Archive for July, 2021

25
Jul

Farmers’ Protest: NSA

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Day 242

Toll 546+

NSA

We know that despite all odds, the Kisan Sansad, the Farmers’ Parliament has been a huge success in its first two days. Tomorrow, is Day 3 which will be fully run by women. It has been decades since women have been asking for less than proportionate representation in the real Parliament (33 per cent) but that has not happened. Now, at the Farmers’ Parliament they get tomorrow and come back again in a few days.

Last few days, in solidarity with the Kisan Sansad, other protesters, some Delhi citizens, have also been trying to reach the Jantar Mantar. Yet, the police has kept the Sansad out of the reach of people, even media. Except for farmers’ own media, rest of the media is stopped a couple of score meters away from the Sansad venue. All they gets is bytes at the end of the day.

One wishes they could relay the live feed of proceedings at the Sansad. The people of the country could see how proceedings are conducted, how decorum is maintained, how turn is awaited, how dissent is recorded. Sadly, the government of India does not want people to be inspired by a well conducted Sansad.

Now, the Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal has issued a notification, granting power to the Police Commissioner to apprehend anyone under National Security Act (NSA) till 18th October 2021. Why is this permission granted? Who will it be used against? Why is it until October 18 and not just until the end of Parliament Monsoon Session?

There are no answers. This is what the textbook says about NSA:

The National Security Act is an act that empowers the government to detain a person if the authorities are satisfied that he/she is a threat to national security or to prevent him/her from disrupting public order.

Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi brought the National Security Act in on 23 September, 1980. Under this act, a person can be detained for up to 12 months without a charge. A person can be held for 10 days without being told the charges against them. The person can appeal before a high court advisory board but will not be allowed a lawyer during the trial.
The NSA Act 1980 has its roots in the colonial era. In 1818, Bengal Regulation III was enacted to empower the British government to arrest anyone for maintenance of public order without giving the person recourse to judicial proceedings.

Interestingly, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which collects crime data in India, does not include cases under the NSA as no FIRs are registered.

If NSA is for farmers, the government needs to know when farmers come for the Kisan Sansad, they are prepared to be arrested. Of course, they have the backing of the Unions but there are no guarantees. Do you think they would really be concerned about under which law they are being arrested?

Seriously, the government needs to do better. Nothing it tries works: not threats, not barricades, not hooliganism, not even laws. For the voice of the free (wo)man transcends all barriers.

24
Jul

Farmers Protest: Opposition

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Day 241

Toll 546+

Opposition

Before we get to the heading a brief update on yesterday’s Kisan Sansad. After two days of deliberations, the members of the Kisan Sansad voted against the ‘Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020′. Before that the Agriculture Minister, Ravneet Singh Brar, resigned after failing to answer the questions of the members of the House.

Brar is from Bharti Kisan Union, Kadian. No, he has not resigned from the Union, he symbolically resigned as Agricultural Minister from the mock People’s or Farmer’s Parliament to send out a message. Now isn’t that an excellent model to present to the country? That a minister who can’t answer question, actually resigns? Democracy is run on debate not brute force of numbers.

Now to heading:

‘Where is the Opposition in the Kisan Sansad?’ ask the bhakta. ha ha ha. For seven years the BJP has worked hard using advanced surveillance and huge money power to eliminate Opposition from the country. Owing to Congress low performance in 2014 and 2019, the BJP did not even allow a leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Now bhaktas come crying: where is the Opposition in the Kisan Sansad. So innocent, so hypocritical!

But where is the Opposition?

The Opposition is all around the makeshift tent the farmers have erected to hold their Kisan Sansad on the road. The Opposition is spread in layer after layer of security barricades, Varun water canons, automatic guns in the hands of security personnel, and a few hundred meters across at the real Parliament House.

The Opposition is in the legislatives who passed the draconian anti-farmer Farm laws. The Opposition is in the opposition parties who walked out of the Rajya Sabha when the Bills were tabled and let them be bulldozed through the Parliament by a nominal voice vote. The Opposition is in the muffled lapdog media. The Opposition is in how the government has tied the long arm of justice in the country.

Has that Opposition – the government – offered to come and address the farmers at their Sansad?

So, please, do not gaslight. The Kisan Sansad is a new mode of protest. The beauty is, while protesting, the farmers are creating a model for how the real Parliament must be run by taking ownership of actions, being accountable to citizens of the country, which the BJP cannot do.

