Grace under duress

For me, the visual of the month was the farmers feeding the hands that best them, and the policemen biting the hand that feed them - P SAINATH

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Farmers’ protest in Delhi. Photo source, clockwise from left: Ravi Choudhary (PTI), AFP
By Asia Samachar Team | INDIA |

A conversation to dig deeper into the #DelhiChallo. What are some of the underlying issues in the massive farmers’ protest in India?

The major entry points to Delhi have been blocked by protesting farmers who have come from Panjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and a number of other states.

Their representatives are now in tense talks with the Indian government. The talks, which went on for some seven hours yesterday (3 Dec), did not come to any conclusion.

At the lunch and tea breaks, the farmers’ leaders declined the lunch and tea provided by the government at Vigyan Bhavan, instead opting for food brought for them from a gurdwara. It was a powerful symbolic move to underscore their resolve.

It as reported that the central ministers had offered to consider a number of amendments to the contentious farm reform laws. They had also provided assurance that minimum support prices (MSP) for farm produce would continue.

The dialogue is scheduled to resume on December 5.

“The government made a fatal miscalculation in underestimating the resolve of the farmers,” award winning senior journalist P Sainath tells Indian journalist Faye D’Souza in an interview.

Sainath, founding editor of the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI), is also the author of the book Everybody Loves a Good Drought (Penguin India, 1996). D’Souza is the executive editor of Mirror Now.

Some snippets from the interview.

LANGGAR

The Langgars of the gurdwara in Karnal feed these policemen who had used water cannons against people in their 60s and 70s in what had been Delhi’s coldest day in winter in 70 years – 9 degrees Celcius. And yet the farmers had the grace.

For me, the visual of the month was the farmers feeding the hands that best them, and the policemen biting the hand that feed them. It really tells you something about he marginalised section and the state. And the state of those relations are today.

ACCESS TO COURTS

You are making the executive (as) the judiciary. That is outrageous. The executive takes on the powers of the judiciary. Well, in a way, that’s how the Modi government behaves.

[In the discussion between the government and the farmers] Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has offered the farmers a ‘death by committee.’

A far greater committee exists. It had given an incredible report – a blueprint for Indian agriculture. The Swaminathan Commission has laid in Parliament for 15 years without even an hour’s discussion on the report.

The government made a fatal miscalculation in underestimating the resolve of the farmers.

The farmers have made their choice and they’re at the gates of Delhi to tell that to the government.

The government, the corporate media and the elite are not getting it – the sense of grievance and the sense of betrayal that is there now in the farmers.

So here you are looking at the what the government is doing. It is one more milestone on a way to agrarian hell where you handover Indian agriculture to the corporations. That has been the process for two decades now. It’s intensifying.

It’s time for non-farmers to join [the protest] as well. The agrarian crisis has become a societal crisis, perhaps even a civilisation crisis, with the largest body of small farmers, small holders on earth fighting for their survival.

It’s not just about the loss of productivity but the loss of humanity. Look at death by suicides of 330,000 farmers but where is our outrage.

 

RELATED STORY:

Dear Indians, Here’s Why Farmers’ March Matters To Sikh Diaspora (Asia Samachar, 4 Dec 2020)

 

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