Farmers Protest: 19-21

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 213

Toll 523+



Unni-Ikki they say in Panjab about a small miss. In Hindi it would be Unees-Ikkis ka farak. The history of the world is full of major battles lost due to small misses, for example Agincourt or Waterloo.

Take protests: massive protests before World War I did not prevent the war from taking place. The Farmers Protest in Brussels 2009 with tractors and cows did not move the European Union. The protests in Japan against nuclear Power Plants did not change government opinion and it has recently re-commissioned the Fukushima plant. Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have not moved Chinese authorities. Occupy Wall Street, that began in 2011, has informed millions of people about the shocking inequalities but not led to policy change.

All these protests have been valiant, they have our solidarity, some of them are still ongoing, but have been inconclusive in term of results because at some point their leadership could not penetrate the regimes against which they stood. The Farmers Protest in India is in such a phase now.

Yesterday’s ‘Save Agriculture, Save Democracy’ marches show in some states the Governors were even unwilling to accept a letter to the President. While in Uttar Pradesh and Bengal the people demonstrated and the Governor accepted the letters, in Karnataka where we have a chief minister whose lifelong claim is he is pro-farmers, the police unnecessarily stopped the protesters. In Delhi, Rakesh Tikait had to go live in the evening and then the Lieutenant Governor accepted the letter virtually.

Yet, the worst was in Chandigarh, capital to Haryana and Panjab. What were all those barricades about? Why did the farmers from the two states have to break barricades from two ends of town – Panchkula and Mohali? Why is the government so scared?

The reason to submit the letter to the Governor shows that since the elected national government has discredited itself by not talking to farmers for five long months, but we are still a democracy and the Governor to President is a valid channel to approach, the farmers had decided to approach the Governors. Why then did the Governors and police stop the farmers from approaching? Is it because City Beautiful will be spoilt by rural India coming into it?

Yet, the farmers braved water canons, broke barricades, proceeded to meet the Governors. Despite thousands of farmers and police, though there were small skirmishes, there was no major violence. Yet, what transpired on the Panjab side at the Sector 9-17 crossing between Samyukt Kisan Morcha leaders and Chandigarh SSP Kuldeep Singh Chahal was revealing.

SKM leaders were pushing to move ahead on the remaining 2.5 kilometres to the Governor’s House. The SSP said, ‘Some of your cadre has gone ahead, call them back…’

SKM said, ‘No, no, they are just youth. They are not with us.’

SSP said, ‘How can you say that? They have come with you, they came on your call. Call them back, get together, we shall make provision for a delegation to meet the Governor.’

The situation was getting aggressive. The SSP remained calm but SKM was unable to call the protesters back. Finally, in a hurry, Rajewal stood on top of a car with letter in hand, showed it to all gathered. Then he handed over the letter to the SSP. Similarly, Haryana farmers also handed the letter to the Deputy Commissioner of Chandigarh Mandeep Singh Brar.

All this drama, the thousands who reached the venues, the barricades that were broken, the march of the people, just to hand over the letter to the SSP and DC?

Kabir, the Bhakti poet, concludes a song on meditation by saying: jeet nishan ghuraunga – I shall spin victory on its mark. This not being able to hand the letter to the Governors is the unni-ikki difference, the small lapse. It marks how the SKM leaders approach the protests: the disowning youth ‘not with us’ is a standard feature now since the incidents of January 26th.

The reason behind this is the divide in Panjab between what is generally called the Left vs Sikh factions. The divide is more in the mind, more in discourses and labels, than on ground. But it persists.

As the protests strengthen once again, as UP and Panjab elections approach near, the SKM must resolve these differences proactively and make sure it achieves what it sets out to do in each event it outlines. In this case, handing letters to Governors. Notice, SKM launched its march to Chandigarh yesterday from Gurdwaras Nada Sahib and Amb Sahib. Else any SSP or the state will ask: the youth came with you, came on your call, how can you say they are not with you?

The disowning approach has to stop. Only then will the SKM be able to spin victories on the mark. Only then will unni-ikki be resolved. The vision has to be 20/20.

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