Indian farmers struggle reaching critical phase

As farmer's movement moves into a crucial phase, we have begun to see the BJP upping the ante. By threats and actual violence against the farmers through hired thugs across various sites of occupation surrounding Delhi, their hope is the morale might collapse - DR GURNAM SINGH

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To be surrounded by thousands of armed forces, with every chance of being beaten and broken, there were families like these who refused to leave Ghazipur, ready to take a bullet in their chests. [Farmer leader Rakesh] Tikait was not the only hero of last night. All those who stayed back, they are heroes too. Who cuts off drinking water supply to a protest site with elders and children ! Water bottles sent in private cars were not allowed too. Is this how you break a protest ? For a country driven on faith, no one believes in karma. – Text/Photo by Gurpreet Wasi, shared on 29 Jan 2021
By Gurnam Singh | OPINION |

One of the indisputable facts about India is that it is not and never has been one country, one nation, or one people. India or more accurately Bharat is huge diverse subcontinent that has (as the maps show), been subject to various empires and dynasties. The map of India is as fluid as the great rivers coming off the mighty Himalayan mountain range.

In 1947, following the disastrous collapse of the despicable British Imperial rule, India shattered into a number of pieces, resulting in the bifurcation of Panjab, Kashmir, and Bengal, the creation of Muslim dominated Pakistan and Hindu dominated India, not forgetting much suffering. Today, because of the policies (niti) of the British imperialists we are left with a truncated Hinduva Indian state that is behaving as most/all imperialists do/have done in the past, that is to impose its own hegemony on the population in order to consolidate wealth and power with a few elites. Few rulers seem to learn from the mistakes of previous incumbents.

One of the features of the Hindutva imperial state is its embrace of neoliberal economic policies. The political philosopher David Harvey has pointed out that neoliberalism is a particularly virulent form of capitalism. Following the collapse of socialism in the 1970’s, it emerged as a project to restore class dominance to sectors that saw their fortunes threatened by the ascent of social-democratic endeavors in the aftermath of the Second World War. One effect of the restoration of the power of corporate elites has through ‘clever’ manipulation of the instruments of capitalist economics been the channeling of huge amounts of wealth from subordinate classes to dominant ones, both within and between countries.

Coming back to India and the farmer’s movement, it is this very same process of the centralising and upward movement of wealth and power that is the core issue. The farmers, most of whom own just a few acres of land, are asking for protections and a minimum income; the Government, on the other hand, is insisting on the application of market forces and corporations to facilitate economic growth and ultimately developed for the people.

It is difficult to see a way out other than a defeat for the farmers or, as the leader of the Hindu chauvinist Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, somewhat ironically, has speculated, the centralising tendencies of the BJP will lead to the disintegration of the nation. Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut cautioned that it would not take long for the country to break into separate states, the way it happened in the former Soviet Union. Though, unsurprisingly, the pro-BJP Godhi media negatively portrayed Raut’s observation. In reality, his observations that, without strong opposition, the imposition of majoritarianism across the vast country would undermine its integrity, should serve as a wake-up call for Indian nationalists.

And today, as the farmer’s movement moves into a crucial phase, we have begun to see the BJP upping the ante. By threats and actual violence against the farmers through hired thugs across various sites of occupation surrounding Delhi, their hope is the morale might collapse. In doing so they are traveling a well-trodden path that imperialists rulers have over the centuries.

The strategy being deployed is known as the Chanakya philosophy or Niti of Saam’, ‘Daam’, ‘Dand’ and ‘Bhed‘, which can be traced back to the ruling dynasty of the Mauryas in the 4th Century BC. It is based on a four step strategy to respond to any challenge from below to the power of the rulers.

Source: Maps of India

Stage one is referred to as ‘Saam’. Here the rulers seek to befriend and even praise the leadership of the rebellion. The aim is, as it were to separate the head from the body, thereby demoralizing the masses and instigating internal conflict.

If this subtle ‘friendly’ approach does not work and the leadership refuses to comply, then the next step is what is known Daam. Now the rulers appeal to the other desire that leaders have for power by offering them a mixture of final UAL benefits and even a role amongst the ruling elite. The aim is to instigate betrayal amongst the opposition.

If this fails then we see a sudden change of attack and ‘Dand’, where punishment and violence become the chosen weapon. And where even violence does not frighten the activists, then the final strategy of Bhed is deployed. This essentially is a combination of violence, blackmail, and threats to loved ones.

After months of playing tricks, the Government chose 26 Jan to set a trap for the movement as a pretext to moving into a phase of violent repression. Things are very tense after the 26th Jan Republic Day incidents, and one spark could trigger widespread violence, which may spread across the country as, contrary to government propaganda, the movement is not confined to farmers from Panjab and Haryana. The movement, though focussed on the outskirts of Delhi, is now morphing into a national movement against the RSS/Hindutva hegemonic imperial project and there is a real prospect that other major cities will also see protests in the next few days and weeks.

To avoid any of the disastrous outcomes now is the time for some creative out-of-the-box thinking and in this regard, I think there are three possible options.

Option 1 – a suspension of the implementation of the Ordinances pending either a national referendum or a general election.

Option 2 – Introduce an amendment that provides a cast-iron guarantee that the states have the power to decide if and how the ordinances are to be implemented.

Option 3 – Establish an international panel of experts including UN bodies to do a root and branch review of the current state of the Indian farming sector to devise medium and long-term options for change, which clearly is needed.

The ongoing protests have opened up a new space for popular politics rooted in respect of people, dignity, and plurality. The government has certainly been caught off guard and that is why it is investing heavily in its IT cell in order to portray the movement as a threat to the nation. However, the agitation has extended way beyond its immediate remit and has gained a potential of great proportion as a popular social and political movement that can threaten the power of the state. And one of the master strokes of the movement has been successful in controlling and sustaining the three key narratives: of ‘sewa, annadaata‘ (In service to humanity); ‘jai jawan, jai kirshan’ (victory to the farmer is a victory to the soldier) and ‘kirsan mazdoor ekta (unity of farmers and workers)!’

Sometimes paradoxically political rulers are at their most vulnerable when they ate at their most powerful. That is because they can become vulnerable to ego and complacency. I do hope that if, as he keeps claiming, PM Modi is genuinely interested in the welfare of ordinary Indians, then perhaps he needs to put their interests before the corporate billionaires who are busy, like previous imperialists, appropriating the assets of the nation and in the process making the poorest suffer the most.

[Gurnam Singh is an academic activist dedicated to human rights, liberty, equality, social and environmental justice. He is an Associate Professor of Sociology at University of Warwick, UK. He can be contacted at Gurnam.singh.1@warwick.ac.uk]

* This is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.

 

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