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'Is Modi supposed to plant nails on roads?'

By SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF
February 05, 2021 08:41 IST
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'There is no democracy, and in fact, there is some kind of monarch ruling.'
'They are protecting themselves and they are scared.'

IMAGE: A farmer stands by a barricade at a protest against the farm laws at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
 

'It's not China, the government is trying to fight its own people? I have not seen anything like this during my life,' tweeted senior Supreme Court lawyer Dinesh Dwivedi.

In another tweet, he wrote that the barricades on the approach to Delhi reminded him of the infamous Berlin wall.

More than two months have passed and it looks like there is no solution to the deadlock as the Narendra Damodardas Modi government and farmers' unions have taken an irreconcilable stand over the three farm laws. Meanwhile, there is no sign of the barricades at Delhi's access roads to keep out the protesting farmers being dismantled.

Speaking to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com, Dwivedi says, "when the government does not want to accept your demands, then they get into this kind of nationalism debate."

In any democracy people elect their representatives and those representatives make laws for the people. Do you think what is happening in Delhi, where a section of farmers has held the city hostage at the borders, is good for democracy?

There is no democracy, and in fact, there is some kind of monarch ruling. They are protecting themselves and they are scared.

People of this country elected Prime Minister Modi so how can you call it a monarchy? He has been given a mandate by the people and he will obviously bring laws according to his vision, which he feels is good for India.

The point is that if his vision conflicts with the vision of the people, then what is he supposed to do?

Is he not supposed to rethink these three new farm laws and step back a little?

Or is he supposed to dig ditches on roads and plant nails on roads?

Have you not seen the roads around Delhi now? Is it not embarrassing enough? The roads of Delhi are like the India-China faceoff.

What do you do when certain section of farmers attacked policemen, injuring more than 100 of them?

We may believe what is said by the national media, but then, you know the fate of the national media. The point is that mostly 95 per cent of farmers marched absolutely in peace. They followed the route that was given to them.

The trouble started in the morning (of January 26), what they (the police) did was to shut off the road that was marked for farmers. And then they allowed some people to march earlier than the time schedule (subsequently) directing them towards Red Fort.

How can you possibly enter the Red Fort which has huge gates that are locked. There is the Indian Army too inside. It cannot be broken into. No one can enter the Red Fort without permission. We have videos where policemen are inviting people to go into the Red Fort. What is all this?

But the fact is that policemen were injured in the violence on January 26.

The people were injured too and that does not mean that you are going to spike all the roads to Delhi. There is a limit to it.

It is a democracy, as you said, and you have to take care of the people; you cannot shun people out.

There are more than a million farmers over there. Can you call all of them Khalistanis?

You kept on provoking them as Khalistanis.

You kept them outside on the roads in the peak of winter. They were shivering in the cold, and is that the way you deal with farmers? That is terrible.

These are people who lost elections against the BJP. Rakesh Tikait, one of their leaders, lost to the BJP. To oppose Modi they are taking steps which are anti-India, isn't it?

The way the farmers were sleeping on the roads, was it not denting (the image of) India?

When lakhs of migrants walked from cities back to their homes, was it not denting India?

Why do we bring in this kind of nationalism all the time?

It sounds stupid to me. You (Modi) said this is the gift of the government to the farmers, but they are not happy with this gift.

Now, if they are not ready to accept it, then forget about it.

Why should a PM not budge? They are projecting that these farm laws are for farmers, but the fact is that there is nothing in it for the farmers.

What can the government do as the farmers are not ready to take a step back? They just want to repeal the three laws. In any negotiation there is some give and take, but here the farmers do not want to cede an inch.

That is one side you are seeing. What is the government doing? They are not offering anything to the farmers. They are not ready to backtrack.

The government has said they would withdraw the laws for 18 months.

They didn't say withdraw, but they said they will suspend the Acts. Why don't you withdraw these three farm laws and come back after 18 months? What is the difficulty?

The only other way was, the government could have given the farmers some kind of assurance or security.

They could have made MSP (Minimum Support Price) a legislative mandate. Why didn't they do it? They could have made it. Had they made it, then perhaps the protest would not have come to this level.

You don't want to give anything and then say we will come back to you after 18 months.

Do you think farmers will be able to build that kind of pressure again after 18 months? They are sceptical about it and therefore they are adamant.

Their whole concern is that they will not get what they want and their demands will not be met.

Tomorrow, there will be unregulated markets if these three farm laws come into existence. How can farmers compete with corporate companies?

IMAGE: Riot police stand guard behind concertina wire at a protest site against the farm laws at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

After Rihanna's tweet it looks like India's image is being defamed.

Americans never said their image is defamed after what happened on Capitol Hill. Who thinks of India in a very big way? Is India regarded very highly in the world community?

China is sitting on 2,000 km of our land and we could not even defend ourselves.

These are allegations.

Allegations! There are defence ministry statements. The Indian ambassador to China has admitted to this fact in an interview.

Moreover, if every inch of our land is with us, what are we negotiating with China about?

You tweeted that the government is not fighting China, but its own people at Delhi's borders.

I am 67 years old and a practising advocate in the Supreme Court. I have never seen something like this at the Delhi borders in my lifetime where the government is preventing its own farmers from entering Delhi.

I accept what is going on at the back of the government's mind, but then is this the way?

What is the way out because the protest could again turn violent?

The way is very simple and the government has to be responsive to that. There were only two demands of the farmers -- one, repeal the three farm laws and two, give statutory status to MSP.

In the future after any law is passed, a mob can come to Delhi, block the roads in the same manner and ask for its repeal. There will then be a permanent threat to democracy.

How can you forget the Nirbhaya case? People marched to the President's house. Was it not defiling national symbols then? And was it not setting a bad name for the country?

This kind of abuse is only one-sided logic; when the government does not want to accept your demands, then they get into this kind of nationalism debate.

What is a nation after all? A nation is a conglomerate of people. If the people are not happy with these three laws, withdraw it.

But how many people are not happy? It is only those who lost the elections who are not happy.

Everything in your eyes boils down to elections. The issue is not elections. The issue now is that farmers are unhappy with these three laws. They fear that these laws will kill the regulated market and eventually MSP will be the casualty.

Why is the middle class not affected by the farmers' issue?

The middle class is directed and dictated by the Hindutva concept and that is why they are not (affected). This is not a Hindu-Muslim issue where the majority can streamroll the minority.

Farmers are the majority now. And if you don't believe that, come to Punjab, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Even Maharashtra had a huge march of farmers against these three farm laws. Likewise, Bengaluru too witnessed a huge march and also in Odisha. Uttarakhand too is in deep trouble.

The urban middle class is dictated by some Hindu-Muslim issue and that is why the issues die out most of the time.

You cannot do that with farmers. They tried every trick by calling them Khalistanis. They then tried to bring in Pakistan, but did not succeed.

The future of Indian democracy is in danger with such mobs dictating to the nation, isn't it?

You don't seem to be frightened of the future of democracy when the entire media is sold out.

Institutions have been sold out, but you don't see the future of democracy threatened. What are you talking about?

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SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
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