Farmers dying by suicide, increased police force, ‘Chakka jam’ or road blockades, endless rallies…; farmer protest takes a new twist every day! While police forces in the capital prepare for a crackdown against the farmers every single day, a sign of a peaceful end seems to fade away.
Farmers are protesting against the three new farm laws that were introduced by the Narendra Modi government, increasing agitation in the agriculture sector.
Taking stock of the entire protest, Khalsa Flag hoisting on Red Fort, that might have overshadowed the peaceful protest of farmers, flooded the entire social media on 26 January, also the Republic Day of the country. While different national parties traded barbs, farmers battled a fierce winter for over two months along the capital city borders.
Let’s have an introspection: how it all started? What is the major tussle between farmers and the Modi government? Why the protest is gaining attention from global leaders?
Indian Agriculture Acts of 2020, commonly known as Farm Bills were initiated by the Indian Parliament in September 2020. Lok Sabha approved the respective bills on 17 September 2020 followed by Rajya Sabha on 20 September 2020. Ram Nath Kovind, President of India, gave his consent on the bills on 27 September 2020.
The act will permit intra and interstate trade of produce by farmers, beyond physical premises of APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) mandis along with other markets, as notified by APMC.
The act creates a framework about contract farming, that will include an agreement between a buyer and farmer before rearing or producing any produce on the farm.
The act removes foodstuff from a list of essential commodities. List of foodstuff includes edible oilseeds, oils, potato, cereals, onions, and pulses. The act will support the requirement of any imposition of a stock limit on produce to occur in case of a steep rise in the price.
On 3 November 2020, the farmer union called for a nationwide road blockade in protest against the farm bills. The decision came after a detailed meeting among the farmers that was attended by 40-odd farmer’s groups from eight different states of India. Bharatiya Kisan Union (Charuni) president Gurnam Singh Charun made a statement to block the highways across the country from 10am to 4pm in protest against the legislation.
On 25 November 2020, Farmers’ Union in Punjab and Haryana called for the ‘Delhi Chalo’ movement. Delhi Police, however, rejected the request for the march citing COVID-19 protocols.
In no time, the farmer protest grabbed attention from the central government. On 28 November 2020, India Home Minister Amit Shah offered to hold talks with Farmer’s Union. Farmers, however, rejected the offer, as they were asked to vacate Delhi borders and move the protest to the designated site in Burari.
The first round of talks was held on 3 December 2020 between the farmers’ representatives and central government, which remained inconclusive. The meeting was then followed by the second round of discussion on 5 December, resulting in another dead end. The impediment grew when farmer leaders rejected the central government’s proposal to amend the laws on 9 December 2020. The spark turned into a fire when the protest was intensified with a demand to repeal the farm laws.
Two days after intensifying the protest, Kisan Union moved the petition against the farm laws to the Supreme Court of India on 11 December 2020. After a brief investigation, the Supreme Court hinted on constituting a government panel to end the deadlock over the controversial farm bills.
The last week of December saw a little progress amid protest when the sixth round of talks witnessed a discussion that turned many heads. The centre agreed to exempt the farmers from burning penalty and drop changes in the Electricity Amendment Bill 2020.
After the inconclusive talks between farmers and government, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the petitions challenging the new laws on 11 January 2021. The government asserted that a large section of farmers have welcomed the farm laws in other states and asked the Farmers’ Union to divert the discussion to the nation’s interest.
Just the next day, the Supreme Court constituted a committee, led by former Chief Justice of India, to remove the deadlock. Delhi Police was then asked to take a call on tractor rallies by farmers on Republic Day, 26 January.
The Farmers’ Union rejected the suggestion by the government to put the farm laws on hold for 18 months while Delhi Police permitted the tractor rally. In no time, violent clashes between police and farmers erupted when a group of protestors forced their way inside the Red Fort and hoisted the Khalsa flag on the monument.
Many police officers and protesters were injured during the tragic rally. The rally led to 25 FIRs that were filed by the Police, resulting in the withdrawal of two farmer unions from the protest.
Chakka Jam on 6 February 2021: The national Capital fortified itself for the protest as the farmers observed a three-hour Chakka Jam across the country. However, authorities took no chance and thus closed the entry and exit gates of several metro stations in Delhi.
It was just a matter of 2 months when Farmer Protest grabbed the eyeballs of the international leaders. British Parliament’s Petition Committee is considering a Westminster Hall debate in the House of Commons complex. The petition attracted over 106,000 signatures from the current Indo-UK MPs. However, UK PM Boris Johnsons is categorically denying his signature on the petition.
While several rounds of discussion were being concluded between farmers and Indian government, the US administration under President Joe Biden encouraged that the debate must be resolved through ‘peaceful dialogue’. He also quoted that it will help in improving the efficiency of Indian market and will eventually attract greater private sector investment, referring to the three recently passed farm bills.
An umbrella of many Indo-Canadian organisations also called on the Canada PM Justin Trudeau to ‘denounce’ the violent situation in India. These elements were perpetrated among protesting farmers in New Delhi On Republic Day (26 January).
The President of National Alliance of Indo-Candanians, Azad Kaushik, wrote a petition to the PM reflecting sentiments of the community who were concerned over the farmer protest in India.
When authorities denied internet access, the crackdown attracted daunting opinions from international celebrities. Popular singer Rihanna started the spark with the post, “Why aren’t we talking about the farmer protest.”
Her tweet was followed by popular environmental activist Greta Thunberg and niece of US Vice President Meena Harris, called out to international bodies to resolve the long awaiting decision on farm bill in India. However, the international opinions were not quite strongly appreciated by the PM Modi government.
The Ministry of External Affairs, which generally does not respond to non-political actors, asked some of the popular celebrities to ‘get a proper understanding on the subject’ as the remarks were neither accurate nor responsible on their behalf.
A number of Bollywood celebrities echoed the same posting trends like #IndiaTogether and #IndiaAgainstPropaganda.
While many opinions were carved on the carpet, the political analysts quoted the response as a strategy to use nationalism to change the discourse of the protest, which is now the biggest challenge for the central government of India.
While the protest is grabbing eyeballs from different parts of the planet, the conclusion seems like a fading dead end. Only time will tell if the farmers will be able to write the history forcing the government to reverse the bills or the central government will be able to justify the bills in the interest of farmers. Keep reading AlShorts, more updated news and bulletins on the farmer protest.