19
Sep

Farmers Protests: human cost 600

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Posted September 17, 2021

On Day 295, with 600 human lives lost, what are the farmers really against?

This: $24 Billion deposit

16
Sep

Farmers Protest: 28 Farm Suicides per Day

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 294

Toll 599

28 Farm Suicides per Day

Two days days back I had put up earnings of farmer per day according to the Indian government survey. Sadly, data on farmer and labour suicides has not been available for a few years now. Neither in the Parliament (last question answered was in 2016), nor on the Statistics Department website.

Last we knew, 3.5 lakh farmers and labour had committed suicide in last two decades. The number quoted in some circles is 4 lakh.

While browsing for something else, here is a report I came across based on National Crime Records Bureau. It was published a few months back. It pegs the number at an average of 28 suicides per day. It says:

‘The latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau shows more than 10,000 farmers and agricultural labourers killed themselves in 2019 — that’s 7.4 per cent of India’s total suicide victims. (As a comparison, students also made up 7.4 per cent while civil servants accounted for 1.2 per cent.)’

Farmer and labour is vulnerable, students are vulnerable, there have been immense job loses, civil servants are committing suicide. As a country we are a ticking time bomb, ready to explode.

Yet, our silence. Our status quo.

See here …

15
Sep

Farmers protest: Whither Captain?

   Posted by: aman   in Punjab

Day 293

Toll 599

Now that there is a lull in the Sidhu-Captain struggle saga in Panjab, Captain has gone ahead and provoked the farmers. Yesterday, he asked farmers protesting in Panjab at 113 locations for close to a year now to shift protest solely to Delhi and Haryana. The reason, he says is, people are inconvenienced and protests hamper economic growth.

Imagine the chutzpah! For four and a half years Captain has neglected the state and now he says farmers protest are harming development. It is for reasons like these I say Captain – while he nominally belongs to Congress – is the most cloaked face of the Sangh. In reality, Captain is a coterie unto his own. When it suits him he spouts nationalism, when it suits him he speaks Panjab’s interest.

Also yesterday, in an unfortunate turn of events, the SKM stage was used to issue a statement against a community elder S. Hardeep Singh Dibdiba. If you recollect, on January 26th, a young man lost his life near Red Fort. Navreet Singh was Dibdiba’s grandson. Police maintains the death occurred because Navreet Singh lost control of his tractor, the tractor tuned turtle, he fell and injured himself fatally. Some media and local sources maintain Navreet was shot at which led to him losing control of the tractor.

At that time, SKM immediately distanced itself from Navreet’s death. In fact, for at least a week SKM did not recover from the events of Republic Day and made all kinds of defensive statements, calling the younger lot in-disciplined and many more adjectives. When, in fact, the Tractor Rally was SKM’s call to start with and SKM never explained the logic behind the route change. Since losing his grandson, Dibdiba has been campaigning to bring the youth and SKM together. Later, once the protest was stable again, SKM honoured Navreet as a martyr.

This statement yesterday, though very brief, came from Dibdiba’s son Bikramjit Singh Hundal who is Navreet’s father. It is clear there is a rift in the family. It is an older rift, going back a few decades, when perhaps Dibdiba neglected his own family.

To me, SKM’s role in the immediate aftermath of Republic Day and yesterday remains problematic. I believe, any fight we take on is finally about our personalities, our character. If SKM has to lead this struggle over the morality of laws, it must itself also rise above exploiting family rifts and allowing its stage to be used to wash dirty linen in public. There is no end to Panjab’s internecine rivalries and SKM must realise it has always been a much bigger entity than just a front for a Panjab-based protest. These talks overall lead to SKM earning a bad name for itself.

In any case now the idea of SKM has spread and individual states are coming up with their own chapters. Haryana, Uttrakhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh are all starting their own SKM chapters. This is part of UP Mission, Bharat Bandh preparations – on September 27th, and for the longer innings in which farmers now find themselves.

Right now a Kisan Sansad is underway in Jaipur. The Sansad model has really worked for farmers and it is good that it is being replicated across sates. The media, if in solidarity, gets to publish concise, accurate information on the Farm Laws. The message spreads, hopefully far and wide.

15
Sep

Farmers Protest: Re 27/day

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Posted on September 14, 2021

Day 292

Toll 599

Re 27/day

‘An Indian farmer earned ?27 per day on average from cultivation in 2018-19. This is less than what he would have earned doing MGNREGS work through the year.’ Hindustan Times

Click here to see graphic and story.

11
Sep

Farmers Protest: Election Campaign

   Posted by: aman   in Punjab

Day 289

Toll 596

Election Campaign

Yesterday, the Samyukth Kisan Morcha’s Panjab Farmer Unions met with all Panjab political party leaders, except BJP, at the People Convention Centre, Sector 36, Chandigarh.

