27
Oct

Farmers Protest: Asthi Kalash

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 335

Toll 644

Asthi Kalash

The greatest disservice to anyone who dies is that the state does not acknowledge the death. This apathy is almost endemic in India – farmer labour suicides, those killed in armed actions, now-a-days those who even died due to lack of medical support in the pandemic. Our turning away from death has become so casual but it is in this denial that I see the erosion of the nation.

That is why, when at the final rights of the four farmers and one journalist mowed down by BJP minister Ajay Mishra Teni’s son Ashish Mishra Monu, SKM decided that the remains of dead will travel to distant parts of the country for immersion, I wondered about the move – was it to lend a certain sanctity to the 11 month long farmers protest?

Over the last few days, the Asthi Kalash have reached different parts of the country: Saharanpur, Chennai, Sonepat, Vedaranyam, Mansa, Paonta Sahib, Jalandhar, Khatkar Kalan, Ullundurpet, Bathinda, Deoria, Gorakhpur, Virudhunagar, Dindigul, Angul, Haldibari, Vijayawada, Prakasam, Guntur, Vishakapatnam, Bhubaneswar, and many other towns away from mainstream and even social media.

These urns carry not only the ashes of those slain in the dastardly act but also the embers that singe the police system, the judicial system, and the political system of the nation. Everyone who sees the urns sees that not only Teni is still minister, the SIT in charge has been transferred, Monu is now in hospital, some arrests have been made but darkly ironically two farmers Bachitar Singh and Gurvinder Singh have also been arrested. Why are these farmers arrested? For the crime of being on the road on which Monu drove recklessly?

The Asthi Kalash is becoming the thread that strings the whole country in their disenchantment with the regime. Nothing the regime can do will turn back the tide now. This is the curse of the dead.

Pictures: SKM and AJ Singh

27
Oct

Farmers Protest: Fertiliser

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Posted October 25, 2021

Day 333

Toll 641

Fertiliser

In the method of farming glorified as Green Revolution, farmers have become increasingly dependent on fertilisers. Recently a newspaper reported that India has a huge shortage of fertilisers. Especially, DAP – Diammonium phosphate. Last year India needed 5023 thousand tonnes, this year only 2075 thousand tonnes is available. It is the same for Urea, NPKS, MOP.

Modi government, on October 12, approved an increase in the subsidy on DAP from Rs 24,231 to Rs 33,000 per tonne, besides that on three NPKS complexes. The decision was taken to make it viable for fertiliser firms to import and also stop them from raising maximum retail prices (MRP) too sharply, especially given the upcoming state elections. But what do we do when we still do not have supplies?

Two days back, in Lalitpur, UP a farmer Bhogilal Pal died because he had been standing in queue for two days and fell from exertion, later heart attack. The district has around 3 lakh hectares of cultivable land. Last year, in the month of October and November, around 32,000 metric tonnes of fertilisers were consumed in Lalitpur. Sources said the district had stocks of 19,000 metric tonnes, but was struggling to meet demand following the rain last week. Out of the total 270 shops in the district, just around 150 are functional.

Two days back, facing acute shortage, in Ateli market, Mahendergarh district, desperate farmers looted fertilisers from the government godowns. The idea is: make the farming conditions so bad that farmers just quit the profession. This is what this government has done to self-respecting, seemingly sovereign farmers.

Video: Kisan Morcha

20
Oct

Farmers Protest: Khede Gaye

   Posted by: aman   in Punjab

Day 328

Toll 640

Khede Gaye

While doing PANJAB I met many who simply said about the region’s long and factitious history: assin tan ji khede gaye – we have been played. Not everyone you meet when doing a book is eloquent to list out the long-winding reasons which have brought a people and region to discontent.

This sense of khede gaye comes to people when their leaders, representatives, political parties fail to acknowledge their issues and use the same issues to manipulate them. It is utterly tragic for a democracy that people imbibe this feeling. It weakens their trust in systems and what is a democracy without its people?

