The farmers’ protest that began in November last year against the three farm laws is now about two months old. All along the farmers of north India, mainly of the Punjab, Haryana and western UP, maintained peaceful protest at various entry points of Delhi while the stir gathered momentum by leaps and bounds.

With farmers in tens of thousands pouring in every day from different north Indian states and joining the protest at various points on the outskirts of Delhi, the central government led by the BJP was at its wit’s end. The big headache for the NDA government over the last two months during which several failed talks were held with the protesting farmers was that in spite of various lollypop offers and provocations, the farmers maintained peace and were not prepared to budge an inch from their demand.

Their unambiguous demand was the total withdrawal of the three farm laws. Two months of peaceful protest by lakhs was an acid test on the nerves of the agitating farmers with the government miserably failing with its disinformation campaign on its avowed desire to usher ‘radical and revolutionary welfare & wellnesses of the farmers.

Several attempts with tempting baits were also allegedly made to break the solidarity of the farmers’ movement. With every passing day and in the backdrop of the biting winter with the farmers, despite many being above 60 years and resolute to hold on to the ground under the open sky on the roads, it was getting increasingly clear to the powers that be that winning over the farmers was seemingly beginning to turn almost impossible.

The peace maintained by the agitators was seemingly a thorn in the back of the government while the outbreak of even minor violence would possibly have given the government the launching pad to crush the movement. And indeed that moment arrived on a platter for the government on the Republic Day – the tractor rally in the heart of Delhi by a sizable section of protesters.

It was most unfortunate for the nation and the agricultural class as a whole that a large number of protesters who had all along been peaceful have gone berserk and maniacal striking at anything in front of them, including cops and on-lookers, with their speeding and ravaging tractors.

While it may never be ascertained as to who could actually be behind the loathsome and anti-national provocation, the blame game has already begun. While the police put all the blame with enough video evidence on the tractor rallyists, some farmers’ union leaders are trying to take the blame at the doorstep of the government by averting that some government agencies were behind the violence.

The emerging post-violence scenario appears to be trickier for both the government and the protesters. While it may too early to comment on the emerging scene, the situation may gain some international focus with countries like Canada almost fully behind the farmers’ stir from the very beginning.

Again while several prominent social and farmers’ leaders have been reportedly named in various FIRs filed by Delhi Police, one shudders if these leaders behind bars may prove to be a lot more powerful than when at large. Remember history holds testament to the fact that dead Caesar proved to be a lot more powerful than Caesar alive.

Be that as it may, being resolute to break the farmers’ stir by hook or by crook, instead of finding an amicable solution in the interest of the welfare of the farmers, the Centre enacted the drama of holding several rounds of failed talks with the farm union leaders. Beyond an iota of doubt, it appeared and still appears to be the Centre’s camouflaged attempt to break the patience of the farmers while the government holds on to its stand of implementing the laws, come what may.

The farm laws are a brainchild of the Centre alone and the farmers were never taken into confidence in enacting the laws. It is simply a case of forceful imposition on the farm community. Apparently striking like a bolt from the blue on their very livelihood and their working culture, it is just natural and justified that the farmers would demand a total repeal of the laws. And, mind you, braving the winter chill, the farmers made the streets their home under the open sky for two months while peacefully registering their protest.

From a neutral stand-point, the Centre appears to be adopting a many-fold approach: (1) To remain committed to bringing in the corporate sector and make the business honchos the masters of the agricultural sector, (2) to apparently break the backbone of the agitation by making the farmers run out of patience and possibly taking to violence, (3) to reduce the farmers’ to the status of near bonded labourers with the corporate masters determining the future of the farm community and among others (4) to ensure that the farmers respond with enhanced production, laws or no laws, while the market and the support price is controlled by the business big-wigs with the blessings of New Delhi.

Enacted in September last year, the Centre has gone hammer and tongs over three laws while projecting the same as a doorway towards major reforms in the agriculture sector. Painting the three farm laws as a garden of roses for the farmers, the central government has hitherto been trying to woo the agriculturalists by portraying before them that the laws would highly benefit them as the middlemen would disappear from the scene and that the farmers would be able to sell their products anywhere in the country.

However, the protesting farmers have out and out refused to accept the government version. While New Delhi may be of the view that the farmers, as a community, are a bunch of fools, they are in fact a lot more conscious, intelligent and patriotic than many of our so-called political and bureaucratic heavyweights. The farmers’ unions have clearly expressed their apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of MSP (minimum support price) and do away with the “mandi” (wholesale market) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.

An Indian is aware of the priorities of the extreme rightist government at the Centre with the agenda of globalization, privatization and corporatization with the sole aim to keep the global masters in good humour even if it is at the cost of compromising with our dear sovereignty. A note may be taken of the fact that some foreign powers with allegedly advanced technology in the farm sector have already entered into various tie-ups with the Centre and at the state levels also.

At the political level, the extreme rightist ruling class would always try to project such deals as great achievements in the progress and welfare of the farming class, and that the foreign powers are here to do us favour. However, in this world of cut-throat competition, nobody would come forward to do favour to you and me. They are all here to grab our goldmines and enrich themselves by making us poor. It is another form of imperialism or if you may call it ‘sugar-coated quinine’ under the guise of liberalism, globalization, corporatization and what have you.

As of now, two farmers’ unions have reportedly withdrawn from the stir, while many other unions have reportedly expressed their determination to put stay with the agitation. Some have also expressed their desire to accelerate their movement and turn the issue into a pan-India issue. In any case, the government cannot take the issue lightly now that the matter has hogged the global limelight. The government must be cautious in dealing with the issue and ‘an eye for an eye’ approach may only aggravate the issue originally created by the government with its enactment of the farm laws.

As in the case of protest over CAA or other issues of public interest, it had often been a cakewalk for the powers that be to crush all big protests with roving bullets in the name of the manufactured story of protesters with “Maoist links” resorting to “war against the state” and the like.

This was the case with the police resorting to firing and killing quite a few CAA protesters in Assam towards the end of 2019 though many of them purportedly had nothing to do with the CAA protest. While a peaceful protest can be crushed in Assam by firing a few shots and killing a handful within hours of the protest as during the anti-CAA movement, adopting the same approach against any class of protest in north India may only prove to be suicidal.

However, one feels that even the shadow of the ongoing farmers’ stir may be remote like a distant star in Assam. The Assam farmers appear to be fully complacent with the publicity “amar pathar, amar bazar”. From that point of view the Dispur Sultans may rest assured that at the ground level, our farmers have nothing to do with the three farm laws and enjoy a sound sleep.

Talmizur Rahman

Talmizur Rahman is a Guwahati based senior journalist and commentator. He can be reached at rahmantmz5@gmail.com