Given that elections are a few months away, the SKM is interested in keeping the people of the state focussed on the protest and does not want them distracted by political rallies or their opposition. They requested all political parties to not conduct political rallies until the state elections are announced. They committed that farmers will not obstruct social gatherings.

This step was necessary because the political situation is quite a mess. Not only because of Congress infighting, Shiromani Akali Dal nowhere close to recovering ground lost in last 5 years, AAP also in a deep churn.

On September 2, we saw the fracas between farmers and police over a Akali political rally. Given the situation, given how Centre is on the backfoot over the farmers protest, how BJP has no face left in Punjab, there is general apprehension of President’s Rule in the state.

The meeting was an interesting show of strength in reverse. Normally we are accustomed to politicians keeping the people waiting, delaying meetings. But yesterday, politicians were kept waiting. Navot Sidhu, the Panjab Congress head waited a whole hour before he was called in.

The result of the meeting was:

- All small parties and AAP agreed that they will not start election campaign before elections are announced. Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal noted the request but said they would revert after consultation with their high command.

- Unions posed that since all political parties, once elected, go back on their promises in the election manifesto, why not make the manifesto a legal document with timelines to implement promises if elected? All parties agreed to the proposal, in theory.

- Unions put up their demand to Congress to work with the Centre and cancel the submission of land records at APMCs to sell grain. The issue is complex because the titles of much of the land ownership of all farmers, all over the country, is not completely legally clear. It has to do with patterns of family ownership and not all farmers till their lands.

- The press asked if the Unions had also demanded from Congress to withdraw charge-sheets against farmers in Moga. The police has already agreed to withdraw the cases and sought one week to do that.

- Upon being pushed to declare which party the unions support, the unions summed up their meeting with the words that any political party that continues to conduct rallies will be seen as ‘anti-farmer’ and that will have consequences in the elections.

I think, in the interest of the farmers protest, and also for general peace in a democracy, this was an essential exercise. I hope the political parties heed the farmer unions’ request and Panjab averts a President’s rule. This move will also save political parties expenses to mount their campaign well in advance and will keep people focussed on the protests.

I also cannot help note how wily-nily this request will also play out personally in favour of Panjab CM Amarinder Singh. We know his tenure has been an utter failure. We know he cannot really face the people of the state. This request will give him an alibi to not appear in public. It is interesting how in Karnal, the unions are making the Haryana CM accountable, but in Panjab the unions’ call is allowing the CM a face saver.

Please do not read my understanding as an aspersion on the unions or any kind of insinuation. It is just an illustration of how every step we take has consequences, sometimes unintended. Overall, the meeting was a good illustration of people’s power over their representatives.

9
Sep

Farmers Protest: Impunity

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 287

Toll 594

Impunity

Though the farmers protest held itself through last winter, chilly rains, COVID-19 pandemic second wave, extreme summer, devastating monsoon showers and floods, the onset of next winter has brought a new energy to the protest. Within 48 hours, armed with sheer will-power and a resolve for justice, the farmers moved 85 kilometers from Muzaffarnagar to Karnal, across two states ruled by draconian BJP government to stun both the government and the lapdog media. BJP had barely started to spin Muzaffarnagar, when Karnal hit. Godi media, that has sucked up the government for so long, has been forced to report Karnal.

This is a repeat of the November 27, 2020 move when by proceeding to Delhi despite Haryana police barricades, water canons, tear gas, the farmers had camped on the borders of Delhi. That move had surprised and awed the government. After that, the government kept trying to engage the farmers in a battle of attrition, tire them out, weaken them out, split them, but nothing worked. Nine long months later, the farmers are back in full spirit.

A thumb rule followed by all governments is to distract protesters from the real issue. Normally, in India, the government uses religion as bait. The government tried that on January 26, 2021. The brilliant aspect of these protests is in spite of their different faith, the farmers have stayed united. In fact, through langars, temples and mosques and gurdwaras have come together to serve the protesters.

Beyond awe and attrition, any struggle is about position. Whatever be anyone’s position on Farm Laws – support for laws has massively dwindled, call for repeal has gained strength – no one can deny the completely illegal nature of the Karnal SDM’s orders. Neither the Sangh, nor the BJP, not even the official machinery and least of all ordinary citizens. That places the farmers protesting in Karnal in a top position. There is no question of their demand being wrong at all – ideologically or politically.

Yet, the government is in denial. The Farm laws have been staked on Modi’s image as strongman – any retreat by government would have been seen by his followers as Modi’s weakness. Yet, this time the matter is about the role of the official machinery – who pays their salaries, who do they belong to, whose orders do they fulfil?

