Archive for March, 2021


Farmers Protest: Belagavi Mahapanchayat

   Posted by: aman    in Other

March 31, 2021

Day 126

Toll 336


Belagavi (Belgaum) Mahapanchayat

Did we urban folks know that since 2000, for 16 years, North Karnataka has faced drought or flash floods. Both have devastated the farmers who in spite of sowing Ragi, a dry-land crop, have not been able to get adequate harvests.

Just like we urban folks perhaps do not know that today the Samyukt Kisan Morcha with support from the Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha and Hasiru Sene is organising a huge Belagavi Mahapanchayat. This Mahapanchayat on the back of two earlier ones at Shivamogga and Haveri is expected to draw 50,000 people. Lapdog media, even print, is not reporting it.

Like it is not reporting that a Mitti Satyagraha by the National Alliance of People’s Movements is on in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Assam and Punjab. Given how the government disrupted the farmer leaders’ press conference in Ahmedabad three days back and arrested farmer leaders, it is significant that a Mitti Satyagraha is starting from Dandi today and will reach Shajahanpur on April 5 and from there to Tikri, Singhu and finally Ghazipur.

You may remember the right-wing call a few years back for iron from each village of the country to build the Sardar Patel statue which was finally given to a Chinese firm. The Mitti Satyagraha is not like that. This is soil from the nation which will go into making the Martyr’s Memorials of the farmer’s protest on the borders.

Unlike the Patel statue, these memorials won’t be ticketed. All they need is your support. Unlike the elections where people have not even cast their vote and there is talk about how many MLAs the BJP will buy in each state, the farmers are challenging the paradigm. To know it, we urbanites will have to stop relying on lapdog media for news and open our eyes and ears.


Farmers Protest: Prof Surinder Kaur Interview

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

March 30, 2021

On day 125 of the #FarmersProtests I wish to share this video with you. This is from the long-standing gherao by the Jamhoori Kisan Union of the Adani Dry Port, near Ludhiana, in Panjab. It is an interview in Hindi with Prof Surinder Kaur, 29 minutes, by K Santosh from Workers Unity.

Yes, it is about role of women and women’s participation in the protests but there is something more. I met Prof Surinder Kaur at Singhu and aunty invited me home with the lure of ‘stuffed Makki ki roti’. We know how hard it is make a simple makki ki roti and stuffed makki ki roti is as wondrous as food can get.

Yet, even more fascinating is how I see her daughter and my friend Sangeet Toor function – besides writing for The Wire and The Caravan and Trolley Times, now bringing out the women’s newspaper from the protest sites Karti Dharti.

I realise what makes some of us activists. As another friend remarked, a lot of us are shaped by family, by family values. If the family, the parents, have been actively political, then it runs in the blood. Surinder aunty’s family has been political for decades.

I know this is a long interview but do listen to one of the most comprehensive views on the women’s role in protests. I loved it that aunty mentions another friend Harinder Bindu, Gen Sec, BKU Ekta Ugrahan who is dedicated to the fight her father Megh Raj Bhagtuana was fighting and Jasbir Kaur Natt aunty from Panjab Kisan Union, another friend Navkiran Natt’s mother. The Natts are another family where politics runs in the blood.

Since Panjab has forever been a land of resistance, there are many such families in Panjab. For all of us, middle-class, the clarity in this interview teaches us a lot. Do listen here.

PS: Since the interview is open air, the audio is better over earphones.


Farmers Protest: Emperor’s New Clothes

   Posted by: aman    in Other, Punjab

March 28, 2021

Day 123

Toll 330


Emperor’s New Clothes

No one can deny that we are tired and angry. One-hundred-twenty-three days of protest in extreme winter, sudden hail and rains, and now blistering summer, is no joke. Three-hundred-thirty people are already dead, many more are injured, many have fallen ill. Yet, there has been no word from the government. No effort to resolve the issue and send people home honourably.

We are angry.

The protests sit on a tinderbox of public discontent. For the last four months, farmers have, to the best extent possible, been non-violent. That is why we need to be careful, very careful in how we protest. Apart from the fact that violence derails us, violence is exactly what the government wants from us. Violence can become the government’s excuse to use repression. Violence could lead to escalation. We want resolution, not escalation.

