Ominous Signs Emerge from Farmers’ Protests

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Ever since the farmers started protesting on the outskirts of the national capital, there have been apprehensions that anti-national elements such as Naxalites, Islamists, and Khalistanis may try to hijack the protests to use them as leverage against the Modi-led central government, with whom they have an axe to grind.

Reforms are inevitable in any sector and old systems must pave the way for the new. The three farm laws are intended to break the shackles of the farmers and release them from the clutches of exploitative middlemen. These farm laws not only enable them to sell their product anywhere but also provide them with a choice to sell to anyone who offers a better price. These laws will empower them to increase their incomes thereby reducing their dependence on the Minimum Support Price (MSP).

But the farmers, who are mostly from Punjab, reached Delhi in large numbers and started threatening to lay siege to the national capital. The farmers are very adamant and progressively hardening their stand. Instead of negotiating for what they want such as the MSP and retention of the Mandi system, they want the complete repeal of farm laws. It is very much perceptible that there are many external pressures working on farmer unions and they are in no mood to arrive at a negotiated settlement. Instead, they want to create trouble by laying seize to Delhi with the help of Islamist radicals, Khalistani separatists, and the ultra-left.

The dreaded Khalistani terrorist, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who, along with his followers, occupied Akal Takht and forced the Indian government to carry out Operation Bluestar, appeared on the posters displayed by ‘farmers’.

They are demanding the release of Islamist radicals such as Umar Khalid and Sharjeel Imam, who played an active role in triggering communal riots in the aftermath of anti-CAA protests. They are even demanding the release of Naxalites such as Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha who were arrested on serious charges. There are many images that came to light, which depict protestors holding placards demanding the release of dangerous people. Such demands that have nothing to do with farming, have already discredited the farmers’ protests.

It is increasingly becoming apparent that forces inimical to the interests of India are trying to use the farmers’ protests to defame the country in the international arena. Islamists and other anti-India forces are organizing protests in solidarity with farmers in many parts of the world including Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Therefore, the central government must be vigilant to these developments as there are already some signs of trouble brewing, and these protests may even end up causing massive riots that have the potential to cause wide-spread destruction and loss of life. If such riots occur, the anti-national forces such as the ultra-left, Islamists, and Khalistanis will give the whole episode a communal color to raise the bogey of Hindutva and put the Modi-led central government in the dock.

The newfound bonhomie between Islamist radicals and Khalistani separatists is causing a lot of concern among the people. The Khalistanis ran langar during the dreaded Shaheen Bagh protests, which led to massive riots that snuffed out the lives of more than fifty people. Now reports emerge that the Islamists, as reciprocity, are serving food to the farmers and trying their level best to incite them. The ultra-left, sensing an opportunity to mount pressure on the central government, started fishing in troubled waters. All these developments send ominous signals.

If the three new farm laws are illegitimate and undesirable, then even the economic reforms that were introduced in 1991 to put an end to the license, quota, and permit raj should also be considered illegitimate and undesirable. India, being a free market economy, can’t continue with license-permit raj in agriculture. The Mandis and MSP could not rescue farmers from the vicious circle of poverty and stop farmers from committing suicides. Therefore, there is an urgent need to introduce reforms in the farming sector to bring about an improvement in their incomes. Any attempt to sabotage the efforts to bring about reforms in the sector must be thwarted.

The farmers, who are protesting today against ‘Ambanis’, ‘Adanis’ and other ‘corporates’ organized a protest demonstration in 2008 against the then government’s refusal to allow corporates to procure wheat.

It appears that the awareness levels among the farmers on the new farm laws is very low, and as a result, they are getting misled by the systematic misinformation campaign launched by political parties such as Congress Party and the Left parties. The hypocrisy manifested by Congress Party knows no limits. They promised similar laws in their manifesto, and now, after sensing an opportunity to score brownie points, changed their colors to instigate farmers.  

If farmers indeed don’t like these new laws, they must wait till the next general elections and vote out the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, which enacted these laws. And, they are free to bring a political dispensation that promises them to repeal the laws to power. That is the most appropriate and democratic way to deal with something one doesn’t like. But camping on the outskirts of the national capital and threatening to lay siege to it is highly objectionable and can’t be tolerated. Such pressure tactics must be viewed seriously by the government because they have the potential to take a dangerous turn and create serious law and order problems. They may even cause irreparable harm to national security.

The central government must stand steadfast on the reforms as they have long been overdue. If the government relents now, it will end up sending a very wrong signal to the forces inimical to national interests. They will invariably get emboldened and will frequently resort to pressure tactics such as blocking roads and laying siege to cities and thereby setting a dangerous precedence.

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