How a republic is strengthened? Can it be done only by observing the rituals of democracy? Or by addressing the challenges facing it today! What is the essence of a republic? A republic is nothing but a kind of self-rule of its people. Two things define it conclusively. One is political rights. Here we can even omit the word ‘political’ and simply say rights which is an inclusive term.
The other aspect is economical. Political rights mean nothing if people are economically not empowered. One cannot be compromised at the cost of the other. People will live a wretched life if political rights are not combined with economic empowerment. Again economic empowerment alone will not do if people do not enjoy any political rights.
This goes against the basic tenets of a free society and against the notion of human development. So the strengthening of republican values means intensification and expansion of political rights and continuous endeavors for economic empowerment of people. How do we see the current farmer strike under the above understanding?
That the farm laws are unjust has been explained by many experts. There is no point discussing this again. But the way the farm laws are passed in the parliament was against the spirits of a republic. No debate on the farm laws was conducted in the parliament. Neither the bills were sent to select parliamentary committees before they were made into laws.
No discussion, no sending to the committees. The bills were placed and forced passed in both the houses of parliament. This was a gross abuse of power and parliamentary norms. As the farm laws go against the interests of the farmers they are against these laws.
Lakhs of farmers are protesting against these laws peacefully for more than two months now. Here let us admit two things. Independent India has never witnessed a farmer strike of this magnitude for such a protracted period. This is unprecedented.
But we shall not feel and experience it unless we see and experience it from close quarters because the lapdog media will not publicize it. Farm unions held a series of discussions with the government on their demands. But this failed as the unions are steadfast and firm and would not withdraw the agitation unless the farm laws are repealed in toto.
As Republic Day was approaching, the farm unions gave a call for a tractor parade on Republic Day and tens of thousands of tractors participated in the parade. The farmers decided to celebrate Republic Day in a unique way. What was wrong with it? Was the tractor parade on Republic Day a violation of republican spirit? Or it was in consonance with the expansion and intensification of our republic! Any progressive-minded people will concur with the later. Because the Indian democracy will have to accommodate and absorb such dissent if it has to grow in strength.
It was good that the farm unions and the police mutually agreed on the routes for taking out the tractor parade. But most unfortunately a section of the farmers defied this. They deviated from the routes and fighting with the police went on to hoist flags in the red fort.
Scuffles between the farmers and police took place and in the ensuing melee a farmer was killed and a few police were also injured. Immediately the BJP and the mainstream media pounced on the farmers and maligned them. The general public who supported the agitating farmers also developed a sense of bewilderment at the turn of the events. But slowly things started to come to light.
The farm unions said that government conspiracy led to the violence. They said: “The peaceful farmers’ parade was a victim of a conspiracy hatched by the government.” As reported in The Hindu, the farm leaders alleged that the police had removed the barricades for troublemakers from the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) who had previously declared their intention of breaking from the designated route.
They also alleged that actor Deep Sidhu, who has been linked to the RSS and associated with the Home Minister and the Prime Minister, was the person who instigated the flag hoisting at the Red Fort. They also said, the newspaper reported: “It was a historic parade by lakhs of farmers with over two lakh tractors, and 99.9% of the farmers stayed peaceful.”
Now, what do we hear here? Isn’t it horrifying? How does it go with our democracy and patriotism? What kind of patriotism is this which excludes people who hold different views from the one advocated by the ruling party and its supporters? If the government supports, agent provocateurs and police side with them this is degradation of rule of law and our republic.
There is another angle to it. Had there been any movement in human history which was tailor-made? It is of course the responsibility of the leaders of the farm unions to train and discipline the farmers on the principles of nonviolence and peace. But in a movement of such gigantic proportion, some minor deviations will always be there. This is normal and natural.
However, as alleged the state’s infiltration in the movement with the intention of deviating it from its charted path is most condemnable. The government must abandon this cantankerous approach. This doesn’t augur well with the spirit of our republic, rather this is most ominous.