What happened yesterday with Abohar BJP MLA Arun Narang in Malout – pushing, shoving and tearing of clothes in public – is to me a heat of the moment incident. From reports and videos it seems the intent was to throw black ink, but police was taking Narang in and out of a shop, anger built up, the shoving and stripping took place. Narang did not suffer any major injuries. He was discharged from hospital soon after.

Yet, the incident fails our test. No doubt, when hundreds or thousands of people protest there is no saying when the outburst can turn even slightly violent. That is why we need to be careful. There is much anger on the ground, simmering now for many months. If we do not take a stand against such outburst there is no saying who and where can do something slightly more drastic and that would risk not the protests – for they will go on nevertheless – but the goodwill the protests are generating world-wide.

In this battle of people vs powers, this goodwill is our greatest achievement. That is why look at was stripping someone means. Let us ask ourselves if physically stripping someone the best way to advanced our cause?

Yet, we must also notice that stripping someone, while disrespectful, also means uncovering, revealing their truth. Remember the Emperor’s New Clothes? Since day one of the protests the Emperors’ lies are being shattered, their dark truths are being exposed. I feel, we really do not do need to strip people literally, physically.

We walk a razor’s edge, let us walk it with dignity.

At the same time, the right-wing needs to realise that the method of mob violence, of group attacks, of noise and disturbance that they have used in the past have now come to haunt them. They turned democracy into mob rule, now they need to learn that mobs can also expose them.

It is Karma.


Farmers Protest: Gujarat Model

   Posted by: aman    in Other

March 27, 2021

Day 122

Toll 326


Gujarat Model

Right from around 2011, the right-wing has pushed the Gujarat model of development. By the time the fact-seeking journalists could really assess the claim, it was too late. The BJP, having discredited the government of the day UPA 2, especially the Congress, was well on its way to power. I remember many stories in those days questioning the Gujarat model but they did not find takers. The mood of the nation had changed.

As the farmers protests started, news came that farmer leaders in Gujarat were under house arrest, the cadre was not being allowed to assemble. I remember a Samyukt Kisan Morcha press conference late December when finally some Gujarat leaders could participate. They had disguised themselves, escaped house arrest and sneaked into Delhi. At one point only 300 out of planned 3000 farmers from Gujarat could reach Shajahanpur.

Yet, the state government’s oppression continued. On March 12, like every year, on the 91st anniversary of Gandhi’s Salt Satyagraha in 1930, the farmers wanted to take out a rally from Ahmedabad to Dandi. When the Seva Dal and other organisations began a rally with 80 tractors, the police detained the leaders and did not allow the tractors to proceed beyond two kilometres. On March 20th, over 100 farmer leaders representing organisations across Gujarat announced the formation of the Kisan Sangharsh Manch or KASAM, a state-wide platform that aims to launch decentralised district- and block-level protest movements against the new laws.

Since, urban India and rest of India remains quite oblivious to what has been going on in Gujarat, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha decided to highlight the police curbs. Yesterday, with all due process in place, Yudhveer Singh, general secretary, BKU Tikait, and other farmer leaders called for a press conference in Ahmedabad. As if on cue, the police pounced on them and arrested them. Leaders Gajendra Singh, Ranjit Singh, J.K. Patel, and others are now in jail. What was their crime? A press conference when the Constitution gives us freedom of speech? But notice, while the leaders are arrested, it is the police that fell in the trap they had laid. That is the nature of power, it can’t resist demonstration.

Similarly, yesterday when farmer leaders in Karnataka were protesting at Town Hall, they were arrested. Kodihalli Chandrasekhar, Kavita Kuruganti, Bayyareddy, trade union leaders and others were picked up by police in Bangalore. Karnataka police also arrested many protesters in Gulbarga. This when the CM of Karnataka, BS Yediyurappa, has built his whole career projecting himself as a farmer leader, with farmer interests close to his heart.

Yet, once again the lapdog media has failed us. There has been hardly any coverage in mainstream media. However, it is clear, the hypocrisy of the government is getting exposed day by day. Their lies and their draconian policies are being challenged. After those Enforcement Directorate cases, after Income Tax notices, after UAPA threatened, after arrests post January 26th – most arrested now out on bail, the message that goes out is the government is desperate, its best intimidation tactics are no longer working. It is now a matter of time.