It is now 120 hours to the barbaric killing and parading of Lakhbir Singh’s body at the Kundli border protest site. Due to the justifications of the murder by some in the Sikh community, we did loose some of the image of non-violence and peaceful resistance we had built over the last year, at least. That the incident did not lead to any further violence, to riots, is to the credit of the protesters at the sites.

It is also true that it did not become a caste crime as the Sangh wanted to portray it because many Dalit voices from Panjab denied that point of view. Yes, tragically Dalits killed a Dalit but the issue does not end there. We need to interrogate, as another friend pointed out: what is it about religion that pushes people to enact such barbarity while upper castes just wash their hands off?

Much that needed to come out about the incident is available. Much that is hidden will perhaps be revealed much later or never. There is no doubt that the incident was a conspiracy to manipulate the community. I say this because there are questions in my mind that I am laying out. We know, no one in authority will answer them. In fact, spare yourself the trouble of answering them on the post as well. Please.

1. How did a 35 year old drug addict, alienated from own family, who had just Rs 50, reach Singhu border from village Chima Kalan, Taran Tarn? It is 450 kilometers.

2. Who is Lakhbir’s handler ‘Sandhu’? Do you see how killing Lakhbir has cost the community?

3. Why is Sarabjit, the first Nihang arrested, with short hair? No, the excuse that he was recently initiated does not hold good because a Nihang leader Aman Singh stated ‘for long Sarabjit has been our jathedar of horses’.

4. Further, why did Sarabjit himself remove his turban and reveal his coloured short hair? If he was growing his hair, why wasn’t it at least, knotted?

5. Though it is good the accused Nihangs are surrendering, counterintuitively, ask yourself: why are the arrests happening so easily? What assurance do the Nihangs have from the government?

As many are pointing out, the July pictures of Nihang leader Aman Singh with Minister Tomar is not enough evidence pointing to a conspiracy because various farmers leaders have been meeting various government ministers and officials. Also, Aman Singh now says the meeting was because government wanted to persuade them to vacate the protest site. It is basically one version against another and we will never know the truth.

But the question is: while leaders have unions, who will really listen to Nihangs if they reach an agreement with the government on Farm Laws? Do they have a following?

In fact, that is the crux of the Nihang presence at the protests. Many groups, not just Nihangs, are in the protests because they are looking for their own relevance. The Nihangs, make for great visuals of the Sikh militaristic tradition, especially as curious outliers on Holla Mohalla games. Sadly, though the Nihang history is glorious, they had a setback owing to one of their group, Budda Dal’s leader Baba Santa Singh decision after Operation Blue Star.

At that time, the government, mostly then minister Buta Singh, had used Baba Santa Singh to erect the Akal Takht which the Army had broken in its operation. The community rejected the government sponsored Akal Takht. The community tore it down and built its own Akal Takht through kar sewa.

Since then, the Nihangs are mostly in the woods as far as their voice in the community is concerned. They might have advocates but their writ does not run in the community. Do you think the ordinary protester, the real strength of these protests, will listen to them and go back home?

Finally, it is an immense tragedy for democracy that the government does not see what every protester sees: the laws are wrong, just repeal them.

Instead, it chooses to deal with all sorts of leaders and intermediaries, including CAT Pinky in the photograph – ex militant turned policeman who has admitted to being witness to many extra judicial killing and indulged in some himself for which he did jail time – and the very Diaspora groups which it otherwise blames as Khalistani. How blinkered is the government! How wrongly the government believes all these extra methods, including creating disruptions, will break the protests.

These are the nasty games that the government plays which give people a sense of beg played – khede gaye. To me, it is Bebe like this in this video (29 seconds) who uphold the protests. Look at how sweetly the grandmother saying: ‘Won’t Modi will lose one day? It is not that he will win forever, he won’t win …’

It is people like her, their resolve and humility, and not the leaders who form the protests and the government better learn if she continues to feel ‘khede gaye’, if she does not feel addressed, her kind will not move back. It is the government actually that needs a lesson in humility.

