Archive for the ‘Punjab’ Category

20
Jul

Farmers Protest: Survivor Guilt

   Posted by: aman

Day 237

Toll 543+

Survivor Guilt

Through the pandemic over the last year, especially during the recent second wave, a term became quite popular to talk about our experience – survivor guilt. It is surely a valid and relevant term.

Yesterday Jaspreet Kaur and I were talking about ‘survivor guilt’ and we wondered does it apply to the pandemic alone?

Sure, seems like that.

Else, why would their people – sovereign in their lands and homes – camp outside Delhi like this for the last eight months? Why would their plight not move the nation living under concrete roofs, eating chai pakoras and rotis and daals and subzis, that actually these people produce?

The bitter cold, the winter rains, the scorching heat, the heavy storms, the pelting rains didn’t move the country, the survivor guilt does not really apply. It is actually consumerist apathy.

Video by Randeep S Mdk 45 seconds.

18
Jul

Farmers Protest: Boy

   Posted by: aman

Day 235

Toll 538+

Boy

For eight months now citizens and farmers have been protesting at major traffic intersections at Chandigarh. For over four months Baba Laabh Singh, in his 80s, who identifies himself has a Nihang has been camping at Matka Chowk which is on the VIP route. In June, the police tried to evict him, even arrested him to be released later.

Yesterday, for the first time farmers protested against BJP leaders at Chandigarh. The protest against Sanjay Tandon and Mayor Ravi Kant Sharma took place at Motor Market, Sector 48, by activists from Naujawan Kisan Ekta.

Among those picked up was a 13-year old boy, whose video from the police van has gone viral. ‘I do not mind going to jail. If I die, ask farmer leaders from Singhu border to collect my body.’

There is a popular slogan among activists in Panjab:

Ki karange jailan thaane?
Lokan de had wad-de jaane!

What will jails and stations do?
People will keep flooding!

That is people’s take on democracy in Panjab. These are the lessons the government is imparting the young generation. Click here to see video. (17 seconds)

 

15
Jul

Farmers Protest: Chaduni

   Posted by: aman

Day 232

Toll 538+

Chaduni

Last night, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha suspended Haryana farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni for one week. In itself, one week is no big deal but the step is to send out SKM’s message regarding the upcoming elections in Panjab in February 2022.

For the last few days, Chaduni has been raising a matter that concerns us all – if we are unhappy with the government, then instead of only protesting, why do we not not form our government? Why should the protesters not form their own political party and fight elections, win and make people-friendly laws? Chaduni terms this argument as ‘Mission Panjab’. He says, Bengal results show us that BJP did not relent on Farm Laws. What guarantee do we have that if, a big if, BJP loses UP elections, it would relent?

Various leaders of SKM are on various points over this argument. If I understand well, and given my experience of Panjab elections 2017, unions like BKU Ekta Ugrahan oppose contesting elections. The reason they give is that they stand in opposition to the entire neo-liberal structure and not merely one government or another, one policy or another.

There is logic to that argument that I find appealing. After all, politics is not a silo. Politicians come from the system. India being a socialist nation, the government cannot withdraw from education, health, agriculture, allied fields. Yet, we know how for the last three decades that is exactly what every party in power does – Congress, BJP, Akalis, JD(S), SP and so on. That is because the neo-liberal framework is designed for government to withdraw and corporate players to take over. Not only in India, even world-wide where countries have adopted neo-liberalism.

In Panjab the situation is especially dire because the executive – bureaucrats and police – are active abettors in this privatisation. There is anti-incumbency but it is because the system is so rotten that it fails. The sand and gravel, liquour and transport mafias thrive. That is why current Congress rule, after a decade of Akali-BJP mal-governance, has not changed the ground reality. Like every state, like the nation, the reason is whatever be the good intentions of a politician, the tweezer grip of corporate houses and the need to deal with unrelenting attack of critics, forces it compromise its policies, go against the people, and benefit money bags. That is the neo-liberal structure.

