13
May

Farmers Protest: Seminar

   Posted by: aman   in Other, Punjab

Day 168

Toll 457

#FarmersProtest

Seminar

Since the protests began, first national media, then international academia, then international media started paying interest. Since the events of January 26, after villainising the protests, mainstream national media stopped featuring the protests. However, international media and international academia kept paying interest.

Very early on, I was in a talk with Prof Surinder S. Jodhka. He said. ‘These protests will be remembered for a long time. These are grounds for a lot of first hand research and production of knowledge.’ He is an eminent scholar and could see possibilities.

Close to six months to the protests, Prof Jodhka’s words are coming true. Tomorrow and the day after, the O P Jindal Global University (Haryana) with support from the Global Environmental Justice Group of the University of East Anglia (UK) is conducting a full-fledged seminar on the farmers protests.

A few days back when organiser Prof Christine Moliner wrote to me, I was happy to see the names of many allies participating in 10 panel discussion over two days. Of course, the protests are too vast to be fully articulated but I am glad they are getting the attention they deserve. If only the government were to wake up to them.

You are welcome to join, please register at: register

11
May

Farmers Protest: Accountability

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 166

Toll 450+

#FarmersProtest

Accountability

The matter is under investigation by police. That is why barring two names – of main accused – let us keep other individuals out from this post.

Though my heart breaks, I wish I could say survivor of assault, but 26 year old activist woman passed away from lung infection and COVID-19 complications. Main accused of assault are Anil Malik and Anoop Singh Chanot from an informal outfit called Kisan Social Army which in turn is linked to a political party.

During the call to campaign against BJP in recent elections, many farmer unions and organisations, formally and informally, reached Bengal. The accused named above also went to Bengal with other team mates and befriended the woman. The woman was inspired by the farmer protests and upon the accused’s invitation she decided to come to Delhi with them on April 12th.

The first incident of assault took place on the train enroute Delhi. When the woman reached Tikri border, since she knew no one and had no choice, she was forced to stay at the Kisan Social Army tent. In the next few days, the assaults continued. When she made new friends at the protest, and mentioned the assaults, her tent was changed by 15th or 16th.

By 19th, the woman fell ill, got medication. As her health kept worsening, she went to a hospital at the protest site on the 24th. Meanwhile, on 25th some local leaders asked Anil and Anoop to take her back home to Bengal. When they were taking her in their car, a Samyukt Kisan Morcha leader (part of the 9 member committee) got in touch with her. While Anil and Anoop lied about their location, the woman sent her WhatsApp location and the leader realised she was near Hansi in Haryana. He asked Anil and Anoop to take her back to the Tikri protest site.

Next day, a well known activist ran pillar to post with the woman to get a hospital bed, to get her RT-PCR test. Finally, they found a bed, the woman tested positive with COVID-19. The woman’s parents arrived April 29th. By 30th the woman passed away. She gave her statement to her father.

The activist is now recovering from COVID-19. She is safe. No one is sure about Anil, but Anoop too tested positive for COVID-19. The woman was cremated at Bahadurgarh cemetery.

Initially, the assaults and their extent, were hidden from news. Over the last week they have come to light. On May 8th, the woman’s father lodged a formal complaint with the police. The police is now investigating the matter. The media is going into an overdrive.

SKM conducted its first meeting on May 3rd at Tikri and took a stance that it stands for justice to the woman. Yesterday, 24 women organisations wrote an open letter demanding safety for women in such social movement spaces. The letter asks SKM:

- to issue a public statement expressing their resolve to undertake zero tolerance policy towards sexual harassment.

- set up a helpline and a committee within the movement space so women can reach out when they need help, so as to prevent such cases from happening again.

- resolve to deepen the political will in fighting patriarchal violence and oppression so as to enhance women’s active political participation in peasant movements, trade unions and mass organizations.

The SKM press note on May 9th addressed the issue. Yesterday, along with the woman’s father, SKM conducted an open press conference and expressed condolences on the woman’s demise, condemned the series of incidents and resolved to ensure justice.

SKM must take up the other two demands as well. However, since we have been discussing the farmers protests for over 5 months here, I want to place a personal observation. I say this because we know SKM never imagined they would stay on protest sites for close to 6 months and would almost form a world within a world. We know they did not imagine they will need to develop many other parallel systems besides struggling against farm laws. Yet, while they are at it and the protests have extended without end in sight, this mandate has fallen on SKM and they must carry it out.

I emphasise on it because we know women are the movement’s greatest strength and if they feel unsafe and unaddressed, then the movement itself stands compromised. The issues women bring up can not be brushed under the carpet. While the woman’s incident is unfortunately an extreme case and complicated with COVID-19, this is not the first time women have raised their voice against sexual harassment in the farmers protests.