No, not even Captain Amarinder’s soon to be launched party will solve the crises for even if Laws are repealed, though impossible because the Laws are backed by big corporates and IMF/WTO, how will the government address the issue of Minimum Support Price? He too is, sadly, looking for relevance.

Video source: Kisan Morcha.

19
Oct

Farmers Protest: Trains

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 327

Toll 640

Trains

Yesterday was the Samyukt Kisan Morcha call for Rail Roko for six hours. Once again we saw the call implemented in tier 2 and 3 towns. Look at the list below. I am pretty sure, people from these towns would hardly read this post. For those who do read this post, do Google some of the places in the list. I did, places I am unfamiliar with.

Lalganj, Vijayapura, Sonepat, Patna, Fatehabad, Ajarka, Sriganganagar, Sirsa, Asansol, Bahadurgarh-Tikri, Makhu, Puri, Fazilka, Rewa, Ferozepur, Ambala, Moradabad, Rewari, Lakhan Majra, Faizabad, Patiala, Nawada, Keonjhar, Guna, Samastipur, Jaipur, Muzaffarpur, Bulandshahar, Dhanbad, Sitamarhi, Behrampur, Keonjhar, Gwalior, Parlakhemudi, Muniduda, Rayagada, Etawah, Bettiah, Raipur, Yadudih, Coochbehar, Roorkee, Mathura, Dildarnagar, Moga …
In Madhya Pradesh, police arrested protesters at Rewa, Guna, Gwalior …

What does this phenomena tell us? That the ground has heard the farmers protest and social media is a super structure – a world unto itself.

So, though the Rail Roko was mostly implemented in north and central India, some in West Bengal, Odisha and Karnataka, since trains run nationwide, the long distance trains all over the country were affected. I find that fascinating because unlike airplanes, buses, any other mode of transport, though the class category of train is most diverse: unreserved, second sitting, air conditioned …. but when the train stops, all passengers stop.

Around 300 trains were affected, 29 trains were cancelled. Once again, the nation has told the government loud and clear: sack MoS Home Ajay Kumar Teni. But will the government listen? Your guess is as good as mine. But efforts persist. `

Meanwhile, PM Modi is due to visit his constituency Varanasi and the Uttar Pradesh Police has put farmer leaders under house arrest for the past 5 days. So scared, huh?

PS: I am sorry the video is inverted but just listen to two minutes of sloganeering. That is the sound of the spirit on ground. It is from Madhya Pradesh.

18
Oct

Farmers Protest: Sidq – Faith

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 326

Toll 639

Sidq – Faith

It has been 72 hours since the Kundli border incident and I am relieved that riots did not break out. From those reading my post, I expect better understanding about me and my motivation, but to ally anyone in doubt: I condemn the brutal barbaric murder and dastardly parade of the alleged sacrilege perpetuator, victim of mob lynching by Nihangs.

The stories of the victim and perpetuators emerging over the last three days clearly point towards a conspiracy to enact this heinous crime. Given the recent mowing of Sikh farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri, the recent success of farmers protest in reaching across the country and drawing participation in Samyukt Kisan Morcha programs, the increased BSF presence in Panjab, this crime was meant to distract from the objectives of the protest and demand to sack the MoS Home and, if possible, fail the protests.

The conspirators know a few things about the Sikhs:

1. They are the pivot of the protests. The more the Sikhs are hammered, the greater the chances of breaking the protests.

2. They are an excitable people and, discussions aside, symbolism plays a role in their religion. Testimony to this is the justification of the murder by individuals on social media. (Including comments on my post that day which I have since deleted leaving most conversations one-sided).

3. They are deeply hurt from many instances of denial of justice, including on issues of sacrilege in recent years. Those too started when farmers protest were at their peak in Panjab, October 2015. Do you see the pattern?

4. They suffer from caste issues – it is a fault line. There is no denying that but because caste in Sikh religion is unlike caste in Hindu religion, the attempt to see this act as a caste crime failed.

