Home >Opinion >Columns >75 days of farmers’ agitation: lessons learnt and way ahead

As I write these lines on Saturday afternoon, the nationwide ‘Chakka jam’ by the farmers’ organization is over. During this time, dharnas were organized from Kashmir to Karnataka. Chakka jam was successful in some places, and not so successful in others. It is a matter of comfort that no untoward incident happened anywhere. As expected, it had the highest impact in Punjab and Haryana.

Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand were exempted from it. Why? Because farmer leader Rakesh Tikait had announced that it was time for sugarcane cultivation and people have to do their work along with the agitation. But why did Tikait alone make this announcement? Ideally, such a statement should have been part of the press conference of the United Kisan Morcha. Was there any problem among the agitators as before? However, later the spokesperson of the Morcha made it clear that Tikait had done so with everyone’s consent. The spokesperson also clarified that they are doing this because many of their colleagues are missing and the government is not taking any cognizance of this. His statement was perhaps a clarification of the charge that when the agitation is getting so much support from all sides, why did it decide to withdraw Chakka jam in UP and Uttarakhand? If you look carefully at the effect of this call, you will find that it had no effect in many regions. In such a situation, this agitation will bound to be considered as a movement of the farmers of specific geographical area.

On Sunday, the farmers’ agitation around Delhi attained the age of 75 days. During this time both the government and the farmers have made many changes in their stance, as and when the situation warranted. Much has been written about the events of 26 January, but still, some points need to be discussed. What happened in the Red Fort that day was heartbreaking. The farmers’ leaders were also among those who were embarrassed by this. This is the reason Rakesh Tikait wanted to get himself arrested. It seemed that the agitation was moving towards the end.

Everything was settling down peacefully when suddenly an MLA of the ruling party reached the agitation site at Gazipur along with his supporters. His slogan and protest spoiled the atmosphere. Tikait got emotional and announced that he will drink water from his village. This was the moment the withering agitation rejuvenated once again. Even the khap panchayats of influential Jats in Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh woke up from sleep. These days, almost in all the cities and towns of this region mahapanchayats are being held to support the agitation. Due to the equal participation of all religions and castes, the old social equations have started to come back. Will it affect electoral politics? The answer to this question will be found in the upcoming panchayat elections in Uttar Pradesh.

We have already talked about what an MLA did in Ghazipur, but earlier too many people were calling the agitators Khalistanis. Not only this, when the Nishan Sahib was hoisted at the Red Fort, then for some time an attempt was made to spread the rumour that the tricolour was insulted. Why do they do not consider that their propaganda on social media can lead to a violent reaction in the country?

Such things caught the attention of the international community, allowing Rihanna, Greta Thunberg, Mina Harris and many such people to comment on our internal affairs. Whether it is ISI or Khalistani, or anyone plotting against India from a foreign land, these campaigns gave the opportunity to everyone but our ‘doughty warriors’ still did not stop. If we want to deal with our issues ourselves, then we will have to learn the manner to solve it.

During this time, the police took some extreme steps, whereas the need was to do everything carefully. The kind of siege that took place on the Delhi border has disturbed the locals. People are forced to travel miles for work. There has been a decline in the movement of workers and goods to the factories. There is no way for ambulances to reach hospitals. There is scarcity in the market and prices have risen. The internet has been closed for a long time in the surrounding areas. With this restriction, children are unable to study, including those whose examinations are approaching. The agitators are also forced to fight for water and toilets.

Not only this, the arrest of two freelance journalists during reporting also brought a lot of disgrace to police. Had they not been arrested, their social media posts might not have attracted so much attention. In addition, rather than registering a case of treason against five senior editors, it would have been better if they had been rebutted as per rules.

Now let’s come to politics. Farmers’ organizations successfully kept politicians away from their agitation before the events of 26 January, but now they are meeting the bigwigs of the Opposition. Though they are not allowed to deliver a speech from the stage, the entry of political leaders has complicated this issue. Needless to say, many of the politicians who are opposing these farm laws have already supported these in the past. Politicians keep changing masks according to their needs. Farmers have to be careful.

There is no doubt that the agriculture sector needs reforms. If the farmers do not understand this, then the government will have to find some new ways to reassure them. Most of those sitting on the streets today stood with the ruling coalition in the Lok Sabha elections. You have to think about their trust.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal

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