Gandhi’s Dandi March ended on April 6 – a day the Gujarat farmers wanted to mark. Now, if these leaders are not released, SKM has stated, their leaders will reach Gujarat to mark the day.

How many will the government arrest?


Farmers Protest: Bandh Call

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

March 25th, 2021

Day 120

Toll 320


Bandh Call

Two non-protest but in their ramifications, hugely political developments yesterday.

1) Delhi’s quest for complete statehood has been curtailed. Yesterday, The Rajya Sabha passed The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill amidst, notice a walkout by Opposition exactly the way Opposition was protesting outside the House during when the Farm laws were passed.

While we know the Central government has an agenda to weaken all democratic and pro-federalism structures of the nation, this walkout from the House is confirmation that the Opposition has still not learnt to behave responsibly. Or perhaps, Congress must have smelt this as an opportunity to finish AAP. First, Jammu and Kashmir, now Delhi. What Opposition does not see is this could be a model that can be implemented in any state. Sadly, the Constitution means nothing to the government.

2) Bihar Assembly passes Bihar Special Armed Police Bill, 2021, in a bid to give its police more teeth to conduct searches and arrests without producing a warrant. In the course of debate on this Bill, Opposition MLAs were thrashed inside the House, pushed down steps.

Today also marks the one year anniversary of how with a four hours notice, the Central government sent up to 3 crore migrant workers back home hundreds of kilometers away, on foot. A fact that we as a nation must be ashamed about.

Friends, what our elected representatives do with our vote is clear from all three instances above. Indeed, electoral democracy in India has become populist autocracy without concern for the rights of those who need the greatest care.
As citizens, the only way we can guard our freedoms is by asserting our voice. Exactly how the farmers have been doing for the last four months on Delhi’s borders. All these months I used to wonder why Delhi is not responding enough. Now, I know: when Delhi has not risen upon it being assaulted, curtailed, its vote stolen, what will it respond to the farmers or anyone else?

But you and I, and hopefully the people of Delhi, can still respond.

Tomorrow is a Bharat Bandh called by Samyukt Kisan Morcha. SKM has appealed for all road and rail transport, all markets and other public places to be closed across the country from from 6 am to 6 pm, Friday, March 26. However, SKM says, this is not necessary for the places where elections are going to be held.
Please join the Bharat Bandh. Let us make it a success.

Lastly, Hardeep Singh Dibdiba, the grandfather of the young man Navreet Singh who was shot on January 26, whose death police claims was from tractor accident, has stepped out of his home, into the protests to iron out the differences between various groups participating in the protest. He has called for a march of the youth today from Moga in Panjab to the Singhu border. It is underway right now. This is democracy – taking everyone along. Salute to Dibdiba Sa’ab’s sense of purpose.


Aaj yaad hai Bhagta teri aati …

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Martyrdom Day – March 23, 90th anniversary of the hanging of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar, and Shivaram Rajguru

There are many who say, ‘Oh! The farmers protests have gone on for 118 days, no end in sight.’

That is true. But we forget Sheetal Sathe’s song on Bhagat Singh:

toone to kaha tha, ye aazadi nahin dhokha hai …
itihaas mein bhi hum bhooke the, aaj bhi thokar khate hain …

You had said, this freedom is a farce …
In history we were hungry, today too we are shoved around …

These words by Sathe of Kabir Kala Manch resonate with me because while it is true that India gained notional freedom in 1947, that freedom was for some privileged ones like me and perhaps you. Vast sections of India remained enslaved and we who benefitted from freedoms allowed ourselves to get enslaved once again to crony capitalists.

For its work – singing pro-democracy and pro-annihilation of caste songs, celebrating diversity of religion and languages – the Congress-led UPA government imprisoned Kabir Kala Manch members under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act – UAPA. After they got bail in 2017, in December 2020, under the current dispensation, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) stated in court that ‘translations of songs was proof of violent activities and conspiracies’ against the government. Irony just died.

Now, tell me, is Sathe wrong about Bhagat Singh? Now tell me how long will it take to get freedom and who really stands in the way? It is certainly not the government alone. I feel, pardon me, it is us too. Unless we join the protests, we can’t expect farmers alone to fight for all our freedom.

