Strong case for a more democratic Republic Day; no valid reason to block Kisan parade

It is difficult to understand why government wants to prevent farmers from taking out their parade. In fact, it would be a better idea to append the farmers rally to the official Republic Day parade

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: PTI)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: PTI)
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K Raveendran

Every citizen has the right to celebrate or observe the Republic Day, depending on one’s frame of mind and mood. There is no prescribed manner in which to this, although flag hoisting is a common event. As such, the protesting farmers have a right to observe the day in a manner that fits best with their situation and they have announced a tractor rally in Delhi and protests across the country to press for their demand for the repeal of the three controversial farm laws the Modi government has passed in a jiffy.

The leaders of the agitating farmers have announced a ‘Kisan Parade’ in which thousands of tractors and trolleys carrying the tricolour will ride the Delhi roads after the conclusion of the official Republic Day parade. They say they chose the Republic Day as it represents the supremacy of the people.

The government has moved the Supreme Court against the Kisan Parade saying it will be a ‘huge embarrassment for nation’. But it has not explained to the satisfaction of non-partisan elements how it would be such an embarrassment. Just as the government has its own celebration of the Republic Day, farmers also have their right to observe the day as long as such conduct does not violate public order or create violence, a commitment which the farmers’ leaders have reiterated.

It is rather perplexing that the government has sought a blanket ban on staging protests on the Republic Day. It has asked the court to ‘restrain anyone from conducting any protest march either in the form of tractor march, trolley march, vehicle march or any other mode by entering into the National Capital Region Territory of Delhi on January 26’. It said that right to protest is always subject to the ‘countervailing public order and the public interest’ and the right to protest can never include ‘maligning the nation globally’.

It is difficult to understand why the government wants to prevent the farmers from taking out their parade. In fact, it would be a better idea to append the farmers rally to the official Republic Day parade and the thousands of tractors with real farmers riding them would lend much authenticity to the show, especially when tractor-riding farmers are a regular feature of the R-Day tableaux. But these are often folk artistes dressed as farmers with a made-up expression of contentment on their face, as a picture of rural prosperity that exists only on government records rather than on the ground. Does the government want the world to believe that nobody is unhappy in India?

There are people who believe that the Republic Day parade itself is a colossal waste, causing inconvenience to lakhs and lakhs of people. It is rather naïve to believe that the show of military might is meant to scare the nation’s enemies, especially the northern neighbour. And in the wake of the Covid pandemic, this year’s Republic Day parade should have been abandoned.

The government has, in an application to the Supreme Court, filed through the Delhi Police, cited the historical and constitutional significance of Republic Day, and said the farmers’ march was aimed to ‘disturb and disrupt’ the celebrations. This, the government claims, is bound to create a ‘massive law and order’ situation. But it is not clear how there will be public disorder if the government makes no attempt to stop it. Let the farmers take out their parade and give vent to their feelings about what they consider as black farm laws, meant to benefit the corporates rather than help themselves.

It remains a riddle as to why the government wants to push ahead with the new laws which the farmers don’t want. If the farmers don’t want the benefit that the government promises, so be it. It is this persistence of the government that makes its move suspicious. But the more important factor is that the government is getting into a point with no exit routes as the agitating farmers have shown no inclination whatsoever to go back on their resolve to carry on with their agitation until they achieve the goal of getting the new farm laws repealed.

(IPA Service)

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