The nation tried the experiment of a totally fresh, transparency oriented, high on ideals party and government with AAP. Where has that taken us? In fact, given AAP’s example from IAC days, many BJP leaders are now accusing the protests, saying: they are only for politics and not for Farm Laws.

The differences between Chaduni and SKM are not a matter confined to the farmers protest. No one denies Chaduni’s importance to these protest. Remember, the Haryana police barricades on November 26 would not have fallen, farmers would not have reached Delhi’s borders, if it were not for the youth and Chaduni’s union.

The differences in SKM on how to deal with elections are a question that all of us need to ask ourselves as we try to now tackle a government which has completely upturned the norms of democracy and exchanged the country’s socialist character for crony capitalism in the most brazen ways. We also need to ask ourselves: what if there were no elections in Panjab and UP? If the elections were two or three years away like in Haryana. What would have been the farmers take on elections?

The debate is: should we fight the system from within or change the system altogether? We do not have answers yet … What would you do?

 

12
Jul

Farmers Protest: Martyrs

   Posted by: aman

Day 229

Toll 538

#FarmersProtest

Martyrs

Three days back it was Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal’s birthday. Badal announced that if his party wins Panjab elections, his government will compensate all the martyrs on the farmers protest with one government job per family, free education for children and health education for life.

What irony! This is the same party that neglected agrarian woes for the decade they were in power in Panjab. This was the period when the agrarian crises in the nation and in the food bowl of India – Panjab – deepened. According to university studies 16006 farmers and labourers committed suicide. The reporting was fudged.

I witnessed the White Fly protests in Panjab in late 2015, reported on it, wrote about it in my book. As the protests were on, incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib came to light. The people’s attention was distracted. This has been the government tactic for decades now. It has been over five years, the sacrilege issue is still not sorted despite two commissions, various Special Task Forces. The threads of most investigations point to Dera Sacha Sauda, enabled by Badals.

Of course, families of those who have departed must be helped. Their loans written off, their children educated, their families must be taken care. The Sikh Gurdwara management body SGPC – again controlled by Badals – announced a relief of Rs 1 lakh per martyr family in December 2020. When that did not go anywhere, now to gain a foothold in the farmers protest, when SAD declares compensation. Sorry to sound harsh, it sounds like ‘ambulance chasing’.

While announcing the package, Badal said, ’550 farmers have lost their lives.’ You see the toll on all my posts. The number today is 538. Where did Badal get 550 from? Or is he rounding off, wishing more people die at the protests? How cruel and uncouth is that?
Actually, you will see that number elsewhere too. On some other social media handles on twitter and Instagram. There is a bit of a story behind it.

The number on my post comes from the blog that Anu Sandhu , Amar Mander, Jai Singh Sandhu, Harender Happy have diligently maintained since the protests started. The numbers in this blog come from newspaper reports, social media, information from farmer unions, individual input. They are reconciled every few days and published. It is meticulous and strenuous work. That it is about deaths makes it even more difficult.

I believe, hardly has any such large protest in the world ever generated such exact statistics. They are, in many ways, sacrosanct. They tell us exactly what is going on and will also be a huge resource for historians.

In mid-June, the team collating the numbers suddenly noticed a drop in reporting on the deaths in local Panjabi media. No Hindi media has reported them consistently. We spoke to some of the major newspapers and they promised to resume reporting. That have done it. The team is very thankful to them.

However, in this period ABP news suddenly projected a number which can’t be verified. On June 27, ABP Panjabi reported 540 farmers had died. Some other media and Instagram handles also did that. I can’t say if they they were averaging and extrapolating or they have evidence. No evidence for that number is available.

That is why, I believe the number is 338, elaborately referenced in this blog. Let us please not run other numbers. To me it is disrespectful to those who have departed and to the close to eight month long farmers protest.

Click here for the blog.

