ECA, allowing traders to hoard unlimited quantities of farm produce, the government is throwing the entire country to unscrupulous traders. These traders will then manipulate the market and artificially hike prices of essential commodities. Remember 67% of our nation depends on the Public Distribution System for rations. What will happen to them? That is why the farmers have rejected the government proposals.

The farmers, my friends, are protesting for India’s food sovereignty and for the spirit of its Constitution. Let us, for once, abandon our urban prisms to understand them and support their struggle unflinchingly.

Please understand our urban mindsets vis a vis rural mindsets. We city folks, for various reasons, are so accustomed to negotiating for everything – jobs, salaries, housing, even food. Rural folks are direct – either something works or does not. That is why each year in the event of price depression, we see farmers abandoning their produce on roads, in fields. It is their desperation in the face of huge structural issues with agriculture.

This time it the farmers – and not the government – who has our nation’s best interest in their mind.

Support them.

Disclaimer: Though I have studied rural Panjab for my book, I know some of the farmer leaders in the protest, I have not been in touch with them during the course of this protest. I know they are busy with much bigger issues. I too am trying to learn and I am only contributing by amplifying the protest.

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11
Dec

Farmer Protests: Talk with With Bhai Baldeep Singh

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Dear Friends,

Bhai Baldeep called me and we discussed the farmer protests. His session was his usual self but we remained focussed. In the later part of the conversation, news came Hindi poet Manglesh Dabral had passed away. With that in consideration, we ended the talk earlier.

Please see here …

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11
Dec

Farmer Protests: Day 14

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Facebook December 9, 2020

1. Yesterday, the Bharat Bandh was a huge success. All day I saw pictures streaming in from various states including Karnataka where I live. The Bandh was at 20,000 locations in the country. This was possible because Truck Unions, Mumbai Dabbawalas, many others and about 25 political parties participating in the Bandh.

2. Last night Home Minister Amit Shah met 13 representatives of the farmer unions. Again, the government changed the venue of the meet at the last minute. The current regime, I tell you, can get nothing straight, it is always dodgy. What did the government expect? Some farmer leaders will get stuck in Delhi traffic and not make it to the meeting? Anyway, the meeting was inconclusive.

3. The scheduled 6th round of talks between the farmer unions and government today have been cancelled. Now the farmer unions have decided to ask the government to send a written proposal to them upon which they shall deliberate on the Singhu border to Delhi – their main protest venue. Great move by farmer unions – bring the battle to your field. They have displayed this character earlier too by carrying their own food to the meetings with the government.

4. Much news about split among unions, much speculation on how talks are proceeding. This is natural. We are all keenly watching, we are anxious.

Yet, a small message on Point 4. It is true that human nature is tricky. It is true that there have been many questions on some of the leaders in the past. We are aware how there are always secret parleys between governments and not only farmer but any union leaders in all protests through history. We must never fully believe anyone, including our own selves.

However, one observation from having watched the Panjab unions for a few years. Especially for us urban, liberal, middle-class who are perhaps first time watching such a huge protest and negotiations in independent India’s history.

These unions have been in many big state-level protests in the last few years. They have a lot, and by that I really mean a lot of experience of struggling against thousands of farmer kurkis, nilamis, farmer and labour suicides, issues of fake pesticides, bad farm equipment, inflated electricity bills, social issues and all ills of neo-liberalization and even before the 1990s, the immediate, on ground, aftereffects of Green Revolution.

They are the best we have. These representatives are sharp, they see the government’s move in all their dimensions. As far as their work goes, any farmer worries about just two things: too much rain – a flood, too little rain – a famine. What will be, will be.

On November 26th, it was not the unions leaders who called for the Haryana police barricades to be broken. It was the energy of the people, the youth, that determined the march. Even now, that energy is just under the surface and guides what the leaders negotiate. It is an internal check and balance. It continues to play its role. Believe in it.

Know that it is actually the elected representatives who should be our leaders. Yet, when the elected government betrayed the general will of the people, in this case agrarian, rural India, it has risen with its own leadership – the farmer union leaders. If the union leaders betray their cadres – the protesting people – a new set of leaders will arise from the general will of the people.

The important point is your political conciousness – your resistance. After 7 years, the resistance to the regime has started. Believe in resistance.

Keep your cool, steady your nerves. Stay focussed. Solidarity.

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10
Dec

Farmer Protests: France24 Coverage

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Dear Friends,

the farmer protests are truly going international. More and more of the world is looking at India. I hope the government feels the pressure – repeals the Black Laws.

Thanks to Shashwati Talukdar a leading European news site FRANCE 24 journalist Leela Jacinto spoke to me yesterday.

I really like how some foreign journalists, looking at events in their totality, process information in a way that it amplifies the voice on the ground. Thank you Leela.

Thank you Bikramdeep Singh Pannu for the video of farmer leader describing how they are negotiating with the government.

Please read here …

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Dear Friends,

personal: during these farmer protests, Yasser Arafath interviewed me and published the story in Malayalam in the magazine TrueCopy.

Posting the link to the Table of Contents of the magazine here. I know Malayalees are enterprising, I am sure those interested will find the story.

I am glad that as an honourary Malayalee, married into Kerala through Lakshmi Karunakaran, Kerala will now get a first-hand account of my people from Panjab. Achhan Madhavan Karunakaran read the 10-page story last night and told me it reflects my views accurately.

Please see here …

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10
Dec

Farmer Protests: Naming the Sites of Protest

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Facebook: December 8, 2020

The farmer protest reaches Day 13 and today is Bharat Bandh. The response from various parts of the country shows us there is something we need to understand about cultures of different regions in India.

The matter is rooted in history. Panjab-Haryana and in many ways Western UP has been a site for conflict for thousands of years. They have been the gateway to the Indian sub-continent for millennia.

Similarly, Rajputs, Marathas, Malayalees, Tamizh, north-east Ahoms, Nagas, Meitei and others have always been on their own borders of the Indian sub-continent. They have, from time to time, picked arms to defend themselves.

We people from the periphery of the Indian sub-continent, now nation, have a way of life which is vastly dissimilar from central Indian sub-continent. We know to defend ourselves. We know that to defend our lands, we need to be prepared for sacrifice. We do not seek wars or sacrifice, but we are prepared for it. That is the nature of the border, any border.
The texture of our blood is resistance.

We know, life is ephemeral, so is possession of land. That is why, when we have the land, we name it, we celebrate it. That is why the farmers at Tikri border to Delhi – one of the protests sites, have renamed spaces within the site as:

1. Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Nagar
2. Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar
3. Bibi Gulab Kaur Nagar
4. Chacha Ajit Singh Nagar
5. Shaheed Sadhu Singh Takhtupura Nagar.

The Press Gallery is named after Ashfaqullah Khan.

Who are all these people after whom these spaces are named? Google them. Learn some history.

The farmers who have come with their own food, supplies, warm clothing and bedding, even some furniture, have established a city within a city. It is fascinating how they are using culture and history – pre-British, British, post-British – to challenge the mighty establishment.

That is just how we are. All of us who resist hegemony.

Note: apologies if you feel I am making broad sweeping statements but do notice stereotypes also have basis in history. Especially, positive stereotypes.

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10
Dec

Farmer Protests: On Global News, British Columbia

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Dear Friends,

thanks to Arvinder Singh and Daljot Singh, I was on Global News, British Columbia, Canada for a few minutes.

In the context of the Bharat Bandh called by farmers tomorrow, Neetu Garcha and I spoke about reasons for the farmer protests, Trudeau’s comments and COVID19.

This is a very brief appearance. 4.12 minutes. Please see here and click video.

 

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