We know for long official machinery has enjoyed disproportionate impunity. But now when the family members of the police are protesting, how often will they raise the baton? Will they pave way for the state to break up their families? That is what Dallewal and Tikait raised yesterday. The farmer langars are serving the police as well – right from the beginning. Will the police betray the very food that sustains it? The way the governments has been betraying the farmers that feed the nation. Does police want to continue finding itself sharing the dais of infamy with politicians?

Yet, if the Haryana government takes a step back, like in Hisar and Tohana, decides to charge the SDM under Section 302 of the IPC, it would have a domino effect on all politicians being able to use police for their vested interests. That is exactly the kind of reform in governance that India needs.

Surely, CM Khattar and BJP along with turncoat, hypocrite JJP that supported the government, will lose the next elections. But withdrawing now would signal the CM’s end of career. That is why whether it is Farm Laws stalemate or this Karnal imbroglio, the BJP has erred in being able to judge the farmers’ resilience. Both should have been solved early. Every day that passes on the protest, the farmers win. There is no end to their ability to arrange resources to continue the struggle. After all, they feed the nation. They are our ann datas.

8
Sep

Farmers Protest: Karnal

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 286

Toll 594 (adjusted back to martyr’s count published last night)

Karnal

In the last 75 years of being a free democratic country, we have nearly normalised extra-judicial orders, unwritten draconian orders by senior officials and politicians. Entire geographies have been hit by officers and politicians bending the law. My guesstimate is there might not be a district in the country where such disregard for law has not occurred.

Yet, there comes a time when the smallest lapse becomes the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back. That is what happened with Karnal SDM Ayush Sinha who was recorded giving orders to ‘break the heads’ of farmers. We have all seen the video. It is wrong. Retired IAS officers and judges have condemned it, human rights watchers have condemned it. Yet, the state continues to defend Sinha.

Last night, this led to the huge gherao of the Karnal DC Office or some call it mini-Secretariat. The farmers are demanding Sinha’s prosecution and compensation to farmer Kajal who sadly died owing to the police lathi charge on August 28th. Last night SKM leaders have appealed for even larger participation. The numbers are set to increase from estimated over 2 lakhs yesterday to perhaps half a million today.

At stake is a simple matter: who should the police and civil administration obey? Should they obey the rule book, the Constitution on which they have sworn to protect society or the politicians who wield power and pass unofficial orders? Who are they serving – society or representatives of people who have turned rogue?

That is why this protest in Karnal is not about Sinha or the District Commissioner or CM Khattar alone. It is a struggle to establish what is primary in a democracy: the law or rogue appropriation of the executive (one of the pillars of democracy). We know the legislative is compromised, we know the judiciary is often compromised. To set all right, we need to start somewhere and the farmers have evidence to charge the SDM. The crowds are doing exactly that – mounting pressure on administration to follow the rule book.

This protest is to uphold democratic values. If we are interested in democracy, we will support it fully.

———–

Last night, Jap in the absence of food, water, even Internet to message for resources.

Langar when food arrived.

Dear Friends,

I like it when independent media picks my pieces on social media and publishes them. Thank you Maktoob Media for publishing my take on the Muzaffar Mahapanchayat held on September 5, 2021.

Please read here …

6
Sep

Farmers Protest: Mahapanchayat Outcomes

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 284

Toll 596

Mahapanchayat Outcomes

This is purely my take on the outcomes of the Muzaffarnanagar Mahapanchayat yesterday.

1. Deepening of public consciousness and demonstration of people’s strength against draconian regime. Whatever the media tells you, hides from you, there was a Jan Sailab – people’s flood at the rally yesterday. Samyukt Kisan Morcha in its press note says 10 lakhs or 1 million people attended the Mahapanchayat. Independent sources place the number higher at 15 to 20 lakhs. Know that there was a jam 20 kilometers from the venue. Many attendees would have not been able to reach the venue. Overall, it was a huge demonstration of people’s discontent with the incumbent government.

2. Call for unity against all attempts to divide farmers: wo todenge, hum jodenge – they will try to break us, we will stand united. Given the backdrop of Muzaffarnagar 2013 (see earlier posts) there was a clear indication that farmers will not be polarized. The farmers have realised Sangh’s game plan and have resolutely decided to not let the poison affect their lives. Jats and Muslims, Gujjars and Sikhs attended the rally. The double utterance from Baba Tikait’s time came into play: Allah Hu Akbar – Har Har Mahadev. Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal and Wahe Guru Ji Da Khalsa, Wahe Guru ji Di Fateh resounded on stage.

