Bharat Bandh draws nationwide support for farmers’ protest

Farmers threaten intensification of stir if talks remain inconclusive

Politics

December 9, 2020

/ By / New Delhi

As tens of thousands of farmers from various states continued to stage a sit in at borders of Delhi, the call for Bharat Bandh received fair support across the nation. The farmers say they will intensify their protest if the government keeps talks dangling.

“Soora so pehchaniye, jo lade din ke het, purja purja kat mare, kabhun na chhade khet (Brave is the one who fights for the rights of the poor/weak. Even if his body is chopped to pieces, he does not leave the battlefield),” says Satnam Singh, a sevadar (volunteer) from Fatehgarh Saheb, an important pilgrimage spot for Sikhs, about 260 km north of Delhi.

“Our Gurus have ordered us not to give in when fighting for the rights of the poor or the weak and I want to say this today that if the Delhi police thinks it can scare us with their guns or sticks, they will fail exactly as the oppressors in the Sikh history have failed. We will not move from here until our demands are met and if the rulers of Delhi think they can impose their flawed decisions on us, then they just need to read some history,” Singh tells Media India Group, a few hours after he and a team reached Delhi from the historic Gurudwara where two sons and the mother of Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Sikh Guru, were buried alive.

Singh’s statements reflected the defiant mood prevailing not just at Delhi’s Singhu Border, but practically all across the country where the call for the day-long strike received varying degree of support. However, the nation’s attention remained focus on Delhi and its borders where hundreds of thousands of farmers from many states have been staging a sit in for 13 days now.

The farmers say they while they will keep the talks going with the government on finding a solution, they insist that anything less than a repeal of the three farm acts will not be acceptable and if the talks prove to be just a dilatory tactic on part of the government, they would be left with no choice but to intensify their protests.

“Even though there have been talks about the farm laws, we will have a clear conversation with the government. On December 5 also, the farmers made it very clear about their stand, whether it is going to be a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. The farmers stood their ground without uttering a word for an hour and a half during the last talks. The farmers are taking a strong stand. This Bharat Bandh is not just for the farmers and this the people of this country have realised. That is why this fight of the farmers is not only for the farmers, but is of everyone, including the urban and rural poor,” says Satyawan.

Medha Patkar at Singhu border

Medha Patkar at Singhu border on Bharat Bandh (MIG Photos/Richa Nigam)

“The protest has already spread all over the country. In every state there are actions even when the dialogue is on. We have not withdrawn the agitation and they are unable to respond to the questions raised by the movement. So, it is clear that while we cannot stop engaging with the government, but we cannot rely only on the dialogue. It is only because of the movement that they have gotten into a dialogue with us otherwise in their radio broadcasts they are saying that the farm acts are the best possible solution to the problems of the agriculturists in the country,” leading social activist, Medha Patkar tells Media India Group at the Singhu border.

Patkar says that numerous workers’ organisations have joined the farmers’ movement. “All India Railwaymen’s Federation, which has over 1 million members and which has already declared itself against the privatization of the railways as being against the interests of the workers as well as the passengers, has said they will strike if a quick solution is not found to the farm issue and their strike will not be for lesser than 76 hours,” says Patkar.

On the occasion of Bharat Bandh, a number of key personalities made it a point to join the farmers’ protest at Singhu border. Jasvir Singh Rode, former Jathedar (priest) of Akal Takht, the top seat of Sikhism, was amongst those present at the site to express his support for the movement. “This country has frequently been looted in the past. Sometimes it was Mahmud Ghazni, sometimes the Mughals and even the English ruled here for a long time. Now, we have a person who was earlier working in a tea stall and who became the prime minister. Ever since he was re-elected with a majority, with the pride of this majority, he is now keen to loot some parts of India. To help some rich business houses become even richer, he is now trying to snatch away the rights of some states and he wants to take the land away from the farmers and make them workers and that is the reason why he pushed the Farm bills through the Parliament without any discussion,” Rode tells Media India Group.

“All the democratically elected governments across the world have criticised India, including the United Nations Secretary General and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the UK Parliament also passed a unanimous resolution calling on Indian government to accept the farmers’ demands. But Modi has remained stuck on his false pride. I would request Modi to read the writing on the wall and accept the farmers’ demands so that there is no violence here and the situation of the country does not deteriorate. Having a majority does not mean you can suppress the people’s wishes; a majority means developing the country. So now, Modi should honour the wishes of the millions of the farmers and repeal the black laws,” Rode adds.

delhi police at singhu border

With strict instructions to keep the farmers away from the capital, Delhi police officials stand guard on NH9 (MIG photos/Aman Kanojiya)

Though the protest attracted lots of participation from states as afar as Kerala or Tamil Nadu, the protestors say that the numbers would have been much larger had the police not interfered with them or arrest them. “We were more than 1,000 persons who had booked tickets from Tamil Nadu to Delhi to participate in the protest today. However, our bookings were cancelled on false pretence and some of our colleagues arrested for the alleged violation of the Epidemic Act, vis a vis the coronavirus pandemic, and hence only about 50 of us have managed to reach here, even though our leader himself is currently being detained by the police,” says Hidayatullah of a south Indian farmers association.

Both the farmers as well as their leaders have little doubt about the outcome of the protest. The only uncertainty for them is when the protest would conclude. They go on to say this protest will also destroy Modi’s image as someone who does not bend or withdraw.

“You see farmers from all the states have started the journey on foot. It is not necessary that they will reach, but they have a destination that is to be in front of Modi. We will conquer here as we did last time during the protest against Land Acquisition ordinance. The ordinance that was brought thrice by Modi. There is a perception about Modi that whatever he says, he does not step back. However, he brought the ordinance thrice and each time he had to withdraw it and finally, he had to agree to a JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee) to review the ordinance. Likewise, this time too these three Farm Acts will have to be taken back by Modi and it will happen,” asserts Satyawan.

The protestors say that while they welcome the support of the political parties for their cause, they intend to retain the control of the movement to ensure that it does not become a platform for a political party. They say that people’s movements can be and have proven to be game changers in the country even before.

“Almost all the laws in India got into being when the people fought outside the parliament or assemblies and not inside them. A lot can be achieved by non-electoral politics through people’s movements and this is yet another such example,’’ says Patkar.

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