Archive for the ‘Punjab’ Category

13
May

Farmers Protest: Seminar

   Posted by: aman

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

8
May

Farmers Protest: One Week

   Posted by: aman

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

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?

 

3
May

Farmers Protest: Election Results

   Posted by: aman

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

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

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

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.

26
Apr

Farmers Protest: False Equivalence

   Posted by: aman

Day 152

Toll 405

#FarmersProtest

False Equivalence

My grandparents saw Partition; my parents saw Operation Blue Star and anti-Sikh pogrom; and now we are seeing the COVID-19 pandemic and a government unwilling to relent on Farm Laws.

Each generation in my family has faced seminal tragic events. Here I am cognisant of my caste, class, and gender privileges; yet such tragedies! Tragedies that have been watershed moments in our lives. Imagine the tragedies that people much less privileged than me have faced.

Yet, history is witness, these are not tragedies for the rest of the nation. The rest of the nation has had other kinds of tragedies. I am sure each one of us can count our tragedies, elaborate on them.

That is why those calling for farmers to abandon their protests need to take a break. The call is based on a false equivalence. Those comparing the farmers protests with the Kumbh Mela and the Bengal election rallies are making a false equivalence. While it is true that the virus does not discriminate between one and another, we need to look at the genesis of the crowds.

The Kumbh Mela was devotion, but the bringing forward the year of the Mela, instead of 12 years in 2022 to 11 years in 2021 was at worst chicanery for whatever reasons. The Bengal elections, stretched to 8 phases was a design to use central forces to win elections. Elections in Tamil Nadu with 2.5 crore population were conducted in one phase, Bengal with 3 crore population could have been conducted in maximum three phases. Those huge rallies were absolute banality and totally unnecessary.

In the farmers protest, no protestor has gathered out of choice. The Farm Laws have forced protesters to the sites. The protests have been going on for five months in Delhi, seven months if we start counting from Panjab. For three months now there have been no talks even.

Who is responsible? The government or the protestors?

That is why neither the right-wing propaganda nor the liberal chorus urging the farmers to withdraw their agitation makes sense. Simply because the right wing propaganda has vested interests; and the liberals are so busy making brownie points that they want to move on to the next issue, abandoning the previous one.

While we know the right-wing. They actually do not care for public health. They only care for their power which they do not know how to use and are quite useless.

My urge is to those who genuinely care for farmers. Please target the government, not the farmers. Just because farmers respect you, do not misuse your position. Even before the Laws are implemented, the government has made wheat procurement so much tougher in Panjab and Haryana and west UP. MSP has not been maintained even in Karnataka and Bihar. Do you see the danger of abandoning the protests? Once protests are lifted and Laws are implemented like government has not gone back on CAA, just like we have oxygen shortage now, we will soon have food shortages.

The need for the hour is empathy. The need is to avert a tragedy unfolding now. The need is to prevail upon the government to repeal the laws immediately. If we cannot do that, then as a nation we are all complicit in what is happening at the protests.

25
Apr

Farmers Protest: Opening Roads

   Posted by: aman

Day 151

Toll 399

#FarmersProtest

Opening Roads

Every protest site now has one side of the road open. This is to allow any medical emergency vehicle – oxygen trucks, ambulances, any other – to pass through. While Tikri and Ghaziabad already had roads open, last night one road at Singhu was also opened.

Yet, the police has not removed barricades. Even from the roads the farmers have vacated. Concrete slabs stolen from road dividers are hard to move. Concertina wire does not yield easy. Still the COVID-19 farmer volunteers are facilitating incoming vehicles around the police barricades.

The farmers march to Parliament, scheduled for May, has been postponed for now. Though thousands of farmers have reached the protest sites – but for standing tall at sites of protests – the farmers do not want to hamper the nation fighting COVID-19 or distract the police from its job is helping with COVID-19 relief.

These are farmers we accuse of stubble burning, smoke pollution without considering that along with our food, they also grow oxygen for months twice or thrice every year in their fields. The same oxygen that in concentrated form the government has failed to provide to critical patients at this time.

It is beyond sad that the government remains unmoved. Even stones have been known to melt.