24
Jun

Farmers Protest: Tank, Tractor, Twitter

   Posted by: aman

Day 210

Toll 520+

#FarmersProtest

Tank, Tractor, Twitter

Last few days, Rakesh Tikait, did a Modi on the media when he uttered the triple Ts: Tank, Tractor, Twitter. Given his own surname starting with T, it becomes four Ts. I have been hearing him say this since he was touring Gujarat in April but our duh! lapdog media. They wake up now as Uttar Pradesh state elections are nearing.

In all his statements, Tikait is clear that the farmers will challenge the BJP in at least west Uttar Pradesh and try to enhance their reach all over the state. They will not be contesting elections but will make their anguish against BJP – its betrayal to the farmer’s issues, causing economy to fail, lies on employment, mis-management of COVID-19 – heard across the state. The Opposition parties need to wake up to the opportunity. Similarly, the AAP rumour about Balbir Singh Rajewal as Panjab CM candidate is completely unfounded.

Tikait is also quite clear: the protests will last until the government repeals the Farm Laws and legalises MSP. If that takes up to 2024, then so be it. The farmers will continue to maintain pressure. Like at Singhu and Tikri, thousands of farmers have started arriving at Ghazipur border. They are doing so as per the area and date wise roster attached.

At Tikri, considering the damage past storms and rains have wreaked on the state at the Ghadri Gulab Kaur Nagar, BKU Ekta Ugrahan is now building a strong roof and pillar structure. The enclosed area will be 10,000 square feet. It will protect them from the heat hovering around 43-degree Celsius and the monsoon rains.

Pictures: Kisan Ekta Morcha and BKU Ekta Ugrahan, see here…

22
Jun

Farmers Protest: Deewar

   Posted by: aman

Day 208

Toll 518+

#FarmersProtest

Deewar

Across the wall of government apathy around the farmers protest, stand the central leadership and the farmers. They do not dialogue because the elected leaders have not talked for 5 months.

Leader: I am just a phone call away. You do not know how the path you have chosen to walk on will end.

Farmers: we know our path could end in our loss but the path you have chosen will certainly harm all of us.

Leader: I am a fakir. I have played my game. I do not care if I lose or win. But you have time, you have other options, try something else.

Farmer: No, our principles, our rules of engagement do not permit us to walk away.

Leader: Uff! Your principles! What use are your principles? You sit in cold, you stand in rain, you suffer in heat and storms. What have your principles given you? A small land holding, so much loan…

Look at me, look. This is me, that is you. We started together: I selling tea, you farming land. See where you are left behind, see where I have reached. Today I have the army, the police, the courts, the corporates, the banks, the parliament, the policies, what do you have?

Farmer: we have courage, resolve and food.

(adapted from movie Deewar)

Note: Along with 50 trolleys of wheat that reached Singhu yesterday, since young men had to go back for paddy sowing, thousands of elderly have reached Tikri today. The game the fakir has played is on.

 

17
Jun

Farmers Protest: June 26

   Posted by: aman

Day 203

Toll 513+

#FarmersProtest

June 26

As the seventh month anniversary of the protests is approaching, and the government remains apathetic, the Samyukth Kisan Morcha has decided to mark June 26 as – Save Democracy, Save Farmers Day. It was on this day, in 1975, that the Indira Gandhi government implemented Emergency.

The fact is, while it is not declared, since Demonetisation, our nation has been in a state of undeclared Emergency. On June 26, this year, the farmers will give gherao all Raj Bhavans across the country and give memorandums to the respective Governors addressed to the President against the Farm Laws.

Meanwhile, with farmers having to return to sow paddy, the women have once again taken up the gauntlet to keep the vigil on the borders. They have been arriving in huge numbers. Here are two short videos of women and men protesting a few days back when the theme was: free the intellectuals.

Click here to see videos by Randeep S Maddoke

15
Jun

Farmers Protest: Unlock

   Posted by: aman

Day 201

Toll 512

#FarmersProtest

Unlock

Now that the peak second wave COVID-19 is officially behind us and the country is opening up again, it is time to evaluate a genuine concern many well-wishers and also naysayer lapdog media raised a few weeks ago. It was about the effect of COVID-19 on the farmer protests.