My issue with SKM’s stance as the woman’s case was developing is whether it was the woman asking for tent change or when some local leaders decided to send the woman back to Bengal, I believe the local leadership was highly irresponsible. The least to be done when the woman reported harassment/assault was to raise the matter towards the main 9-member SKM. It was not done. Bengal is not Haryana and Panjab, it is far away. The decision to send the woman away with Anil and Anoop with whom she had issues reeks of insensitivity. This is illiteracy among men about being able to believe women, about women rights. This is belief that men will solve every issue.

I also see this non-acknowledgement of women’s issues as similar to SKM’s stance after January 26th incidents. Remember how SKM condemned the youth. Even now, SKM distanced itself from the Kisan Social Army in their statement and the press meet. To me, SKM washing off their hands is the core issue.

SKM’s whole stance against the government on Farm Laws is based on the idea of accountability. SKM’s whole strength is based on lakhs of individuals and hundreds of groups coming to support them. SKM itself cannot project itself holier than thou when it encounters cases such as the woman’s or what happened on January 26th. If SKM is based on people mobilization, it cannot discard people.

Yes, as the protests extend, the ask from SKM increases but that is also what this joint struggle is about. We are all learning but alas the woman will not return.

Utterly, unforgivingly sad!

Dear Friends,

here is my piece on the unfolding COVID-19 catastrophe in India. I hold the arrogance and complacency of the government and its pandering to majority sentiments responsible for the devastation we all face.

Especially because, unlike most countries, our Constitution says in 51A[h] ‘It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.’

This appeal to science is what the government has deliberately side-lined resulting in the calamity.

Thank you Jackie Mansky for being such a lovely editor. This piece has been no pleasure to write. I wish I never write such pieces. Yet, what needs to be said, needs to be said. Please see here …

8
May

Farmers Protest: One Week

   Posted by: aman   in Other, Punjab

Day 164

Toll 445

#FarmersProtest

One Week

When the talks at the farmers protest stalled on January 21, 2020, and then elections in 5 states were declared, the general sense was the government will respond only post-results.

In the meantime the second wave of the pandemic has struck the nation and we are all devastated by the unfolding catastrophe. Though for a long time now, the farmers protests – which continue in large post-harvest season numbers with COVID-19 safeguards – had fallen off the mainstream media, the pandemic has further pushed them to the background.

The question really is what is the Modi government’s plan for the pandemic? That would perhaps indicate what is its plan for the farmers protests.

The reality is, in spite of one week since the results of the BJP debacle in elections has been out, the Central government has not even shown its face to the citizens of the country. It seems like indifference, which is what it is, but even more than that it is incompetence. The government has no clue on what to do now. It does not even have the courage or character to face the people.

Those watching Modi since his days in Gujarat will tell you he is no good at either governance or administration. India is now choking in the famed Gujarat Model which the media hyped before 2014. With lockdowns and curfews which have not helped in any reduction of numbers, India is now enduring what those we wilfully imprisoned endured – Kashmir. Lockdowns work if the state is willing to prepare and takes care of the needs of its citizens. Else, lockdowns are just jails and the people, especially the poor suffer.

Also, do not go blaming the states alone for where the Centre has failed. India is a structured democracy so that its citizens are best served. State and Central governments are layers of our society as defined in the Constitution. States are not at loggerheads with the Centre – asking for resources is a due democratic process. In any social structure there is a chain of command and finally the buck in India stops with the Prime Minister.

There is no power without responsibility. When the BJP and Modi aspired to assume power, they also assumed responsibility. It is the blind worship of Modi – not demanding accountability from him – which has pushed us in this COVID-19 hell-hole.

Just see how he is allowing the country to combust. It is clear now that is how he is dealing with the farmers as well – hoping the virus will erode the protests.

It does not work that way.

The only way India can work is if we all demand accountability from the Central and also the state governments; from political parties and also the administration. Else, we are a failed nation.

 

6
May

Farmers Protest: Numbers Growing

   Posted by: aman   in Other, Punjab

Day 162

Toll 433

#FarmersProtest

Numbers Growing

In Karnataka, a lockdown was clamped April 26. It has been 11 days. The numbers of cases have not come down. In Karnataka we had 35K cases on April 25 and 50K last night. In Bangalore alone we had 23K cases last night. The farmers are questioning the government’s logic to impose blanket lockdowns when they are not helping at all.

We all accept the central government was busy with elections in March and April, which itself is criminal neglect. But now over 60 hours have passed since the results came in. Where is the nation’s leadership? What is their plan to tackle the untold devastation the pandemic is causing?

It has been 10 days since relief supplies – especially oxygen – came from other countries. Why do we not have a policy on how to distribute supplies to all states in proportion of the damage the virus has wrecked in each of them? Why have oxygen canister manufacturing plants been shut down in Gujarat? The PM announced vaccines for all above 18 years of age but where are the stocks?

