BJP regime will get nowhere by cracking down on farmers instead of initiating talks to address their concerns

Hours after Chief Justice of India described sedition law as ‘colonial’, over hundred agitating farmers were booked under it in Haryana for allegedly damaging official vehicle of Deputy Speaker

Representative image
Representative image

Dr Gyan Pathak

The farmers’ agitation against the three controversial farm laws is being crushed by the government in numerous ways including slapping of sedition charges on some of them. If things continue to go in this direction, the situation may well turn ugly. Since it is a politico-legal issue, it cannot be settled by the judiciary alone. A time has come when an all-party meet may be explored as an option to prevent a flashpoint.

The gravity of the situation is obvious from recent developments.

This week, over hundred agitating farmers were booked under sedition by Haryana Police for allegedly attacking and damaging the official vehicle of Deputy Speaker Ranbir Singh Gangwa during a protest against the state’s ruling BJP-JJP alliance and the controversial farm laws.

The incident took place in Sirsa district on July 11, and the FIR was filed on the same day. Had the police booked them only for the offence allegedly committed, there would not have been any question mark on their impartiality and conduct. But slapping the sedition charge shows the intent of the government to crush the agitation by hook or by crook. A statement issued by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) has slammed the police action, calling the charges “false, frivolous, and cooked up” and vowing to contest them in court.

What is remarkable is that the FIR under the sedition law was lodged just hours after the Chief Justice of India had described the law as “colonial” and flagged its misuse in the country while hearing a petition challenging its constitutional validity.

The BJP may not like the farmers’ agitation, but that doesn’t mean that the Centre or BJP-ruled states can justify unleashing the legal machinery against them to prosecute them.

There is no denying the fact that farmers have been at the receiving end during their agitation since it was launched on November 26 last year. They were even equated with terrorists or as beneficiaries of funds sent by anti-national elements. This was unfortunate since the allegations were clearly false and the government is yet to come up with any evidence to substantiate the same.

After the failure of 11th round of talks on the eve of Republic Day 2021 celebration, the Union government has been not showing any genuine willingness for talks with farmers and seems to be following the strategy of testing the farmers’ patience.

The Union government is clearly bent upon implementing the three controversial farm laws, though at one point of time it had offered to defer their implementation for 18 months. Had their intention been genuine, they could have deferred it unilaterally for the offered months, and the stalemate could have been averted for that much period of time.

In another development, the AAP-led Delhi government has rejected the Delhi Police’s proposal to set up a panel of lawyers for fighting the cases related to the farmers’ protests. On the other hand, the Delhi Lieutenant Governor has rejected the panel of lawyers of the Delhi government.

Delhi’s elected government has also accused the BJP-ruled Centre of putting pressure on it to replace prosecutors appearing in the cases related to anti-farm law stir. All these indicate a possibility of further crushing the agitating farmers against whom about 40 cases were registered with regard to the Republic Day violence. There are also many other cases.

One of the options for the Union government may be to propose withdrawal of all sedition cases against agitating farmers as a goodwill gesture to renew talks with them.

The farmers are also not relenting. They are insisting upon repeal of the three controversial farm laws. They have been protesting not only with sit-in protests in Delhi, but also protest demonstrations in states, district headquarters, and in front of the state Governors.

During the assembly elections held recently, they asked the farmers not to vote for BJP. They even made alliance with central trade unions and other employees unions for countrywide agitations, such as Bharat Band.

Now they have decided to take their protest to the Parliament. They have also planned to take their protest in poll bound states such as Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh which are presently ruled by the BJP.

After the arrest of five farmers booked under sedition charges, the farmers’ unions have been organizing panchayats and mahapanchats in Haryana and have demanded immediate withdrawal of the charges. To express resentment against the FIR, the farmers came out on the streets and burnt effigies of BJP-JJP leaders in not only the urban areas of Haryana, but also in villages.

The agitation shows signs of escalating, not only in Haryana, but also in states like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi.

In Delhi, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BHU) leader Rakesh Tikait has announced that they are taking their protest to the Parliament once the monsoon session starts on July 19. Farmers will go by bus, after paying the fare, he said, and sit outside the Parliament while proceedings are underway there.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), the umbrella body of farmers’ unions, has said that farmers and leaders from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, and Karnataka, who have been protesting at Delhi’s borders, will be taking part in “methodical and peaceful protest” outside the Parliament.

Tikait has assured that the protest will be peaceful, but who knows what will actually happen on that day. There might be some players who may play spoilsport.

Farmers have also issued ‘Voters’ Whip’ to opposition MPs, and asked them to be present in the House and raise their issues inside.

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh has urged the PM to resume talks with farmers citing cross boarder threats in view of the polls due next year. He has proposed leading an all-party delegation from Punjab to meet the PM for discussions to find a durable and amicable solution.

In Uttar Pradesh, farmers will launch the “Modi Gaddi Chhodo” agitation on August 9, to commemorate the Quit India Day observed during British Raj in 1942. It has support of 30 farmers’ organizations and 10 others.

Hardening of the stance on both sides – the Union government and agitating farmers is ominous. The nation cannot afford it.

(IPA Service)

Views are personal

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