Four factors that make farmers’ agitation different from any other

Mohali: The government and protesting farmers’ unions reached a consensus on two of the four demands on December 30 – almost a month after farmers blocked the Delhi border.

The unions have welcomed the rise by the government, but the most controversial demand – the repeal of the three agricultural laws – is scheduled to be discussed again on January 4. With this, the lakes of farmers, agricultural workers and their allies have prepared to enter the new year from the streets in the middle of a cold wave in northern India.

The painful winter of dissent was reminiscent of many of Shaheen Bagh’s protests in New Delhi a year ago against another controversial law that had been bulldozed by parliament. The permanent sit-in, songs and dances and community kitchens of farmers’ morcha are deeply reminiscent of last year’s anti-citizenship bill protests.

For many Punjabi, the protests resonate in the brutal December of Sikh history, when the four Sahibzaadas (sons) of the Tenth Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh were killed in the battle of Chamkaur. In the Punjab, their martyrdom is commemorated every year. The last week of December is observed as “Shahidi parv‘or the week of martyrdom.

To mark the week of martyrdom this year, Protestant farmers in Punjab have put up posters of the 22 farmers who lost their lives protesting against the government’s new laws and also declared them martyrs.

The story Sahibzaadas – two older men who were mutilated and the youngest, bricks alive, along with Mata Gujri Kaur, Gobind Singh’s mother, who was imprisoned at “Thanda Burj” or the cold tower, and Bibi Sharan Kaur, a Young Man 16 years old, from a town near Chamkaur, who secretly tried to give a proper burial to the older princes, but was caught and thrown alive in the pyre – is a story that is told to young people in every Sikh household. Such stories help many stay warm on the borders of New Delhi.

The agitating farmers are not only facing the bitter cold, but also aggressive state surveillance and arrests in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. This, in addition to the water cannons and tear gas, which they endured a month ago, along with the slander thrown at them by social media spin artists.

As they dared, farmers also offered a reality check on four things.

1. Federalism comes first

When the unrest first began in Punjab, it began with a strong call from farmers’ unions that the Center had no business to interfere with a state issue. The constitutional validity of the approach continues to be a matter of debate among legal experts. On September 27 this year, when the farmers’ unions of 30 staged a strike across Punjab, the seeds of this movement were sown. At the time, said Darshan Pal, who is now leading negotiations with the Center thread that the BJP’s disregard for the federal structure was revealed. He believed that not only an average punjabi, but every citizen of the country would soon oppose the BJP’s overcoming of Indian federalization and democracy. Even during talks with the government, one of the main disputes of the farmers’ unions was this attack on federalism.

Farmers take part in a protest against recently adopted agricultural laws on the outskirts of Delhi, India, December 17, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Anushree Fadnavis

2. A political movement without politicians

Farmers’ unions have successfully kept their distance from important political parties. For the Bhartiya Kisan Union, this is not new. Historically, the BKU has always acted as a pressure group against any government of the day. Professor Kesar Singh Bhangoo, a professor of economics at Punjabi University, recently met this correspondent at Patiala. He said that farmers’ groups have realized that great politicians in the region, such as Prakash Singh Badal, who come from agricultural backgrounds, have shifted their interests from it, and their support is just a lipless service – for the sake of their policy.

Many elderly journalists in Punjab are also of the opinion that with the disappearance of the law, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) could join the NDA, which they gave up under pressure from farmers. Bhangoo believes that shortly after the source of power and politicians’ incomes withdrew from agriculture, their interest also receded. At the moment, political parties are trying hard to get some pictures, but they are failing. However, political parties support the movement on the sidelines. It helps unions more than it helps political parties.

3. Dissemination of information is power

The so-called ordinary media, together with the IT cell of the BJP, received the greatest verification of reality. The farmers’ movement highlighted their irreverence and irrelevance. It started with the boycott “godi media (media lapdog) ‘. Posters in Gurmukhi, Hindi and English, pasted on tractors and carts, with “godi media go back” written on them, were one of the biggest dining items for anyone visiting the protest site.

Zee News claims that the protesters were separatists from Khalistan did not have water, ultimately because the Center itself continued to hold talks with agitated farmers. Moreover, anyone who visited the protest site would know that the farmers present were not only from Punjab, but also from several Indian states, some as far as Kerala. Those who made the incendiary remark, in the five-second video on Zee News, were not seen afterwards.

Twitter soon labeled IT chief Amit Malviya’s attempts to “mislead” the nation as “manipulated media.” This was the first time such an action was taken by Twitter in India. The fact that the first action on Twitter was against the ruling party’s IT cell says a lot about the credibility of the media and BJP information.

Viral image of a police officer tying a cane to a farmer during farmers’ protests. Photo: Instagram / Choudharyravi

All of the above scenarios led to the creation of a parallel way of disseminating information, led by farmers on the ground. On Twitter, Tractor2Twitter acted as a counter to the hashtags of the government-run IT cell. The mixed front of farmers, who are negotiating with the government, has also started official social media channels to broadcast daily press sessions, as other media channels were not. In parallel, a group of people with the same idea launched a physical newspaper, printed – Trolley Times. The people behind all three initiatives said the same thing: “the media does not show the truth.” Therefore, it was necessary for farmers to have the means of production for information.

4. A food security issue

Certain sections of the middle class, at least in Punjab, believe that food costs will increase if large-scale agriculture and storage of food grains by agribusinesses is allowed. I am with the farmers in this agitation, but the government has not said anything so far about this concern. The middle class in Chandigarh gathered in the elegant 17th sector earlier this month. They said they join the movement because they believe the new laws will lead to food price inflation.

In addition, one of the arguments of agricultural workers is that the public distribution system, a direct result of public procurement from mandi, will be affected if the mandi system eventually collapses. This will be a great loss to the livelihoods of many. Several economists and agricultural experts predict that the government may even amend the 2013 National Food Security Act, as it ceases to procure mandis.

Even after a month, with no probable resolution in sight, the movement is gaining momentum every day, as five borders of New Delhi remain completely sealed by agitators indefinitely.