5. The Nihangs, by no stretch a monolith, also cultivate an image of being a bit out of the periphery of the law. Yet, as of now three Nihangs have surrendered to police. More may be arrested soon.

The ploy failed. In spite of all the furore on social media, on ground, the farmers on protest have weathered yet another storm. Once again the ones who conspired have been snubbed by the people.

However, this episode tells us something about us on social media who are eager to comment: relax!

The world is not waiting for our grandstanding. The people in the protest are wiser than us. They are prepared to deal with the attacks to discredit the protests. They have done so once again. For someone like me who comes from the trauma of my adolescence, I feel more and more assured about the sidq – faith the protesters have in the protests.

In this episode, we must applaud those many Panjab Dalit voices that refused to fall for the Sangh ploy to make the diabolical act look like a caste crime.

However, two points in retrospect:

1. It is facile to completely de-link the protests from religion. Sikh thought, Sikh orientation, is one of the pillars of the protest. Yes, the religion’s core message is Sarbat da Bhala – Welfare of Humanity and its cultural extreme is the kind of ‘sodha’ – punishment that the Nihangs meted out. There is a need to draw a line but one can’t throw out the baby with the bath water especially when the values and positive cultural attributes of the religion have sustained the protests.

2. There is a pattern with SKM to disown whatever it deems may jeopardize its activities. It could come from being unsure about how an irresponsible media would portray them. But the Nihangs have been part of the protests from earlier on. The Nihangs have shared stage, they have shared langar even with police, they have been projected as a line of defence in case an armed attack happens. Yesterday, a few SKM leaders were admitting to this. That dialogue must happen.

A second clarification because these days Facebook is more misread than read: when the Nihangs had arrived, I had called some Nihang groups and asked them what was the point of giving fodder to a vulturesque lapdog media who would want to portray the protest as an armed struggle against the state? There were no good answers. I do not know the Nirvair Khalsa Udana Dal Nihangs.

Today is a call by SKM for Rail Roko. Many places the farmers are stopping trains to demand the arrest of MoS Home Ajay Mishra Teni who had issued a provocative statement that formed the backdrop of the Lakhimpur Kheri killings. Let us enable the Rail Roko.

16
Oct

Farmers Protest: Dussehra

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 324

Toll 638

Dussehra

Yesterday it rained like crazy in Bangalore. That poured water on my plans to heed Samyukt Kisan Morcha’s call to burn effigies where Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghanada cast as the PM, HM, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh CMs, Ambani, Adani and others.

Now I have mixed feelings about Ravan. I do not see him completely evil. I actually like Kumbhakarna. I do not know Meghanada much. So, I was wondering about being able to burn the effigies in their names but nature – or global warming – solved the matter.

Instead Randeep Maddoke and Deepu came home with Deepu’s daughter Razeena. We had an intense evening. Randeep you all know from his excellent work as a photographer and film-maker of the farmers protests, mostly Tikri border. Deepu has long experience as a cinematographer and political activist. He was at the protest site for long, with Randeep. A few years back, I had met Deepu, though he does not remember because he was overwhelmed, when he screened his quickly shot and edited, excellent documentary on Gauri Lankesh very soon after she was killed.

Both Randeep and Deepu were sharing their experiences. Deepu said something very pertinent: ‘When will the farmers protest turn into a social movement all over India? Until that happens, we cannot really fight the right wing forces. Of course, the protests need support. But even more than that, they need to translate into multiple, regional movements and join hands together. When will the country rise?’

Pictures of Dussehra effigy burnings last night are coming in. As I observed at Bharat Bandh, outrage over Lakhimpur murders, and now through these names of towns were effigies were burnt, the protests have reached second and third tier cities. But when it comes to bigger cities, the metros, they still have a distance to travel.

Notice the names: Etawah, Puri, Guna, Gunupur, Chennai, Bulandshahr, Allahabad, Kaushambi, Rewari, Patna, Sitamadhi, Supaul, Kaimur, Jhunjhunu, Gwalior, Muzaffarpur, Cuttack, Durgapur, Jashipur, Mayurbhanj, Shahjahanpur, Ambala and others.

