Farmers more determined than ever to have their demands met even as govt creates hardships at protest sites

The determination of farmers got clearly manifest in BKU leader Rakesh Tikait’s remark at a rally: “We have so far talked about ‘bill wapsi’. What will you do if the youth call for ‘gaddi wapsi’?”

Farmers more determined than ever to have their demands met even as govt creates hardships at protest sites

Arun Srivastava

After infusing a new life into the farmers’ protest which after the January 26 unfortunate development was gasping for survival, Rakesh Tikait, the leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, on Wednesday sought to know from the Prime Minister Narendra Modi “what will you do if youth removes you from power.”

Denying basic amenities as water, electricity and washrooms and trying to prevent the farmers from descending to the agitation site has angered Tikait to such an extent that he did not deter from issuing a threat that the farmers and youth would not hesitate in launching the movement for ‘gaddi wapasi’. Tikait asked the PM to refrain from pursuing the path of repression and torture, else the people will retaliate.

Addressing a “maha panchayat”, attended by over 30 ‘khap panchayats’ of Haryana, in Jind, Rakesh Tikait claimed: “In Jind, the crowd broke all records, just like the stage. 2021 is the year of youth revolution”.

The determination of the farmers to continue with the protests got clearly manifest in his observation: “We have so far talked about "bill wapsi" [repealing the farm laws]. The government should listen carefully. What will you do if the youth call for “gaddi wapsi” [removal from power]?” He pledged: “We will maintain the prestige of the farmer’s turban”.

Tikait has been the key figure to help the BJP to win the elections in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in 2014 and again in 2019. But now in the wake of the farmers’ agitation he has emerged as the symbol of ideological and democratic struggle against Modi and BJP. With Tikait occupying the centre stage of the agitation, the character of the movement has transformed and it is now no more viewed as a movement being led by Sikh farmers.

Instead it has acquired the image of a Jat-led rebellion. Undeniably this change of image has put the BJP governments in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh on defensive mode.

One development which ought to be taken notice of is that Narendra Modi and Amit Shah adopted an aggressive posture and decided to fortify the areas surrounding the places of protest, Tikri, Singhu and Ghazipur only after Tikait emerged as the face of the protest. Till the Sikh farmers led the movement, the saffron brigade tried to denigrate it as a movement enjoying the support of ‘Khalistanis’.

It is also a fact that with this change, the protest has intensified and diversified. Farmers from western UP have begun to throng to Delhi to join the farmers’ struggle.

Turning Delhi into a fortress also underlines the fact that the Modi government has no respect for democracy and democratic ethics. Else how could a government behave like such with its own people? The people are denied the basic needs. The people who till a couple of days were clamouring for removing the blockade and clear the passage are not to be seen. They have vanished from the scene. This gives the feel of a war zone, where enemy countries resort to all these machinations to starve the people and force the enemy to surrender. Similar tactics are being resorted to at Ghazipur.

After the mayhem witnessed on Republic Day, Delhi police barricaded these protest sites with cement barriers and spikes on the roads leading to them. Severely criticising the restrictions, Tikait said, “When the king is scared, he secures the fortress.” He suggested that he would lay down on the nails embedded on the roads there so that others can cross them by stepping on him.

Jind is considered part of Haryana's political heartland. The 'maha panchayat' was meant to muster support for the agitation. It was organised by Sarva Jatiya Kandela Khap headed by Tekram Kandela. The enormity of the spontaneous public response and support makes it amply clear that in coming days, the Modi government will become more unpopular and become the symbol of perpetrator of tyrannies.

During the ‘maha panchayat’, the leaders passed five resolutions. Besides the earlier demands to repeal the contentious farm laws, legal guarantee of the minimum support price for crops, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission report, two new demands were added to the list, which are farm loan waiver and the release of farmers arrested after the Republic Day violence.

The ‘maha panchayat’ also for first time demanded that Narendra Modi and Amit Shah should directly hold a meeting with agitating farmers. Tikait reiterated his earlier warning that the government could find it difficult to stay on in power if the new agri-marketing laws are not repealed.

What has encouraged Tikait is the massive increase in the support to the agitation. More and more ‘khap panchayats’ are joining the struggle. The social base of the protest has considerably widened. So far the youths were keeping aloof of the movement, but the January 26 incident has made them to come out in thousands. That farmers’ tractor trolleys have become the symbol of the protest is clearly manifest in Tikait announcing taking out a rally of 40 lakh tractors in the near future.

It is over zealousness and insinuation campaign against the agitation by the BJP leaders and bureaucrats subservient to the rulers that has helped the movement spread fast in the rural areas of India and gain new momentum. A vindictive role played by the media provided it a new lease of life.

The reluctance of PM Modi to concede to the farmers’ demand has one interesting aspect. According to some senior BJP leaders, it is feared that the farmers' protest against the new farm laws is an "experiment" which could be replicated to push against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and other measures of the Centre. To avoid any such situation the BJP government has hardened its posture.

Even Narottam Mishra, the Home Minister of MP confessed: "If the farm laws are withdrawn, then these people will start protests against CAA, (the abrogation of) Article 370 and the Ram temple".

At the Ghazipur border, BKU leader Rakesh Tikait said the police barricading could not stop the farmers and they were ready to continue their protests till October-November.

In a statement, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha said, “Increased barricading including trench-digging, fixing nails on the roads, barbed wire fencing, closing off of even internal roads, stopping internet services, orchestrating protests and facilitating the same through BJP-RSS workers, diversion of trains and stopping them before destination stations are all part of multiple attacks being organised by the government, its police and administration against the protesting farmers.”

(IPA Service)

(Views expressed are personal)

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