20
Dec

Farmers Protests: On Akaal TV, UK

   Posted by: aman   in Punjab

Dear Friends,

Prof. Gurnam Singh from the UK invited me to be part of his panel on #FarmersProtests in India. For personal reasons, I could not attend but participated through audio messages. One at 11.25 minutes and then towards the end at 1.11.35 minutes.

In Panjabi and some speakers in English. Please listen to the discussion here …

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18
Dec

Farmers Protest: Talk at Oxford

   Posted by: aman   in Punjab

Dear Friends,

last evening, at 5.30 pm IST, Prof Pritam Singh, dentist and filmmaker Navkiran Natt, lawyer and activist Kawalpreet Kaur and I participated in a discussion on the current #FarmersMovement unfolding in India. The event was hosted by research scholar and student activist Nikita Azad and organised by the Oxford South Asian Society and Oxford India Society.

To listen to talk, click here …

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Dear Friends,

Day 21 of the #FarmersMovement.

While the end seems prolonged, I feel there are many good reasons to celebrate how we have come this far and what we have already achieved. Of course, our final goal is the government repeal the three anti-farmer Farm Laws. Thank you Punjab Today.

Please read here …

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13
Dec

Farmer Protests: Talk at Stanford University

   Posted by: aman   in Punjab

Dear Friends,

though it happens often in academic circles that teachers and students share a stage, since I am not part of any institution, it was my pleasure to share stage with Prof Surinder S. Jodhka who was my teacher in the 1990s at the University of Hyderabad.

Here is our session at the Stanford South Asian Society hosted by Ashveer Pal Singh. Thank you Komal and Harleen for the technical support. 1.08 hours.

Please listen here…

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13
Dec

Farmer Protests: Who is Asking the Question?

   Posted by: aman   in Punjab

Day 18, Facebook, December 13, 2020

It is fairly easy to count the days of the Farmer Protests. They started on November 26th, Constitution Day – the day the BJP celebrated a few years back.

Over the last few weeks, the BJP propaganda machinery through the IT Cell, sought to label the protests in three major ways – none of the labels stuck.

Initially, the Propaganda called the protests Khalistan oriented. The simple presence of Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh farmers and the fact that the protests are mounted by Left leaning Unions, settled that question.

Then, the Propaganda called it a rich farmers protest backed by political parties. The fact that only 4 per cent farmers actually own more than 25 acres of land in India, put to rest that allegation.

Latest, the Propaganda called the protests Left-sponsored, Naxalite hand behind the protest. That too failed.

Before hurling such allegations, I would urge the Propaganda machinery to look at the views of Jaya Prakash Narayan, JP, the architect of the anti-Emergency protests because of which the Hindutva forces found credibility in the national discourse. JP’s own journey was from Marxism to socialism to Sarvodaya (universal upliftment) to the call for Sampoorna Kranti (total revolution). JP had understood that the method of the Naxalites is problematic but their demands were legitimate. The need is to not ‘other’ them but extend democracy to include them in a dialogue and address their demands.

This allegation came because on Human Rights Day, BKU (Ugrahan) cadre lifted the pictures of those activists, intellectuals, social workers detained by the government for years and some for months now, without trial or bail. Notice, this demand has been part of BKU (Ugrahan) – the largest farmer Union in Panjab – but was also precipitated by the Home Minister not inviting Joginder Singh Ugrahan for talks the night before the scheduled 6th round (later cancelled). It was precipitated by the government trying to side-line Ugrahan, trying to divide the Unions.

While the demand to release political prisoners is legitimate and I strongly support it, bringing that up at this time, is a matter of strategy. There is also the question of why only these activists and not the ones who too are illegally arrested under the draconian UAPA in Panjab, about 266 prisoners, and other prisoners from the militancy era in Panjab. Again, this demand is a matter beyond symbolism and the Unions must mutually resolve and decide on including in their charter. Though, this demand has the potential to skew the protests from one of ‘political economy’ to ‘identity and politics’. I believe, the unions know best.

IMHO, our job as those who express solidarity to the protests is to ask a simple question to all such allegations: Who is asking about the legitimacy of the protest? Our diverse nation now has three skins and it is high-time we peel them.

- Is it Hindu Rashtra? For Hindu Rashtra has already sneakily upturned the notion of our nation from being secular to majoritarian by violating the sanctity of the Constitution.

- Is it Bharat? For Bharat is out there laying siege on Delhi. Bharat is the rural, agrarian India that is protesting the draconian Farm Laws. Primarily because according to the Constitution, Agriculture is a State subject and the Centre has no right to pass the laws.

- Is it India? For India is the rootless, urban, so-called liberal English-speaking India that lives in cyber-space and blows like a leaf, this way or that, depending upon the wind.

At this point the numbers at the farmer protests is rising – last night I saw videos of thousands of farmers moving from Rajasthan to Delhi with their cattle – simply because all these protesters are seeking to keep alive the spirit of the Constitution.
We must all ensure the spirit prevails.

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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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