Farmers Protest: Path

   Posted by: aman   in Other, Punjab

Day 149

Toll 395



In the last few days there has been some blame shifting on the farmers over oxygen supplies to Delhi hospitals. There have also been reports countering and debunking this propaganda. These reports clearly point fingers at UP and Haryana governments. A farmers investigation shows police directing oxygen trucks over longer routes through protests sites hoping they will be stopped and farmers can be blamed.

While it is well established as a practice that farmers never hinder essential services, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha has decided to vacate one side of the road on Singhu border. Personally, this does not make sense to me because there is always a service road kept open.

Yet, uppermost on farmer leaders minds is to not give the government any reason to crack down on them and never cause blockade of essential supplies to people. With the rise again of the pandemic, this pressure has increased many times not only in terms of continuing the protests but also saving their own people – the protesters.

The right-wing and the government is building a huge narrative that given the pandemic situation the farmers should back off. Many of those who support the protests and are in sympathy with the protesters are also joining in the chorus.

This narrative assumes that farmers do not know the risks involved. At its most charitable, this narrative says that there could be a time, when the pandemic clears, the farmers can resume their struggle.

Both are mistakes.

Of course, there are many views on the pandemic in the protests – from non-acceptance of pandemic, questioning of numbers, to willingness to wear masks, maintain physical distancing, get tests done. Yet, I believe pontification is the easiest and laziest thing that supporters can do. The hard thing is to actually go down to protest sites and try working with the farmers to maintain COVID-19 protocols.

As we know from the Citizenship protests, it is virtually impossible to mount such a protest again. It did not happen with Citizenship protests; it won’t happen with these ones. In any case, given how wheat is being procured in this season, the government in anyway covertly pushing its agenda.

Then there is the aspect of third mutant, whether vaccines work, and so on. There is huge data being generated on those. So what are the supporters really asking the protesters to do? Put your hand on your heart and tell me merely masking up will save farmers. Given the protests sites, physical distancing is impossible.

I maintain these protests are the last stand to save the nation. The very term ‘last stand’ is borrowed from military parlance. This is a war, the weapons are propaganda and narratives. The farmers have resilience and resolve. The danger is death.

But you know what? The even greater danger is civil society shrugging off the farmers struggle and possible deaths with ‘I told you so: you should have masked up’.

That is the direction in which this narrative will go.

Personally, I believe the decision to follow COVID-19 protocols should be the farmers choice and we must believe in their agency. It is the same agency which has revealed all the gaps in the Farm Laws, all the issues with neo-liberal frameworks which the entire lot who supports the farmers has been unable to fight for decades. The result is in front of us through the broken health system of the nation. When farmers are fighting it, let us try not to dissuade them by injecting fear.

Fear kills any protest.

Notice the farmers are doing exactly what they set out to do. Even I have reported they are prepared to fight until government repeals laws, legalises MSP or 2024, even if they have to reconfigure strategies. They are also staying true to what they answered right at the beginning of the protests when asked if they are not scared of Coronavirus: both the Farm Laws and the virus will kill us; it is better to die fighting than hiding away in our villages.

They had said this is a ‘aar ya paar’ di ladai – a do or die war. Did you not hear that? Did you not believe that?

As far as public health is considered. For long the critique has been these are Haryana and Panjab farmers – unlike the Kumbh Mela where participants were from all over the nation. Heavens forbid, if the protests become super-spreaders it would only kill people from these two states.

Maybe some more but not you in the rest of India. Would the bodies piling up be difficult for you to watch? What would you rather do: not acknowledge farmer suicides? Around 4,00,000 in the last 25 years? Before COVID-19, before Farm Laws. Even more after COVID-19 and Farm Laws are implemented.

IMHO before pontificating, the question we need to ask ourselves is: why are farmers protesting even after 5 months? Why could this nation not rise up to support the farmers? Push the government to repeal the laws which have anyway been laid bare? If we could not do that, in spite of all the support the farmers generated, then do we – the rest of the nation – really have a moral ground to stand on and advise the farmers?

Yet, we will not ask ourselves that question. We will not go down to the sites to work with the farmers on COVID-19 protocols. We will pontificate and by doing that join the right-wing attack against the farmers. If the disaster happens we will say: we told you so.

That is our tragedy as a nation.

This entry was posted on Friday, April 23rd, 2021 at 12:13 pm and is filed under Other, Punjab. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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