Today the #FarmersProtests is marking the martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev in a big way. Hundreds of thousands are gathering at Singhu, at both stages at Tikri, and at the Bhagat Singh Memorial at Katkhar Kalan in Panjab. (The venue has shifted to Banga grain market due to inclement weather.)

In PANJAB: Journeys Through Fault Lines, I write: ‘Every age has its battles between the right and the wrong, the just and the unjust and the weak and the powerful. In today’s day and age, while the battle plays out as it has in every other age, one dimension has changed: there is now a tussle between the powerless and the powerful over the icons of the past. Until now these icons were the heroes of the weak and the oppressed. Now the powerful have appropriated the icons—stolen them from the people’s narrative and made them the state narrative. If appropriation of an icon by contrarian political forces is indicative of the person’s popularity, nationally, perhaps Bhagat Singh stands on top of the historical figures of modern India.’ Page 26

Sathe’s song here …

Dear Friends,

In Panjab, given that Akalis have lost favour and AAP continues to bungle, there is a one party monopoly – Congress. However, on ground, people are deeply disenchanted even with them. Basically there is a political vacuum in Panjab, and elections are in less than a year, the question is: what next?

There is a view gaining weight that farmer union leaders must enter electoral politics. Vivek Gupta asked me my views.

I disagree. There are my reasons and there are many senior thinkers in favour as well. Do read this interesting debate.


Farmers Protest: Green Towel

   Posted by: aman    in Other

March 22, 2021

Day 117

Toll 313


Green Towel

The two Mahapanchayats in Karnataka – Shivamogga and Haveri – in the last two days have been a great success. Today is a march from the Railway Station to the Vidhan Souda (Assembly) against the Farm Laws.

Through the decades, Karnataka has been a land of great social movements and also in the past few decades, extremely opportunistic politics.

The choice of Shivamogga as a venue for the Mahapanchayat was for two reasons:

a) it is current CM Yediyurappa, also known as a farmer leader, home turf. The question is direct: does BJP’s Yediyurappa support the anti-farmer Farm Laws?

b) In 1951, Kagodu, that falls in the Shivamogga region was the site of the first farmers movement after independence of India. Farmers had protested the measuring instrument Kolaga used to measure produce grown by tenant farmers and demanded ownership of land they were cultivating.

Tikait has exhorted farmers to march to Bangalore on their tractors, to lay siege on Bangalore the way north Indian farmers have laid siege on Delhi. That might be a tall order given how splintered the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) has been in the last decades since the passing away of its founder Prof Mahanta Devaru Nanjundaswamy. MDN also collaborated with Tikait’s father, Baba Tikait, to found the Bhartiya Kisan Union in the 1980s.

Yet, the visit by Tikait, Darshan Pal, Yuddhaveer Singh has re-ignited the farmer’s movement. Both rallies asserted the farmer’s role in the politics of the state. Now it is upon KRRS and Hasiru Sena and many other allied organisations to hold up the struggle in the state and in south India.

In Karnataka, the green towel is a symbol of a fighting farmer. Started by MDN, the swirling of the green shawls/towels in a meeting symbolises assertion, consent to a decision by the union members and a bugle call for a collective fight. The green towel is unfurled, it could potentially change the ground.

An aside, but significant in the writing of history. Yesterday, in a meeting in Bangalore, Darshan Pal said: when we stopped trains in Panjab in October 2020, we started facing shortage of fertilisers and coal. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal met us on November 13th, 2020. He offered to start goods trains if we allowed passenger trains. We were ready to form a committee and discuss our demands with the government but we insisted on blocking passenger trains. Everything could have been settled, but the government did not start the goods trains and we did not form the committee. Then we decided to march to Delhi.

Rest, you know…

Btw, the Q&A in Darshan Pal’s session lasted over an hour. One of the longest I have seen. While the farmers demands are crystal clear, we all understand them, the long sessions shows how much more the movement needs to be made simple, easy to access. I remember when I came to Bangalore in 1998, the famous MDN led KRRS attack on KFC had happened two years back. At that time, in the heyday of neo-liberalism, the news went out as an incident of outrage. MDN had opposed foreign foods. Now, 35 years later, we are so entrenched. It takes us so long to grasp basics – unlearning is hard!

