When the state has no other way to understand dissent but to criminalise it what do the aggrieved people do? The farmers, it seems have come to Delhi to ask precisely this.
The farm bills were introduced on 14th September 2020, passed in the Lok Sabha on 17th September and in Rajya Sabha on 20th September. The president gave his assent on 24th September and the Gazette notification was published on 27th September. In the matter of less than two weeks, without democratic process and discussion the farm bills bulldozed their way into becoming laws.
The Supreme Court has itself said that the farmers protest in and around Delhi could soon become a national issue. Farmers from Punjab, Haryana and some parts of Uttar Pradesh are at the forefront in the fight which is inspiring farmers all over the country for the last 3 months.
The farmers know that for small and marginal farmers, the option of transporting farm produce to lucrative markets is not an option – they do not have the means to go. They will have to sell it near their own villages to whoever is willing to buy it and at whatever price they are offered. This has again brought into focus the demand for the release of intellectuals, activists and anti-CAA protesters all over country and withdrawal of the false cases registered against them. They argue that when intellectuals, students’ activists and human rights defenders are put behind bars, ordinary farm labour also forgoes its right to hold the state accountable which has backed on their promise on land reforms.
This agitation has reminded the nation of the historical Champaran Satyagrah launched by Mahatma Gandhi in Champaran, Bihar, in 1917. Never before in the history of India has a protest involving so many lasted so long without flinching, without slackening and without diluting the crucial ingredients of a peaceful struggle. True to Gandhian ideology, farmers are bearing the adversity be in the form adverse weather conditions, lathi charge, or facing the water cannons without reacting in slightest violent manner.
These farmers have come to Delhi because federalism enshrined in our constitution is dying a slow death. Most of the effective powers now rest with the central government and state capitals are empty shells devoid of any meaningful power. So, there is no point in agitating in the state capitals. Federalism has gone for a toss through a thousand cuts. GST ended up taking away whatever financial independence the states had legally in their hand – the state are puppets today scrounging for whatever crumbs are thrown from Delhi.
In the farmers’ agitation, the common folk have chosen their own path to oppose and negotiate with the ‘Delhi Darbar’. The farmers have shown the way and lighted a new path for our survival. It is up to us, ‘we the people’, to safe guard and preserve what our great leaders bequeathed to us. This agitation is no longer limited to being an agitation of farmers rather; it has become a movement of the people as a whole with national consequences. Torch bearer and beacon for future ascertain basic and constitutional rights.
The farmers’ agitation against three farm laws has clearly demonstrated how a peaceful agitation can be launched and sustained against the unjust and uncalled for policy decisions of the government. The reverberations of this agitation are being felt throughout the country. Its perhaps 1st time after 1942 Quit India movement that such an agitation by lakhs of people is being carried out peacefully on Gandhian principles in the face of provocation and repressive measures by the government.
3rd year RGNUL