23
Jul

Farmers Protest: The Gap

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Day 240

Toll 546+

The Gap

If farmer leader accounts yesterday are to be believed, there were 40000 police personnel to prevent 200 farmers from reaching Jantar Mantar to conduct their Kisan Sansad. That is a ratio of 200 : 1. Imagine so much khakhi! I am sure, now given the devastation of Central Vista, there was more khakhi than trees. Yet, despite police delaying the farmer buses, treating them with suspicion, checking them for bombs and arms, the farmers prevailed. The Kisan Sansad took place and gloriously.

I am sure many will try to theorise how it was possible. Many would put forth many arguments in favour and against but to me there is one observation: every farmer was clear that either they would reach Jantar Mantar or court arrest. That resolve, that fearlessness about being arrested is what saw them through. No one panicked and if another farmer leader is to be believed, until yesterday 10,000 farmers had registered to go to the Kisan Sansad. After its Day 1 success, I am sure the numbers would increase manifold.

Yet, media won’t report it for two reasons. One, media is compromised; two, media was not allowed to come close to the Kisan Sansad being conducted on the road. The barricades were more than 25 meters away. This is the gap.

With this regime, there is always a gap in everything they say and do. Permission not allowed, last minute permission allowed. After permission, farmers subjected to intense scrutiny. Permission for Kisan Sansad, no permission for march. Media not allowed. The list is long …

Poll promises to betrayals, budgets to economic slowdown, Jan Dhan to vaccines, schemes to frauds, foreign policy to international loss of face. There is nothing that this government says that can be taken on face value. They are always slip of tongue. Yesterday, a minister called the farmers hooligans and then retracted. This is the gap which has caused loss of trust between citizens and government. This is the trust deficit.

In any case, what worries any government most is legitimacy of representation. The question that gnaws at them is: are they genuinely people’s representatives or have they manipulated the people to be in power? This is true for all dictatorial regimes at all times. The history of the world is replete with examples from Soviet Union to South Americas to Middle East.
With all developmental indices crashed, with the COVID-19 catastrophe that the government has blatantly denied, with use of spying technology on all opponents, even CBI and judges, I sense the Kisan Sansad has now laid bare the government.

Yesterday, the BJP in Haryana bowed and freed illegally arrested protestors. There are now calls for other protests – to free those wrongfully imprisoned – at Jantar Mantar. Irrespective of whether they will be allowed, the farmers have certainly presented yet another model of resistance because finally democracy can only be reclaimed by democracy.

Picture: Kisan Ekta Morcha. For a moment, yesterday the gap between protesters and media was narrow.  See here … Then it became scores of meters.

 

22
Jul

Farmers Protest: Permission

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Day 239

Toll 546

Permission

Late night, the Delhi government allowed the Kisan Sansad – Farmers Parliament to be conducted at the Jantar Mantar lawns. The police will pick 200 Samyukt Kisan Morcha and 6 Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee delegates every morning and bring them to the venue.
The mock Parliament will run from 11 am to 5 pm, every day of the main Parliament monsoon session. However, no march will be allowed. This was reported in most mainstream media outlets last night. The SKM response is awaited.

No one, least of all I, wants a confrontation. At this stage, after eight months in the struggle, after the demand clearly stated – repeal Farm Laws and legalise MSP – after the government adamant that no talks will include provision to repeal laws, this seems like a minor victory for farmers.

This is classic neo-liberalism: keep dissent contained, do not let it upturn the cart, make allowance for limited dissent. Someone once explained neo-liberalism and protest spaces to me: it is like a pressure cooker with allowance for whistles. In fact, whistles tell us when the broth is cooked. That is exactly what has happened here.

Also, notice that though right from the beginning KMSC was not with SKM, now it is openly negotiating with the government. Yes, the events of January 26 drove a wide a gap between them. But six months have passed, the gaps could have been bridged.

Meanwhile, some people claiming to be BJP workers got into confrontation with farmers from Singhu protest site at the Western Peripheral Highway. The farmers repelled them. Baldev Singh Sirsa’s hunger strike unto death at Sirsa, Haryana has entered the fifth day today. He is demanding that five youth farmers arrested under charges of sedition be released. His health is weakening, the pressure on administration is mounting.