3. Mission Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand launched: daam nahin to vote nahin – no fair price, no vote. The purpose of the Mahapanchayat was to signal to the regime that with state elections less than 5 months away, BJP which has not upheld its promises needs to note that people will not repose their faith in the party again. The specific promise to which BJP was subjected was sugar cane price promised to be made Rs 450 per quintal and release of Rs 12,000 crore to farmers as past payments. The larger issue raised were the demands for the last 9 months: repeal Farm Laws, implement Minimum Support Price.

4. SKM to take steps to activate resistance to ‘India’s Sale’ in all states – Haryana body with 19 unions formed; similar efforts in Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and other states on. The Mahapanchayat raised issues of sectors beyond agriculture. They mentioned Labour Codes, Fisheries, sale of Public Sector Units, privatisation of roads, railways, and such. The SKM will start building solidarities to save these national assets.

5. SKM declares September 27th as Bharat Bandh; solicits cooperation from all trade unions, from across industries, traders and the Opposition. SKM reiterated its demand to penalise Karnal SDM over instructions to ‘break people’s heads’ else stood by its decision to gherao Haryana mini–Secretariat September 7th.

I think the Mahapanchayat was a huge success. The farmers have sent out a message, now it is time for middle class across the country to wake up, join the efforts. 17 Mahapanchayats are planned in Uttar Pradesh in coming weeks. The battle for the country has moved from Panjab and Haryana to the Hindi heartland.

I know we all grew up listening to stories of the freedom struggle, finding our heroes, and now are becoming increasingly disappointed and despondent on how the values are eroded, the country is being broken and sold out. Seeing the proceedings, I felt, why do we not switch our minds? Instead of lamenting, why do we not see this as an opportunity to fight the oppressors, throw the neo-colonialists out? That is what the farmers have been doing for the last not only 9 months but many years.

Time for us ‘spectators’ to jump into the battle. May we find the will and strength to do that for ourselves, for our next generations.

6
Sep

Farmers Protest: UP Mission

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 283

Toll 596

UP Mission

Forty-six years back, on the same Muzaffarnagar Government Inter College grounds as today, Jay Prakash Narayan had given a call against Emergency. Eight years back, on September 7, 2013, in nearby village Nagla Mandaur the Jat Mahapanchayat had triggered communal violence which had breached the Hindu-Muslim community and torn them apart. BJP/RSS had used that breach to start their 2014 campaign, win general elections and the rest has been a seven year long national nightmare.
In many ways, all the Bhartiya Kisan Union branches in north Indian states owe their genesis to Baba Mahender Singh Tikait. Yet, when the farmers protests started – given 2013 Muzaffarnagar – Rakesh Tikait seemed an odd one to support the movement.

January 26th happened, as Singhu was in shock, Tikait held up Ghazipur. As authorities cut electricity and water, barricades road, was ready to unleash an attack on Terai Sikhs who were staying back, and came to arrest Tikait, remove him from the spot, he called for ‘water from his village’. Middle of foggy winter night, thousands from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh set out for Delhi with water.
The Mahapanchayat end of January in Muzaffarnagar was marked by a rare apology. The Hindus and Muslims together took the Lota Nun oath to boycott BJP. Rakesh Tikait was soon all over the media, all over the country, joined the ‘No Vote to BJP’ campaign in Bengal. Many opined it was a ploy: media was deliberately playing up Tikait and the cost of Samyukt Kisan Morcha.

Tikait, like Rajewal, has sworn to not return to his village until the Farm Laws are repealed and MSP is legalised. Even today, he reached the stage straight from Gazipur protest site and will return to Delhi’s border without going home.
While the mood at the Mahapachayat is buoyant, I feel this Mahapanchayat, at the inauguration of people’s voice against the regime termed as ‘UP Mission’ is tinged with a sense of pain – atonement, penance. This is an attempt to undo the damage of 2013. I do not know if we can ever recover from the loss of last seven years but this pain drives this attempt and that is what makes it so much more worthy.

Today, looking at Muzaffarnagar Mahapanchayat, it is clear that the people are bigger than any leader. The resolve in the eyes of the last elder in the protest is far brighter than any conspiracies real or imagined. The strength in their sinews is far stronger than any draconian government. The moral power of non-violence is far greater than the batons and guns of any police force. Speeches are going on in Kannada and Tamizh and Malayalam as well at the Muzaffarnagar Mahapanchayat.

Here is a short video from this morning on the issues that drive this Mahapanchayat and UP Mission by my friend Nakul Singh Sawhney from ChalChitra Abhiyaan who has kept a close vigil on the region for the past eight years. 9.21, sorry no subtitles. That needs time and the urgency is great.

Here is a how languages other than Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Tamizh and Malayalam were also spoken at the rayy.

Here is the conclusion of the rally.