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Time for Centre-Farmers to reconcile

October 12, 2021 07:18 IST

Given the worsening security scenario in Kashmir, we cannot afford to have a restive Punjab with its peasantry up in arms against the central government, argues Virendra Kapoor.

IMAGE: Farmers with the mortal remains of those killed in violence in Lakhimpur Kheri on October 3, 2021. Photograph: PTI Photo=

As ten year olds some half a century ago, when most festivals were still celebrated with great gusto and fervor, we would perch ourselves along the busy GT Road on Holi morning, throwing water-filled balloons and spraying colour on ongoing vehicles from water guns.

Every once in a while, an approaching vehicle would drive menacingly towards us, forcing us kids to pull back in panic lest the driver run over us.

The fear of being crushed under an oncoming vehicle is universal.

It instinctively scatters a flock of birds as it does a group of humans.

Life is precious to all.

Indeed, the occupants in the SUV which allegedly drove over farmers walking on the road, and thus blocking passage, in Lakhimpur Kheri too was acting out of panic.

Only the purblind unable to see straight when it comes to the present ruling party will impute any other motive other than self-survival.

For, finding the group of sturdy farmers in his way, he found himself trapped.

Turning back was to risk being waylaid by those committed to prevent anyone wanting to attend the rally scheduled to be addressed by the UP deputy chief minister.

Being the local MP, and a minister in the central government to boot, Ajay Mishra felt it was his responsibility to ensure the success of Keshav Prasad Maurya's visit to his constituency.

His son Ashish Mishra undertook to help out his father in mustering the crowd and thus foiling the farmers' open call to prevent anyone from the ruling party from organising a party event.

In other words, he believed, to speed through hoping the obstructers would instinctively scatter helter-skelter to prevent any bodily harm to themselves.

But the bravado of the farmers who have commandeered busy entry points into the national capital from Haryana and UP for over a year collided with the panic of the occupants of the SUVs resulting in a tragic loss of four lives.

But how about the death of the other four at the hands of the farmers? Do their lives not count? The fact that the four were killed in cold blood with sticks and stones is no less heinous.

Meanwhile, the role that Rakesh Tikait played in helping the local administration in largely defusing the tension in Lakhimpur Kheri is praiseworthy.

And, therefore, all the more notable in view of the year-long agitation by the Punjab farmers against the three agri-reforms.

It is to be noted that the protest originated in Punjab and it was weeks later that Tikait jumped into the fray, bringing with him his fellow Jat farmers to lend moral support.

Notably, neither the far more numerous agriculture labour, mostly Dalits, nor tens of millions of small and marginal farmers have shown any interest to join the protest because they are aware that the reforms would serve their cause better.

After a relative lull, there is a concerted attempt to raise the decibel levels again with an eye on the coming UP poll. This was only to be expected.

But the maximalist demand for the outright nixing of the three reforms universally approved by the domain experts is unlikely to be met.

However, a via media can still be found if someone like Captain Amarinder Singh were to undertake the role of an honest broker.

Given that he has burnt all his bridges with the Congress party -- though while in power he instigated the protest in the first place -- the captain ought to be roped in to bring about a rapprochement which saves face for both the Centre and the farmers.

An important factor to be considered with the former Punjab CM has repeatedly stressed is that being a border state it is important to end the growing alienation of the Sikh peasantry on account of agri-reforms however well-intentioned they might actually be.

To address their fears and misgivings about the reforms is key to the resolution of the current impasse between the Centre and the farmers.

Besides, given the worsening security scenario in Kashmir, with the terrorists selectively targeting Sikh and Hindu civilians, we cannot afford to have a restive Punjab with its peasantry up in arms against the central government.

It is imperative that the Punjab peasantry is persuaded to see reason.

Let me play the devil's advocate and say that those who do not want to reap good from salutary reforms should not have goodness thrust over them.

In time they will realise the folly of their opposition.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/