Many feared the protests will become a super-spreader event like the Kumbh Mela or the later rounds of the Bengal elections. The farmers and labour, the leaders of the various unions, believed a simple home truth: the Farm Laws will devastate us anyway, will cause thousands if not lakhs of suicides, just that they would remain invisible to the country, like they have been in the last two decades – close to 4 lakh suicides.

If the virus has to devastate us, they felt, it is better we die fighting than cowering in our homes. Of course, various unions were at different points regarding the virus and later the vaccines. Whether to sanitise or not, whether to mask or not, how much social distancing is possible. But there was no question of going back. That is the nature of a Morcha – battle encampment. You do not withdraw.

There is a general belief in rural India that vaccines kill healthy people. Though anecdotal, people have seen this happen and news spreads like wild fire. Some unions asked for vaccine camps, government was very slow in moving. Many did not turn up for vaccination.

On masks, I am not sure we understand the gravity of the problem on ground: insidious elements, backed by the government, could enter the protests and harm them from within. There were incidents of tents being put to fire, there have been incidents in the past of infiltrators trying to sabotage the protests.

Now that we have figures, we can clearly see that in the last few weeks, a total of 10 people at the protests have died from COVID-19. 2 people died from post-COVID complications. This is the lowest count anywhere in the country. This is certainly far lower than what would have happened if the protesters had gone home.

The real numbers of cases and dead are just not available. Stigma, poor reporting, deliberate obfuscation have forever hidden the real numbers from us. The protests did not become a super-spreader event. Hence all those well-wishers need to take heart. The lapdog media needs to shut up.

In fact, while the government failed to contain the virus, the makeshift hospitals at the protest sites helped the people around protests sites with beds, oxygen and medicines.

While no one knows why the virus did not devastate the protests, the question should be a prime importance to all researchers. From what I heard earlier from doctors, open air makes a huge difference. If I may also suggest, though with no evidence, psychologically, a sense of purpose and courage makes a difference. We all know how resolute and steadfast the farmers remain.

While officially the second wave peak seems to be behind us, we are unlocking, if we look at last year’s data, you will see the cases grow post-lockdown: from July to September 2020. That is why it is too early to say the virus crises is behind us. We must remain cautious and continue to maintain protections.

Yet, we must note something. I humbly request: if we are not farmers and labour, if we are not at the protests, we must all refrain from pontificating, from sermonising to the protesters.

These farmer and labour have produced food for us for over half a century, in fact, from the birth of civilisation. Please know, they are sensible, they would not jeopardize us. If possible, look at their deep crises and shift your attention to the government which remains apathetic to their issues.

Please use your energies to target the government not the protests.

13
Jun

Farmers Protest: Caste as Fault Line

   Posted by: aman

Day 199

Toll 505+

#FarmersProtest

Caste as Fault Line

The alliance yesterday between Shiromani Akali Dal and Bahujan Samaj Party is more a coming together to stay relevant rather than to win the next Panjab elections in 2022.

Since the sacrilege incidents in 2015/16, SAD has been on a downward spiral in Panjab. The party was decimated in the 2017 elections. Yet, in spite of big statements during the 2017 election campaign and later in Panjab Assembly, it is Congress’ Captain Amarinder and SAD’s control on the Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee – SGPC that has kept SAD propped up in the state. The BSP has not won an MP seat in Panjab since 1998 and MLA seat since 2002. Its MLA vote percentage in Panjab has reduced from 5.69% in 2002 to 1.52% in 2017. BSP remains largely unengaged with the caste issues in the state.

AAP entered Panjab with a bang in 2017. It did not perform as well as it expected or even the media expected. Now in the run up to 2022, it has not been able to build itself up. As of now, after the break-up with SAD last year, over Farm Laws, the BJP is at an all time low in Panjab. In fact, now after six months of the famer protests, senior BJP leadership in the state has started issuing statements against the central leadership on farmer issues.

