Farmers paid a very heavy price to get the farm laws repealed; hundreds perished, many died by suicide

Hundreds of them died, thousands left their homes to live under the open sky and lakhs of them travelled on their own expense to reach Delhi from all corners of the country to support the agitation

Representative Photo
Representative Photo

NH Political Bureau

As it was widely expected – though no one had any clue about its actual timing – the Modi govt has announced its intention to repeal the three contentious farm laws against which farmers have been protesting for the last one year, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself appearing on television on Friday morning to declare the same.

Braving hot summers and bone-chilling cold, rain, death and defamation, besides intimidation, lakhs of farmers stayed put at three protest sites at Delhi’s borders since last November.

Hundreds of them died, thousands left their homes to live under the open sky and lakhs of them travelled on their own expense to reach Delhi from all corners of the country to support the agitation.

However, the Modi government did not relent. It bent down only when they smelt imminent defeat in the upcoming assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh and other crucial states.

Modi knows very well that losing UP may well spoil his chances of retaining power in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. That is why he chose to withdraw the farm laws in a tactical move, believe analysts.

The journey from November 26, 2020, when farmers reached the Delhi border to November 19, 2021, when the Modi govt announced its intention to repeal the farm laws is full of tears and tragedies. Farmers had to pay a very heavy price to get these laws repealed.

1. Four farmers mowed down: Drunk with power and with an aim to teach farmers a ‘lesson’, on October 3 during a farmers’ protest, son of Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni, Ashish Mishra allegedly mowed down four farmers and a local journalist in Lakhimpur Kheri.

After missing summons, Ashish had to surrender to the police under pressure. He was later arrested along with two others. Farmers’ leader Tejindra Virk who was injured during the incident, is still recuperating.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi was not allowed to meet the farmers initially. After being kept in custody, she was allowed to do so only after the Yogi government realized that this may further hurt its poll prospects.

2. Over 600 farmers died: As per the SKM – an umbrella body of over 40 farmers’ organizations – 670 farmers have laid down their lives over the last one year while demanding the repeal of the farm laws.

3. 33 farmers committed suicide: Frustrated over the apathy of the Modi government, 33 farmers ended their lives over the last one year as per an SKM activist.

4. Defamed as ‘Khalistanis’: BJP leaders and its supporters left no stone unturned to brand the protesting farmers as ‘Khalistani terrorists’. One cannot forget how BJP’s Dausa MP Jaskaur Meena called the farmers as ‘Khalistanis’, while the head of the BJP IT Cell Amit Malviya linked farmers’ protest with Maoists.

Known for his controversial remarks, Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar said ‘Khalistani elements’ have captured the movement.

Protesting farmers were villainized and vilified all through the year by the BJP activists/supporters.

5. Blamed for ‘attacking’ Red Fort: On January 26 this year, when farmers took out a tractor rally till Red Fort, some “antisocial” elements and a small-time celebrity Deep Sidhu unfurled a Nishan sahib flag on Red Fort. It had nothing to do with the SKM or any farmers' body but the BJP government, media, and their supporters took no time to link the stray incident with the farmers’ protests.

6. 2000 cases registered against farmers: As per an SKM activist, while 149 farmers were arrested from Punjab alone in the Red Fort case, more than a dozen of them were arrested from Haryana. In total, about 2000 cases were registered in Haryana and Punjab.

7. Attack on democratic rights: Not only the farmers but common people too had to suffer due to the arrogance of the Modi government vis-a-vis a demand for the repeal of the laws.

Internet services were suspended several times and civil liberties were curtailed during the last year. Several international celebrities like Rihanaa had tweeted about the internet clampdown.