Instead, around 300 officials did a workshop yesterday on how to manage perception, how to improve the government’s image. This is complete policy paralysis. The nation is dying and government is hiding. Given these conditions, what must the farmers do?

They are doing what they have been doing for over 5 months – reaching Delhi at the protests sites. Yesterday, a huge cadre from Majha (north Panjab) moved to Delhi under the aegis of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee. On May 10th and 12th, more are coming from the rest of Haryana and Panjab.

The real question is: what must the government do?

Do not worry, though there have been a few COVID-19 instances at the protests, the protesters are no more vulnerable than you and I are at homes and on the streets. In fact, a little better off given the protests are open air. The farmers are trying their best to keep physical distance and are demanding vaccination.

But where is the government? If lockdowns are not working, the government definitely needs to do something else – listen to experts. But when has this government listened?

 

4
May

Farmers Protest: Corporate India

   Posted by: aman   in Other

Day 160

Toll 430

#FarmersProtest

Corporate India should now realise that BJP cannot get them what they want. The annual performance of the duo shows they have slipped badly on targets and created massive unrest and mayhem. For long, their performance has been in the negative.

The corporate sector is suffering because they occupy these high seats and are unable to deliver. They block and mismanage resources and funds. They must realise if these two continue, not only will the corporates not make profits, they will even lose massive investments made earlier. The corporates can no longer bank on them to deliver and have to get rid of them.

Perhaps that might change the politics?

3
May

Farmers Protest: Election Results

   Posted by: aman   in Other, Punjab

Day 159

Toll 424+

#FarmersProtest

Election Results

Amidst the mayhem that the Coronavirus has caused, the election results yesterday could not have been better timed. Even more so, because they are decisive in terms of numbers of votes and percentages – the differences are wide.

Personally, I expected this response from the citizens of the country in 2019 general elections. Our population had already suffered demonetization which took a huge toll on the country’s economy but was very useful to BJP; suffered GST which harassed the traders but was very useful to the BJP by way of further eroding whatever little federalism we have in India.

Yet, that did not happen and the arrogance of the powers skyrocketed – Kashmir, Citizenship, Farm Laws, Labour Codes and so on.

Yesterday’s mandate is important because had BJP won, it would have increased its seats in Rajya Sabha. That would have made it very easy for Hindutva forces to change the Constitution. Much before we had a chance to boot them out in 2024. The mandate now came when the country is quickly going down the COVID-19 hell hole. We waited too long, just too long and are already paying a huge price.

Yet, through the mandate, India has given the BJP its opposition. For now, it is: Farmers Movement + Mamata + Vijayan + Stalin + Thackrey and the list has opened up. Let more come and add themselves.

The mandate will have repercussions. I guess the scissor will be out to trim the beard but hope knives and axes are also out. May that be as it is, I really hope this mandate sobers the ego and arrogance of the leaders and they call for talks with farmers to repeal the laws and legalise MSP; and pro-actively work to contain the devastation the virus is wreaking on us.

Yet, one can never say about arrogance. Arrogance can also turn into desperation. The duo is already not listening, it could close its eyes and announce a national emergency – thus crushing the poor and the vulnerable in the entire system.

Let us see … For now, the mandate is a vindication of the farmers stand against communalism. I hope it is the beginning of saving India.

2
May

Farmers Protest: Jamhuriyat

   Posted by: aman   in Other, Punjab

Day 158

Toll 424

#FarmersProtest

Jamhuriyat

I took the title from a friend’s film in process on the farmer protests. I just saw the stills and they evoked such memory of the last few months in me. I am placing the link below.

Today, the results of our Jamhuriyat’s vote from five states will be declared. Given how we are crumbling under the outbreak of the virus and the state has failed us, I am wondering what is the point of electing governments.

The fact that Farm Laws were bulldozed through the Parliament and all democratic were consigned to the dustbin is clear evidence to me that all political parties today stand exposed.

Yet, our society is not where out mind is. Society moves slowly and frankly we do not have an alternative. So we need to endure these elections, participate in them, watch governments being elected and politicians exploit us. That is what we are going to do today.

If that be the case, I once again hope the BJP loses. While the south states are hopefully sorted, I hope it loses Bengal which in many ways is an opposition bastion. I feel, BJP’s loss in Bengal will have a direct repercussion on the farmers protest.

A BJP win in Bengal will also change the composition of the Rajya Sabha. With more seats in the RS, the BJP will alter the Constitution and we can say goodbye to the India we all grew up in – however flawed it was. This would be much before you have a chance to boot out BJP in 2024 which is still 3 years away.

All eyes now on the results: TMC is winning Bengal, LDF is winning Kerala, DMK is winning Tamil Nadu.