Many many thanks for the response to my previous message. But do pause, think, do the protests need only support or is what Deepu saying correct? If Deepu is correct, perhaps we also need to move out of our need to only consume news – no doubt, very important – and do something more?

After all, we cannot just be a spectator nation. Wish you a good festival season. Do also consider how many of our festivals are linked to harvest, to food, to farmers.

16
Oct

Prior Notice

   Posted by: aman   in Other, Punjab

It is my habit to give prior notice hence giving one here about my interactions on Facebook.

Whether it is through my books or my posts here, I seek to expand understanding and create friendships. However, I now see that won’t be possible on Facebook. The medium started as a dorm call, moved to picnic pictures, morphed to election campaigns, and has finally become a cess pool breeding hatred and polarising society.

It became crystal clear yesterday on my post to inform people about what happened at Singhu the previous night. I posted because no media at that point was reporting it. Apart from information, like I do with long posts, I touched upon context and appealed for peace and restraint which is most important when such provocation takes place.

However, the post became a forum for many to project their self-righteous pontifications. Even those who know me for years displayed utter ignorance about me and chose to respond only to that post without even looking at the timestamp. All they did is issue certificates, pass judgements.
Frankly, when such a gruesome event has happened and people are not shocked but eager to make their points and shout, I wonder about how we ourselves have normalised violence. I am stunned.
Yes, over the last year, I have mostly used this medium to articulate the farmers protest. I am doing that for three reasons:

1. I felt the work was an extension of my book PANJAB through which I had learnt something about the land and people which mainland India does not make an effort to learn.

2. It remains an attempt to fill in a gap which mainstream media has created by not covering the protests.

3. It is a way for me to remain connected with the largest stance against neo-colonisation which will crush all of us.

However, the past year has been exhausting and my engagement here keeps me from work I must do – make books.

Hence, I will continue to articulate the farmers protest as long as they last. But once they are over, I will retreat from this medium at least in terms of making regular posts. As I said, I came here to engage not indulge in hate. This medium has failed my ask from it.

15
Oct

Farmers Protest: Sacrilege

   Posted by: aman   in Other, Punjab

Day 323

Toll 638

Sacrilege

A very unfortunate incident transpired at Singhu border last night. At around 3 am, a man, seems Panjabi, name not yet known, wearing traditional Sikh kachera – drawers appeared at the makeshift mobile Gurdwara at Singhu border. He sought to pick up the Guru Granth Sahib and insult it.

The Nihangs, in whose camp the Granth Sahib is located, apprehended him in the act. The man confessed to being sent to the protest site by his backers to commit the sacrilege. He is in the Nihang custody, the police has reached the spot.

This is a heinous attempt to discredit the protests. The issue of sacrilege is deeply problematic and provocative for the Sikh community and for Panjab. Since incidents of sacrilege started in 2015, they have not yet found any resolution. They have claimed one government and two chief ministers but not been solved. This has created a deep schism in the minds of people regarding both: how democracy works and if democratic system deliver justice.

There is palpable frustration, cynicism and hopelessness in the system. When that happens, dejected by modern systems, people lapse back into earlier ways of being which they imagine worked for them better. Among Sikhs, it is that anyone who is wrong must be punished – sodha. Barbarically, the Nihangs cut off the wrist of the man. It is brutal.

We must keep in mind the protests against Farm laws and to legalise MSP have remained a perception battle. While the protesters have displayed immense resolve, resourcefulness, and repose in their leadership. The mainstream media has constantly denigrated the protesters, flung labels on them and yet the protesters have responded with dignity.

All this will be tested now. A crime has been prevented. The criminal is in custody. We need to trace the man’s backers.

Let us maintain calm, not let this incident take a communal turn, and stay focussed on the core goals of the protest.

Update: I am hearing the man is dead. The brutality meted out to him has cost us the opportunity to identify his backers.

