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Govt has used all its tricks on the farmers

December 11, 2020 14:54 IST
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Their demands will be met of course, and this government will move on to the next great idea, without an apology or an explanation, predicts Aakar Patel.

IMAGE: A child of a farmer shouts during the farmers protest in New Delhi against the new farm laws. Photograph: Arun Sharma/PTI Photo

Once again, this government has shown that it will ignore the concerns of large numbers of Indians till it becomes a national crisis.

Exactly a year ago, after a series of threats from the home minister to India's minorities, India passed legislation that Amit Shah said would be the first step of his chronology on citizenship.

We know what happened after that: protests by those the laws were victimising, no support for them from India's internal democratic structure, international condemnation of India's actions, and then violence instigated and encouraged by the ruling party.

Earlier this year, the government passed, by ordinance during a pandemic, a set of laws that would change the way that agriculture would be done especially in the north west.

Nobody had asked for these laws, no farmers groups had been consulted and there was no explanation for why these had been passed through ordinance.

Of course this government follows the adage of 'never apologise, never explain'.

It has never apologised and it has never explained.

For the media, which is urban and middle class, the farmers bills made no sense.

Google will throw up dozens of reports, often from the same publication, the headline 'farmers bills explained'.

Few of us have seen a mandi, know what APMC stands for or does and what the issue of MSP means to the average Punjabi.

For this reason, the issue was off the headlines soon.

Predictably, the farmers began a protest that was a mass movement, but appeared small because it was ignored by the national media and localised in a couple of states.

The government in Delhi also ignored it and in fact escalated its confrontation by disallowing railways from operating trains to Punjab even after the protestors said they would not disrupt traffic.

No railway property was damaged in the peaceful protest, but for two months no train went through even after the protestors left the railway tracks.

It was clear that the government was not going to back off its legislation unless it was forced to.

At this point, the farmers began their march to besiege the capital.

The BJP made a few attempts to hold them back in Haryana, a state it controls, but was unable to because of the resolve of the farmers.

We are now seeing the consequences of arrogance and hardheadedness.

The government has no option but to negotiate with the farmers.

It is about to rewrite the laws that it should have written up after consulting them in the first place.

The prime minister will say that he means well and wants to double farmers' incomes, but will not concede that he needs to consult them before coming up with his genius idea that will help them do this.

Notice the similarities between the farmers' movement and the protest against the citizenship amendment laws.

First, that the laws were passed without anyone having asked for them.

Second, that the minorities they affected went on protest immediately because they sensed the danger to them that the rest of the population did not and went on protest, third that the rest of us did not care about the laws and had little or no empathy for those affected.

It was the Muslims in the lead in the protest against being sent to concentration camps, and it was Sikhs in the lead on the issue of the farm bills.

Fourth, that the government recklessly and deliberately demonised the protestors, calling them terrorists and separatists and Khalistanis.

Fifth, that the rest of the world was alarmed by what the government was doing and intervened.

India does not like to be lectured by other nations, but if you do something dumb then you have to face the consequences.

The European Union's members of parliament wrote up a very strong motion against India's citizenship laws, and India was able to only delay the tabling of the motion with difficulty.

Canada, which has a large and influential Sikh population, told India that it was concerned.

India objected to this interference but could do little because we have no leverage.

If thousands of Canadians were migrating to India monthly instead of the other way around we might have had some say.

The sixth thing that will likely be common to both these issues is that they will end in the same way.

Modi made Amit Shah eat his brave words on his chronology and said that the issue of NRC had not been discussed.

That lay the matter to rest.

On the issue of the farm bills, something similar will come.

The government has used all the tricks it has on the farmers.

But they are still standing there blockading Delhi, prepared to be there for months.

Their demands will be met of course, and this government will move on to the next great idea, without an apology or an explanation.

Aakar Patel is a columnist and writer.
You can read Aakar's columns here.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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