Bhartiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait‘s tears have changed the dynamics of not merely farmers movement but politics particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
Till January 26th, it was clear that the protesting farmers were largely from Punjab and those in power with their daily calculators at hand were visualising for a political profiteering from the prolonged movement. They had decided for police action after the red fort incident of January 26th. Media was attempting to divert the debate from farmers to deshdrohis or anti-nationals and the protesting venue, we were told, was isolated as more and more people started returning to their homes. Most of those who had been sitting felt that police action could happen any time. By the evening reports started coming in with heavy police mobilisation and Uttar Pradesh chief minister ordering strong action to get the place vacated.
It was also reported that police was planning swift action and there was heavy mobilisation of the same at the Ghazipur border. Rakesh Tikait too had visualised it. Till 26th, it was not really a farmers movement but mostly related to Punjab but Rakesh Tikait’s tears shocked the farmers from predominantly Jatland of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Within no time, the farmers started marching towards the Ghazipur border and Uttar Pradesh administration had to assure people that they planned no action against the Dharana and the police returned.
The full-throated entry of the farmers from Western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana has worrying indications for the ruling Bhartiya Janata party.
It is a reality that Jats for the last few elections voted for BJP. Even Tikait was used to weaken the position of Ajeet Singh and RLD. The Muzaffarnagar model of the BJP could not have succeeded without the involvement of the powerful Jats and Gujjars but it is also a fact that it is these two communities which actually lost their political power in the region to Rajputs and Brahmins along with Banias who benefitted from BJP’s rabid nationalism.
Now, the farmers are holding Panchayats and Jats have come along with Muslims.
Tikait has said that voting to BJP was his biggest fault and the farmers have realised that the current farm laws are only meant for crony corporate. The government till date have used their ‘developmental model’ against Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs but for the first time their ‘model’ is being challenged by the ruling castes, a part of their own ‘structure’ and it has jolted them from inside. There are Maha Panchayats being organised in various parts of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana with the massive presence of the people and this is a message for BJP to not be arrogant about its ‘government’. In a democracy, it is people who are sovereign and will decide. These indications from Western Uttar Pradesh are not good for BJP but it is also important for the farmer leaders and others to not allow them to play their favourite Hindu Muslim card. So far things look good but then in India, anyone event changes the track so while people are upset with the government and Jats are hurt and it is the time to build bridges among different communities.
The impact of this is visible everywhere.
I can tell you that even the Savarna castes are upset at the moment but we still find that many of the most marginalised castes are still happy. Actually, it depends on how people were understanding about the issue but it is a fact that resentment among the people is growing. There was a time when on the trains and buses you would not speak anything because of the bhakts but now people are openly questioning.
I was in Varanasi recently for a short trip and an auto driver who took me to the city was speaking about the problem that they are facing. ‘ Sir, it is not the politicians but the administration which is running our city and they damn care. Poor are getting poorer, Petrol-Diesel prices are so high, our land is being snatched. Small shop owners are dying. Who is happy?
And he himself answered that a few friends of PM from Gujarat want to take away everything. People will revolt against it; he says adding that BJP would find it harder to get through this city with ease.
At Assighat, I spoke to boatman, Munnu Nishad who said that thanks to Modi ji, he could survive with his family during the COVID-19 period. ‘ I did not get any money but every day we got food to eat.’ He was happy with the ‘developmental work’ in Varanasi. A cab driver who took me to various places was happy that Yogi Adityanath was taking ‘action’ against the Mafias. ‘ Sir, UP is changed now. Roads are wider and law and order has become better’, he informed me.
But for me the biggest revelation was in the train while returning to Delhi.
A couple, an army person and some youngsters were questioning the government. ‘ They have sold everything that our forefathers had brought for us, said a middle-aged couple. ‘My daughter is MBA and she was getting an offer of Rs 12 lakh per annum but after COVID-19 she is not even getting Rs 2 lakhs. This government is busy with nationalist-anti nationalist, Jai Shri Ram’.
I was unaware of the union budget as I really don’t follow them for the last few years but they were upset the way the government was destroying the public sector. Modi ji wants to give everything to Adani and Ambani, he said. The Fauzi Bhai was upset with the new terms and conditions related to pensions. The budget for the army has been reduced he said.
In Kushinagar, Deoria, I spoke to many of the OBC leaders who were Modi fans last time, were upset with the way government dealing with the farm protests.
A young aspiring politician questioned Modi’s treatment to issues related to Dalit OBCs. I can say firmly that farmers issue has hurt BJP’s core supporter and terming them as anti-national has boomeranged. Party’s middle-class Hindu voters might think it great about calling anyone as anti-national or Pakistani but the communities who send their children to serve our borders hail predominantly from Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan and mostly from farming communities but those raising sloganeering about our nationalism on our TV channels idolise ‘Dalal street’. Terming every one as anti-national will only expose the ruling party and its real intents.
The impact of the government’s policies is now visible. Middle class is getting crushed. Public sector employees, bankers, Insurance companies, all face an uncertain future. Reservation is under the attack and things have crossed its limit. People tolerate things to an extent till it does not affect them but now they are realising that the ‘nationalism’ plank was nothing but to handover India’s resources to crony capitalists in the name of ‘development’ and ‘growth’. Whether it is good or bad but it took so many years and death of innocent people to make us realise the dangers of the capitalism and its lethal mixture with majoritarianism which has ultimately hurt our socio-economic growth resulting in hunger deaths, suicides by farmers and others while making the ‘economy’ and ‘growth’ ‘exclusive’ domain of the powerful cronies.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
February 6th, 2021