21
Jul

Farmers Protest: Mock Parliament

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Day 238

Toll 543+

Mock Parliament

From tomorrow, until the end of the Monsoon session, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha will send 200 delegates each day to Jantar Mantar to protest the 3 anti-farmer Farm Laws and demand legalisation of MSP.

At the protest venue, the farmers will conduct Mock Parliament. Urban middle class must be accustomed to Mock Parliament, mock UN when children participate in such activities at school. Those activities are designed to give children a sense of real democracy. However, we know real democracy is inverted in our country.

That is why, at the protest site, through the Mock Parliament, famers will present a model of how the Parliament should be run. How debates should be conducted, how proceedings must be followed, how Bills must not be bulldozed. This will be a lesson for the nation.

The Delhi Police has still not given permission. In the eventuality of being barred from conducting the Mock Parliament, the farmers have decided to court arrest. One by one, day after day. Let us see which jails are big enough to hold them, which laws are draconian enough to keep them in prison.

Meanwhile, Baldev Singh Sirsa’s hunger strike unto death at Sirsa, Haryana has entered the fourth day today. He is demanding that five youth farmers arrested under charges of sedition be released. He has said: either farmers will be released or I will be released (from life).

20
Jul

Farmers Protest: Survivor Guilt

   Posted by: aman    in Other, Punjab

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.

19
Jul

Farmers Protest: Permission Denied

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Day 236

Toll 543

Permission Denied

We all know the Samyukt Kisan Morcha call for a symbolic protest at the Parliament from July 22nd until the end of Monsoon session. Farmers from 22 states have risen in solidarity and have left from respective states for Delhi. The SKM has been clear that the protest gathering will be not more than 200 farmers on a day.

The Delhi police has denied the request for the protest. The police has instructed the Delhi Metro to not allow seven of its stations to let farmers board the trains. The reason?
COVID-19 protocols.

This is an absolute mockery of democracy in the country. The government can falter on oxygen and beds and vaccines. Lakhs can die. Farmers can be relegated to Delhi’s borders for 8 months. Parliament can run, lock-downs can go, but farmers cannot protest at the Parliament. Even symbolically. What a shame!

Meanwhile, the hunger strike unto death at Sirsa, Haryana has entered the second day. Baldev Singh Sirsa is on strike to persuade Haryana police to release five young men taken in custody over sedition charges.

18
Jul

Farmers Protest: Boy

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

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)

 

16
Jul

Farmers Protest: Agristack

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Day 233

Toll 538+

Agristack

The history of the world is full of stories of how countries have fought colonisation. Yesterday, at the Singhu border, a speaker applauded the farmers protest for being the first in the world to resist colonization before it has happened. This is how…

On 19th May, 2021, in response to an RTI query, the Ministry of Agriculture provided a Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Agriculture and Microsoft, and a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to verify Farmer’s Database (100 Villages from six states) “to develop farmer interface for smart and well-organized agriculture, including post-harvest management and distribution”.

The MoU proposes that farmer’s data will be shared with Microsoft to authenticate their identity for the receipt of entitlements under agricultural schemes. It will be a central geo-tagged farmer database linking the land records of farmers across the country that would integrate data from PM Kisan, Soil Health Cards, and the Pradhan Mantri Crop Insurance Scheme as well as other data.

This database will be leveraged by Microsoft and its local partner CropData to build post harvest management solutions and capture agricultural datasets such as crop yields, weather data, market demand and prices. This pilot sounds very similar to Agristack – a collection of technologies and digital databases, proposed by the Central Government focusing on India’s farmers and the agricultural sector. Basically, Agristack is an algorithm based decision making that will impact farmers’ rights without transparency or accountability. This means, farmers lose sovereignty of their land.

This is a billion dollars of investment and more than 50 per cent is concentrated with just 5 start-ups. Less competition brings more consolidation which gives the bargaining power to these companies and not the farmers. The ground reality of agriculture is that an overwhelming majority – 86 per cent according to a 2015-16 survey – is small and marginal, less that 5 acres and 2.5 acres. Among these farmers, in many cases the land titles are not clear because of disputes. In the upcoming Agristack digital world, all such farm lands will be sucked into government pool, all unclear owners, laborers and sharecroppers of the land will be erased out of existence.

Hence the protest. Imagine if we city folks were to lose our jobs, our homes, our bank accounts, basically the very freedom to be who we are, what we do?

15
Jul

Farmers Protest: Chaduni

   Posted by: aman    in Other, Punjab

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?