Farmers Protests: The Stories We Tell

   Posted by: aman   in Punjab

Day 24, Facebook, December 20, 2020

The Supreme Court has asked the government to answer on the Constitutional validity of the Farm Laws within four weeks. That means the farmer siege of Delhi will last at least that long.

Notice, right from the beginning of the Morcha, Union leaders have been saying we are in this for the long haul – New Years, Baisakhi, even next Diwali. Most tractors that arrived to Delhi came with two trollies – one with provisions, another with protesters.

The question is why was this not apparent to the nation? Why does the nation still not understand that farmers have not come to Delhi to negotiate. They are not roughing it out in this cold to compromise with the government. Their demand to the government – to repeal the Laws – has only two answers, either/or: Yes or No. Government saying Yes, means farmers go home. Government saying No, means farmers stay put.

The reason is through these new Laws favouring the corporates, by handing over entire agrarian sector – sowing of crops, to production to storage, to distribution of food – the government is abdicating its responsibility towards food security of India and throwing the baby away with the bath water. The farmers are demanding that the anti-farmer Farm Laws be repealed because they do not solve India’s huge agrarian crises even before these Laws were bulldozed through the Parliament.

The agrarian issues – basic income guarantee, mono-culture, water table depletion, soil erosion, farmer and labour loans, farmer and labour suicides – are structural issues. The farmers are demanding that once these Laws are repealed, implement the Swaminathan Commission Report as promised in BJP’s 2014 election manifesto. (Do notice, that report too is now over a decade old. The crises has further deepened in the last decade. So, even that Report proposals need to be updated.)

To me the matter is so simple but there remains a gap between India’s understanding and the reality of India’s agrarian sector. Functions like arthiyas, conventions like Minimum Support Price, labels like rich farmers, humanitarian efforts like langars of washing machines, water boilers, foot massagers become flash points while the real issues get side-tracked.

Remember for long the government said: uneducated farmers do not understand the Laws which are in their interest. Yet, the amendments to the Laws the government sent as proposals – rejected by farmers – revealed how the farmers actually understand every detail of the Laws and the government quite obviously admitted it was taking the farmers for a ride. So, why does this happen? Why is the nation fooled?

The reason is stories.

While there is a real world we all live in, this world is conveyed to us through either our own experience or through the input we receive through media and friends, social media or news media. Whoever we are, wherever we are, I believe, we all live in stories. When the stories we tell are well received, we feel located. When our stories are broken or we are unable to articulate them, we feel dislocated.

The cyberspace where we are reading this post or the urban locations we live in, are vastly removed from rural agrarian spaces. In the absence of lived experience, we tend to rely even more on media. Yet, it is the media that betrays us. In part because, of course, it is lapdog but also because for a very long time all ‘powers that be’ have understood the role of propaganda in creating public opinion.

The Hindutva forces in the country have excelled in it for the last decade or so. These forces have managed to side-track every pertinent issue in the country to serve its expansionist purpose.

To what effect?

India’s GDP has tumbled in the last decade from 10% to -10%. The Pandemic – vastly mismanaged in the country – has a role to play but the fact is when Demonetization was on, the media never showed how it devastated the rural economy. When Goods and Service Tax was implemented, until it came crashing a quarter back, and even later, the media never showed us what issues it has created for the trader class across the nation. This year, India is 94/107 on the Food Security Index, 14 per cent of India’s population is undernourished while child wasting has risen to 17.3 per cent.

That is why, if you remember, when the farmers reached Delhi and lapdog media, mostly TV channels, swooped on them – like it does on any state going through elections – the protestors threw them out. The protesters know that not being reported about is better than being misreported. This anger towards lapdog media came not only from these channels in the last decade. It has deeper roots – how Panjab has been mis-reported for decades by Delhi-based media.

That is why now the farmers of Panjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, west UP have started their own bi-lingual (Panjabi and Hindi), bi-weekly newspaper – Trolley Times. They have launched their own social media platform Kisan Ekta Morcha.

In fact, a lot of authentic reporting is taking place on Panjabi and Hindi channels on the Internet, on social media. Most of them are free, sponsored by tiny, often one or two person media houses. It is the same with images, with interviews of leaders and cadre of the Unions, with efforts to sub-title videos into English and Hindi. It is the same with twitter hashtags that trend each day. That is why the Hindutva propaganda machinery has completely failed.

This time, the farmers are determined that they will repel the Hindutva propaganda fact by fact, story by story, image by image, tweet by tweet, and they are succeeding. The songs are a bonus.

Simply because those who feed us, sustain us, also know how to inform us. These are the stories we tell. Let us learn from them, educate ourselves.

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