23
Apr

Farmers Protest: Path

   Posted by: aman

Day 149

Toll 395

#FarmersProtest

Path

In the last few days there has been some blame shifting on the farmers over oxygen supplies to Delhi hospitals. There have also been reports countering and debunking this propaganda. These reports clearly point fingers at UP and Haryana governments. A farmers investigation shows police directing oxygen trucks over longer routes through protests sites hoping they will be stopped and farmers can be blamed.

While it is well established as a practice that farmers never hinder essential services, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha has decided to vacate one side of the road on Singhu border. Personally, this does not make sense to me because there is always a service road kept open.

Yet, uppermost on farmer leaders minds is to not give the government any reason to crack down on them and never cause blockade of essential supplies to people. With the rise again of the pandemic, this pressure has increased many times not only in terms of continuing the protests but also saving their own people – the protesters.

The right-wing and the government is building a huge narrative that given the pandemic situation the farmers should back off. Many of those who support the protests and are in sympathy with the protesters are also joining in the chorus.

This narrative assumes that farmers do not know the risks involved. At its most charitable, this narrative says that there could be a time, when the pandemic clears, the farmers can resume their struggle.

Both are mistakes.

Of course, there are many views on the pandemic in the protests – from non-acceptance of pandemic, questioning of numbers, to willingness to wear masks, maintain physical distancing, get tests done. Yet, I believe pontification is the easiest and laziest thing that supporters can do. The hard thing is to actually go down to protest sites and try working with the farmers to maintain COVID-19 protocols.

As we know from the Citizenship protests, it is virtually impossible to mount such a protest again. It did not happen with Citizenship protests; it won’t happen with these ones. In any case, given how wheat is being procured in this season, the government in anyway covertly pushing its agenda.

Then there is the aspect of third mutant, whether vaccines work, and so on. There is huge data being generated on those. So what are the supporters really asking the protesters to do? Put your hand on your heart and tell me merely masking up will save farmers. Given the protests sites, physical distancing is impossible.

I maintain these protests are the last stand to save the nation. The very term ‘last stand’ is borrowed from military parlance. This is a war, the weapons are propaganda and narratives. The farmers have resilience and resolve. The danger is death.

But you know what? The even greater danger is civil society shrugging off the farmers struggle and possible deaths with ‘I told you so: you should have masked up’.

That is the direction in which this narrative will go.

Personally, I believe the decision to follow COVID-19 protocols should be the farmers choice and we must believe in their agency. It is the same agency which has revealed all the gaps in the Farm Laws, all the issues with neo-liberal frameworks which the entire lot who supports the farmers has been unable to fight for decades. The result is in front of us through the broken health system of the nation. When farmers are fighting it, let us try not to dissuade them by injecting fear.

Fear kills any protest.

Notice the farmers are doing exactly what they set out to do. Even I have reported they are prepared to fight until government repeals laws, legalises MSP or 2024, even if they have to reconfigure strategies. They are also staying true to what they answered right at the beginning of the protests when asked if they are not scared of Coronavirus: both the Farm Laws and the virus will kill us; it is better to die fighting than hiding away in our villages.

They had said this is a ‘aar ya paar’ di ladai – a do or die war. Did you not hear that? Did you not believe that?

As far as public health is considered. For long the critique has been these are Haryana and Panjab farmers – unlike the Kumbh Mela where participants were from all over the nation. Heavens forbid, if the protests become super-spreaders it would only kill people from these two states.

Maybe some more but not you in the rest of India. Would the bodies piling up be difficult for you to watch? What would you rather do: not acknowledge farmer suicides? Around 4,00,000 in the last 25 years? Before COVID-19, before Farm Laws. Even more after COVID-19 and Farm Laws are implemented.

IMHO before pontificating, the question we need to ask ourselves is: why are farmers protesting even after 5 months? Why could this nation not rise up to support the farmers? Push the government to repeal the laws which have anyway been laid bare? If we could not do that, in spite of all the support the farmers generated, then do we – the rest of the nation – really have a moral ground to stand on and advise the farmers?

Yet, we will not ask ourselves that question. We will not go down to the sites to work with the farmers on COVID-19 protocols. We will pontificate and by doing that join the right-wing attack against the farmers. If the disaster happens we will say: we told you so.

That is our tragedy as a nation.