– Jagtar Singh
(The writer is a senior Journalist)
CHANDIGARH: The farmers’ struggle that initially was sparked in Punjab against the three agri marketing laws has started hitting at the very support base of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party nurtured diligently in the Hindi heartland. This was perhaps never visualized by the party in power while making moves to sabotage from within this unprecedented peaceful massive struggle that started in Punjab driven by the Sikh psyche. In the process, the leadership role is witnessing a shift.
The arrest of actor-turned activist Deep Sidhu on Tuesday morning in the case relating to hoisting of Nishan Sahib on January 26 is part of the narrative that has set in motion this tectonic activity that can impact the 2022 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. The announcement of Bhartiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait that the ongoing struggle can continue till October 2 next is significant in this context. Punjab is of little importance in the electoral design of the BJP.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday gave little indication of his government being prepared to junk these contentious laws as demanded by the farmers. The government has earlier offered to amend these laws or keep the same in abeyance for eighteen months for reconsideration by a committee including farmers leaders. As per the information doing rounds in the corridors of power, this period can be extended to even two years.
However, the farmers’ leaders too have been consistent in sticking to the demand for repeal.
The January 26 incidents and the developments since then have further resulted in the continuation of the status quo. There is one change, of course. Going by the international reaction to this unique struggle, it is Modi who is on the downward slide.
Modi is perceived to be a strongman but his government got shaken by just two tweets- from artist Rihana and young environmentalist Greta Thunberg. The Modi government brought in Bollywood and sports persons to counter global celebrities. The damage could not be undone.
It is the Modi government itself whose actions has invited world criticism. Even the colonial government did not act the way the Modi government has done to crush this most peaceful mass struggle. The sites of sit-in by the farmers at the doorsteps of Delhi at three places have been barricaded not only by concrete structures and concertina wires but long nails have also been embedded on the roads.
India’s democracy that is colonial has now also been nailed.
What happened on January 26 is only an aberration in this long peaceful struggle that the government earlier tried to malign by dubbing it as being controlled by the Naxals and the Khalistanis. The unfurling of Nishan Sahib by comparatively a small section of the protesters at Red Fort hit the struggle hard but it started recovering within 48 hours. In the process, the centre of struggle has shifted from Singhu to Ghazipur.
The emotional outburst of Ramesh Tikait as the UP police tried to evict the farmers from Ghazipur taking advantage of the Red Fort incident in which case Deep Sidhu has been arrested turned the tide and mobilized the Jat belt in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. These are the people who had voted for the BJP earlier.
The divisive superstructure of the Sangh Parivar has been constructed on the pillars of UP. With this construct getting hit by the tsunami of pro-people narrative initiated by the farmers’ struggle, the BJP could be on the loosing ground in the 2022 Assembly elections. The BJP just cannot afford this situation as it might lead to the total collapse of this divisive construct.
With this struggle under global attention, it is unlikely that the Modi government would take more coercive measures to counter it.
The farmers have the capacity to carry on the struggle. One has to go to the history of Punjab to understand the driving force.
Options for the Modi government are closing and the design to sabotage it from within now stands exposed. The issue for the farmers is their very existence and they are prepared to go to any extent.