The Congress, in spite of its dismal performance in Panjab, seemed to be without competition in the state in the 2022. For the past few weeks, it is entangled by inner factionalism, some even on caste lines. That is why, it could very well be that the SAD-BSP alliance has the blessings of the Central BJP leadership. While the larger sentiment remains anti-BJP, this alliance could break the traditional Dalit votes from the Congress.

For the farmers protest, the alliance forces Panjab’s numerically less, but powerful and dominant Jutts to re-consider their position. Jutts are about 25% of the population. Some are landed, many small and marginal. Dalits are 32% in Panjab. The BJP has been trying to rouse the Dalit sentiments against the Jutts but has not succeeded. Now with BSP being reactivated, that fault line can open based on a ground issue – sowing rates of paddy.

For the last many years, since UP and Bihar labour has reduced footprint in Panjab, now because of COVID-19 for two years, the local labour – mostly landless Dalits and marginal Jutts – have been asking for revised rates for their labour. The Jatts, themselves struggling with low rates at which they sell paddy, contest the labour rates.

In some villages, Jutts pass resolutions, even through panchayats and Gurdwaras, fixing the rates. They go to the extent calling for boycott of any farmer or labourer who does not abide by their paddy sowing rates. This has become a matter of contention, even an impasse in some cases.

Earlier this week, Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) issued a statement against such ‘discriminatory’ resolutions passed by any panchayat. Yet, the labour demand more. They say no rates should be fixed without consultation with the labour.

Like women, right from the beginning of the protest, the labour has stood with the farmers. We have all celebrated that solidarity. In fact, the slogan itself is ‘Kisan Mazdoor Ekta Zindabad’.

That is why SKM needs to step in and solve the impasse. If the caste fault line widens, both the farmers protest and Panjab as a state going to elections will suffer by BJP getting a foothold through the backdoor.

11
Jun

Farmers Protest – Jabta

   Posted by: aman

Day 197

Toll 505+

#FarmersProtest

Jabta

As we near 200 days of the farmers protest, I am reminded of a statement early on, by a tall farmer leader. He had said: ‘In every battle/struggle it is very important to maintain the Jabta – Code of Conduct. Without Jabta, the winning side can lose; with Jabta, the losing side can win.’

For the past many months, we have seen how the farmers have maintained excellent Code of Conduct on the Delhi’s borders. Off late, given that the BJP keeps instigating the farmers in Haryana to gather resources in the state against the official machinery, wants to keep the protesters confined to Haryana, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha has now issued a few guidelines on protests against BJP.

The SKM has said: the social boycott and agitations against the leaders of BJP and its allies will be in the context of their official programs, including government and political, and not for their personal or private events, like weddings and participation in funeral processions. All resistance will be completely peaceful, through the use of black flags or slogans, and will not involve any violence or use of force.

This is important so farmers can focus on Delhi borders and upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections in 2022 which will pave way to national elections 2024. Ghazipur protest organisers have issued a roster on how various parts of Western UP should move on particular dates, through the month, every month, to reach the Ghazipur border. Meanwhile, district-wise, huge numbers of farmers from Haryana are reaching Singhu and Tikri.

The farmers have also rejected the MSP announced for Kharif crops, especially Paddy, and Tur and Urad Dals. The Centre has increased the Paddy rates by Rs 72 to Rs 1,940 per quintal from Rs 1,868 per quintal last year. Farmers say this increase violates the Swaminathan Commission guidelines which was a BJP manifesto promise in 2014. Instead of using Comprehensive Cost C2 as the cost concept on which a profit margin of at least 50 % will be added, the government has continued with its old trickery of using Paid Out Costs + notional value of Family Labour.

This developments clearly indicate that while the nation may have forgotten the protests, lapdog media might have ignored the protests, on ground the Code of Conduct is strong, the protests are strengthening, and the government will have no respite from them until it takes back the Farm Laws and legalises MSP.