Meanwhile, do have a look at Novita Singh’s work. She and her team have been on ground for months. You do not have to log in to the website to see the stills. Best wishes to her with the film.

1
May

Farmers Protests: Guru Tegh Bahadur

   Posted by: aman   in Other, Punjab

Day 157

Toll 415

#FarmersProtests

Guru Tegh Bahadur

Today is Guru Tegh Bahadur’s 400th birth anniversary. For those who may not know, Guru Tegh Bahadur gave his life in 1675 for the protection of the right of Kashmiri Pandits to practice their religion.

When the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb ordered that Guru Tegh Bahadur be beheaded at what is now Gurdwara Sis Ganj at Chandni Chowk, he also decreed that no one was to touch the body or the severed head. But Bhai Jaita made away with the head, and left for Anandpur Sahib in Panjab. With the Mughal army in pursuit, Bhai Jaita stopped to rest at Badh Khalsa. Here, Bhai Kushal Singh Dahiya, a Hindu Jat, offered his head in place of the Guru’s to fool the pursuers, enabling Bhai Jaita to leave with the Guru’s head.

At the same time, Bhai Lakhi Shah Vanjara removed the Guru’s headless body and with the help of his son Nagahiya hid it on a cart loaded with cotton and took it to his home at Raisana. As it was dangerous to openly cremate the body, Lakhi Shah Vanjara placed the body in his home and set fire to it. He concealed the cremation of the Guru’s body.

The farmers protest at Singhu border is located next to the Guru Tegh Bahadur Memorial. The protests site extends until Badh Khalsa and beyond. Given the pandemic, the celebrations today were muted at Darbar Sahib, Amritsar. On the Singhu stage the farmers marked the Guru’s birth anniversary.

It is fascinating that 400 years later, the farmers are walking the same path that the Guru lit. The power structures that seek to crush the farmers are also exactly the same. The charities that were supporting the farmers are now supporting the nation with oxygen and food.

A few months back, a singer sang, ‘Barse koi noor elahi, Dilli de badr te – may the divine light shine on Delhi’s borders’.

The need now is for that divine light on the whole country dealing with the pandemic. Wish you a meaningful Gurpurb.

30
Apr

Farmers Protest: Exit Polls

   Posted by: aman   in Other, Punjab

Day 156

Toll 413

#FarmersProtest

Exit Polls

I do not trust Exit Polls. Yet, for the next few days, until counting day on May 2nd, and hopefully after counting, I am taking heart that BJP might not win Bengal. The reason I do not trust Exit Polls is a pattern I have observed in all elections since Gujarat, October 2017.

Notice on every counting day since then, results freeze around 5 pm. The results open up again at 11 pm or later, even 1 am, 2 am. Wherever BJP has won, the party is a bit short around 5 pm, and in a slender lead post 11 pm. I deeply suspect this trend.

A BJP loss in Bengal is to me a clear indication that the duo are not supreme. They have no magic wand. The people of Bengal, like the people of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, know how to put them in their place. This loss of not being able to win Bengal will be amplified many times by the current situation of the pandemic in the nation. The immense loss of life; the shortage of beds, oxygen and cremation spaces.

Any leader who had an iota of morality would have resigned, in the least. But then where is morality in Hindutva? While that won’t happen, this loss, I hope draws out the knives within the BJP. After all, there are many leaders in the party who can’t just sit back and witness the naked power chase the duo have indulged in over the years. These leaders have been side-lined. Their own chances of growth are shattered. I am hoping they will stand up to the duo.

While upon the virus attack, the nation has crumbled under the duo’s agenda, the big resistance at present is the ongoing farmers protest. For the last three months the government has brazenly ignored the protests. The government has not even conducted talks with the farmers though the farmers have stayed put in spite of the pandemic second wave. As of now, it seems, the protests are not affected by the virus. The farmer leaders and cadre are taking precautions.

Yet, we know there is a whole right-wing eco-system that actually leads the populism drive of the duo. When recently a small churning took place in the protest, mostly the Panjab part, this right-wing eco-system smelt blood and started attacking the protests. This attack is also to distract from the havoc the virus has wreaked on the nation.

If that voice rises, the government could decide to evict the protest sites by force, as it was planning a few weeks back. That would be a huge blunder. Even if, heavens forbid, the BJP wins Bengal, the duo is momentarily feeling strong – there is no forgiving for what they have allowed the virus to do the nation – and they choose to evict the protests forcibly. It would be a blunder. Basically, any force would be a blunder.

The most sensible step would be, now the elections are over and results are out, the government should repeal the laws and legalise MSP. This might serve as an indication that the duo have people’s interest on mind though it won’t absolve them of what we have gone through as a nation. If that happens, the farmers will go back home.

Until that happens, the farmers are staying put.