It seems that the ongoing Indian farmers agitation has reached a stalemate.
The talks between the two sides have broken down, and the Indian Government has refused to concede to the farmers demands of a statutory Minimum Support Price for farm products and repeal of the 3 farm laws to which the farmers are objecting. It apparently thinks that sooner or later the agitating farmers will get exhausted and the agitation will die down, with the farmers going home instead of sitting,on the Delhi border forever. So it seems to have decided on a ‘sitzkrieg’ or policy of ‘masterly inactivity’, i.e. doing nothing, except maintain a strong vigil by the security forces at the Delhi borders to prevent the agitating farmers from entering Delhi.
The farmers agitation has these achievements :
1. It has united a section of Indian society, particularly in Punjab, Haryana, and western UP, which were hitherto divided on caste and religious basis.
2. It has brought on focus the plight of farmers who are 60-65% of India’s population of 1.35 billion, and were not getting remunerative prices for their produce, on a national ( and even international ) level.
3. It has aroused a section of the Indian womenfolk, who were otherwise confined to their homes
4. It has seen through the invidious objective of the Indian Government of handing over the Indian agricultural sector to the big national and international corporates.
But what now ?
The leaders of the agitating farmers do not seem to have any clear cut roadmap for the future of the agitation, and they appear to have run out of ideas. So some of them are resorting to fantasies. For instance, one of them, Rakesh Tikait, announced ( in a video interview to a journalist ) that the farmers will set up a mandi ( marketplace ) next to the Indian Parliament. This is a bizarre and weird idea. How can the farmers even reach Parliament when they are not even allowed to cross the Delhi borders by the security forces ?
Some others declared that unless the Government concedes to the farmers demands the farmers will call upon people to oppose the BJP in elections, and for this even go to states like West Bengal where elections are scheduled for April. But what will this achieve ? It can only result in replacing one set of power and pelf seekers by another, without any basic change in the system.
I submit that the farmers agitation will henceforth proceed nowhere unless it is realised that only a total transformation of the present political and social system in India and replacing it by an alternative system under which India rapidly develops, is the only means of relieving the Indian farmers, as well as the rest of the Indian masses, from their distress. Unless such a radical historical transformation takes place there will be no solution to the basic problems of the farmers and other sections of Indian society.
But how is such a historical transformation to take place ? In my opinion this requires creativity by leaders with scientific thinking, and this is precisely what the present leaders of the farmers agitation seem to be lacking. They no doubt deserve credit for building up the agitation from scratch to the present level, but their mindsets are unscientific, and hence they can no longer give the correct lead.
In some earlier articles published in indicanews.com I had called the Indian farmers agitation as historical, and I maintain my view.
But this agitation is only the beginning of a long process, a mighty historical people’s struggle for setting up an alternative political system for India’s transformation from an underdeveloped country to a highly developed one, which struggle may take 10-15 years or more, and will be arduous, witness many twists and turns, and require tremendous sacrifices.
For this historical people’s struggle to succeed new leaders with scientific ideas and modern mindsets are required. The present farmers leaders are clearly unequal to the task.
(Justice Markandey Katju is former Chairman, Press Council of India and former Judge, Supreme Court of India.)