14
Oct

Farmers Protest: Panjab

   Posted by: aman   in Punjab

Day 322

Toll 638

Panjab

Border State watchers: BJP need not fight elections in Panjab.

Panjab’s area is 50,362 square km

Panjab has 553 km border with Pakistan.

To checkmate ex CM Amarinder Singh’s national security narrative, new CM Channi asked Central Home Minister to increase central security forces to stop drugs and arms smuggling. As a result, central security forces now are free to penetrate 50 km inland.

Now, do your math. 553 km x 50 km = over 25,000 km

That means half the state in under central security forces. Which means the Centre rules half of Panjab.

Do you feel the pain of constant police surveillance?

Note: just blocked a national security apologist and deleted his comments. If anyone has to retort, answer three questions:

a) Why abrogating Article 370 did not stop militancy in Kashmir?

b) Why China has made repeated incursions into their side of the border and what has India done to stop those?

c) Please re-locate to Panjab border. I will facilitate that. Then we can talk.
Picture: Internet.

PS: for the record now Channi is opposing the Centre’s move. The decision affects West Bengal, Assam, Tripura as well.

The recent take over of half of Panjab by security forces is a repeat of a three millennia long history. Panjab has been and remains a casualty of geography, a casualty of history, a casualty of politics.

It is Panjab’s fate.

tak patree waleya lekh mere
mere hath wich wingian leekan ne

mere dil da mehram aawega
ya halle hor udeekan ne

lakh waar duavan mangiyan ne
kai waar baharan langiyan ne

mainu puch ke das taqdeeran ton
aje kiniyan door tareekan ne

mere rona rabb manzoor kare
meri zaat nu eho udeekan ne

see my hand o reader of palms
the lines on my hands are crooked.

will the one who soothes my heart come?
or is there a wait still?

a million times I have prayed
a million times spring has passed.

ask my fate and tell me
still how far are the dates?

may God accept my tears
my kind only wait for that.

No, no one in mainland India gets Panjab. Some try, but they can’t. For they have not endured Panjab’s tragedy on their bodies.

So, please, keep the dignity. No ‘national security’ remarks here please.

Reshma here …

13
Oct

Farmers Protest: Light

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 321

Toll 637

Light

Yesterday’s Antim Ardas, final prayers, at Lakhimpur Kheri were dignified and solemn. Over 50,000 people from far and wide, from all religions and castes attended. A few politicians also came, payed respect, but as decided did not share the stage. The proceedings were absolutely peaceful.

This peace, this non-violence the farmers protests has exemplified on every major call in the last year – be it Rail Roko, Rasta Roko, Bharat Bandh, huge Mahapanchayats, even angry gatherings in response to police and administration atrocities at many places in Haryana, or now in Lakhimpur Kheri have left the ruling dispensation incapable of curbing the protests. As the protests near 11 months, I feel, the message of peaceful resistance has gone out to the nation.

That is why, like earlier, even yesterday, there were many candle light marches all over the country. It is interesting that when the PM asked folks to light lamps to drive away Coronavirus, the media covered it widely. This time, the mainstream media is silent. Both the ruling party and the mainstream media seem to be completely out of touch with the mood of the people.

The Samyukt Kisan Morcha has severely condemned the Delhi Police’s sexual assault on women students demanding MoS Home Ajay Mishra Teni’s resignation in front of Home Minister’s house. SKM also condemns the FIRs registered against five Benares Hindu University students who were protesting against the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre.

The Delhi student protestors have stated that ‘these were not isolated acts committed by some rogue Delhi Police personnel. The manner in which the violence was meted out identically to both women, shows that the women personnel have received training and instructions to treat women protestors in this fashion ‘to show them their place’.

The candle light that shone in various parts of the country and in many individual homes tells me that soon it will be the government, the mainstream media and the police which will be shown its place in the country. May this light in our hearts remove the darkness in which we seem engulfed under the present dispensation.

See pictures here …