Green Towel waving sequence from the Shivamogga Mahapanchayat, thanks to Gauri Lankesh News.


Farmers Protest: Shivamogga Mahapanchayat

   Posted by: aman    in Other

March 20, 2021

Day 115

Toll 308


Shivamogga Mahapanchayat

Many years ago, a Bangalore NGO started a website called: I Paid A Bribe. It was part of a larger global initiative. Did we ever check out the website? Did we ever make an entry there? Now the Jai Kisan Andolan, part of Samyukt Kisan Morcha, has released an ‘MSP Loot Calculator’ based on facts provided on government websites.

It has already calculated that contrary to government’s assurance that ‘MSP was there, is there, will remain’, farmers in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and others have been denied Rs 140 crore on MSP on Chana – Bengal Gram, between March 1 and 15. The harvest season has not even begun yet, the figures will multiply many times.

It is not just MSP. Since January 11, from previous harvest season, in Odisha, Bargarh district, in spite of receiving tokens for sale of more than 3 lakh quintals of paddy, the farmers have not been able to sell. Since then the farmers have been blocking the Sub Collector’s office by dumping thousands of paddy bags against the non procurement of their paddy. Yesterday, a mahapanchayat took place in Chandikhol, Odisha.
In Panjab and Haryana there were huge demonstrations by Arthiya Associations supported by farmers over changed FCI norms of procurement of grains. A huge mahapanchayat took place in Sitamarhi, Bihar. A Mitti Satyagraha started from Bhiwani, Madhya Pradesh.

Farmers affiliated with Karnataka Raajya Raithu Sangha and Hasiru Sena are on a foot march from Basavakalyan to Bellary – 400 km. In 13 days, they have covered 332 km. The spirit along their route is electric – people are welcoming the marchers, they are addressing hundreds of peasants and poor people at village and taluk level.

Last evening, in Bangalore, farmer leaders paid homage to martyred farmers. SKM leaders have arrived at Bangalore for the Mahapanchayat today at Shivamogga and tomorrow at Haveri.

I hope media covers it. After all this is Karnataka, the ‘messiah of farmers’, CM Yediyurappa’s state. After Hindi imposition which met resistance from the ground, if BJP does not acknowledge the farmers resistance, they can jolly well pack their bags in the next elections.


Farmers Protest: Tikait spins the Vaccine

   Posted by: aman    in Other, Punjab

Day 114

Toll 302


Tikait spins the Vaccine

As is his style, Tikait spins the Coronavirus vaccine. Now this will throw a lot of anti-vaxxers – who generally stand with farmers – into a tizzy but please remember general society does not know all your elaborate arguments. I know you have an uphill task on your hands but please read:

1) Sentiment on ground towards COVID-19 is ambiguous at best. Farmers do not deny the illness but believe if Farm Laws are not repealed, then they would be dead anyway – both metaphorically and sadly in many cases literally.

2) With rising numbers it seems a second wave is upon us. It could also be government is now revealing actual numbers and they never really went down. In the first wave, there was no testing for the virus on the protest sites. There were no documented cases either. Doctors attributed this to open air protests, winds, and generally waning numbers.

3) Tikait is actually using the vaccine to bait the government. He asks, police is getting it, others are getting it, why can’t farmers get it? By raising the question, he is actually asking the government if it believes farmers are equal to others? Or are they deliberately othered? If they are equal, why is the government not talking to them? It is close to two months now.

4) Tikait raises an important point on prisoners. He says, prisoners should be vaccinated. In fact, he goes further and comments on the over-stuffed prison system and says society must know how many prisoners are allotted per barrack. His question is based on one of the preventive measures advocated to stop the virus: why aren’t physical distancing norms followed in the prison?

5) It would indeed be wonderful if the government were to listen to farmer leaders. Not on vaccine but their real issues: repeal Farm Laws, legalise MSP. That is not happening. Officially, this is not Emergency when forced vasectomies were performed on hapless citizens.

That is why please do not get agitated and tie yourself up in knots over Tikait’s statement. His statements are a bait. In his own style, he is using the vaccine as a stick to beat the government.

The decision on whether to take the vaccine is still individual, at least for non-government employees which is majority of our nation.

Tikait’s statement here …