Farmers have the right to peaceful protest to get their grievances heard

Farmers Protest
Photo with courtesy Twitter

The police brutality on the farmers protesting against the farm bill passed by the Parliament need to be unconditionally condemned.

The farmers are agitating against these bills since they were passed without proper discussion in Parliament. The fear is that the bills will pave the way for the corporatisation of agriculture and will leave the farmers at the mercy of corporate houses unless the government ensure that there is a Minimum Support Price. While the issues related to farm bills and the concern of the farmers were not discussed, the protest against the same was growing in various parts of the country particularly Punjab and Haryana. The farmers protest from Punjab was stopped brutally at Haryana border and then at the Delhi border.

There are few questions related to the way the government of India as well as state governments particularly those of BJP are handling this.

If the farmers have grievances then it needs to be formally discussed in all seriousness and efforts should not be made to use them as a publicity tool to divide the farmer organisations. It is a well-known fact that farmers organisations too are well politicised and every party has its own farmers wing but the fact is there is great unrest and anxiety among the farmers against the government’s apathy.

It is Constitution day today. The government has been promoting ideas of constitutionalism while people read preamble but the issue is what was wrong if the farmers want peaceful democratic protest.

Why does the government panic when the farmers want to come to Delhi and protest at the Jantar Mantar? Is it bad press for the government or anything else? As far as bad press is concerned, the way the entire protest was mishandled will not give the government good media coverage as police brutality on farmers will become news even when the propaganda media will bring new conspiracy theories and discuss issues which are not of relevance for the people. Many of the bhaktas are still feeling that the media should still focus on Sushant Singh Rajput.

In Democracy political protests are part and parcel of it. When the government criminalises these protests then they become out of control. Where should people go to lodge their complaints and protests if all avenues are closed? They know well that the power to change or return the act is only with the central government but then the government seems not interested in speaking to them.

The power people must understand that the corporatisation of farming is not an alternative to resolve India’s food crisis and poverty alleviation programme.

Corporatisation will bring disaster to communities and will not make our food sufficient. Important is that the government democratise our agricultural sector and take initiative to distribute land to landless people and encourage family farming. Family farming will be the backbone to not only an anti-poverty programme but also strengthen India’s resolve to democratise the highly iniquitous social order and make our food sufficient. Unfortunately, farmers issues in India remained related to Minimum support Price and nothing beyond.  Farmers union to are not bothered too much about agricultural workers and marginalised farmers. Powerful farmers are united on the issue but during the election, times become prisoners of their caste politics and do not entertain the issues of landless Dalits and other marginalised communities. The result is that most of these protests are confined to powerful farming communities where the Sangh Parivar has made their inroads much stronger.

Police use tear gas and water cannons as farmers protest against agricultural reforms near Delhi-Haryana border

We condemn the police brutalities against the peaceful protest and ask the government to negotiate with farmers and do not look at corporatisation as a panacea to all the ills of our agricultural sector. Protests and negotiations are part of democracy and must be encouraged. We will ask farming organisations to look into the issues of the agricultural workers too and all the government must promote family farming which is only possible through land redistribution initiatives which will also democratise our rural society. Land reforms can bring social equity and strengthen social democracy which is important and essential for our political democracy to succeed as Baba Saheb Ambedkar had said while presenting the Constitution to the Constitution Assembly on November 26th, 1949.  Let us rededicate ourselves to democratise our social system and the key to that is land reform and that alone will be the most befitting tribute to Baba Saheb Ambedkar. The question is whether the government has the will to do so?

Vidya Bhushan Rawat

November 26th, 2020

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