By Arun Srivastava
On June 26, the dayafter Indira Gandhi had imposed emergency 46 years ago, the farmers’ movement entered into its 8th month of survival. Though yesterday Narendra Modi took to twits to recollect the tyrannies “he had to face” during the Emergency days, he did not mention about his resolve to destroy democracy and smash the democratic institutions in the country. His recurrent reference to imposition of emergency however forcefully threw open a question that why he was averse to respect the democratic aspirations of the crores of farmers and sit across with them to listen to their arguments for scraping of the three black farm laws. Indira Gandhi used emergency not to listen to the democratic voices, while Modi in a shrewd manner used the state machinery to deny the farmers of their rights.
Modi who has been quite conscious of his public image, has even been talking to the most vilified Gupkar gang to persuade them to agree to his move of holding elections, obviously with the intention to send the message that he was a perfect democrat and strongly believes in democratic values and ethos, he has been maintaining a stubborn attitude towards farmers and refuting to meet them.
An insight into his reluctance would reveal that he does not intend to send the message that he was a weak prime minister and also at the same time does not project the farmers as a political class. If he listens to them or talks to them then it would imply that the farmers have attained the status of a political class or political coalition. A prime minister could ignore the farmers and not open a discourse with them till they are not recognised as a political class. In India the farmers were never perceived as an independent political class.
They were always treated as appendage or support base of any political party. The first major move in this direction to recognise the farmers as a political class was made by former prime minister V P Singh. He started the Kisan Manch, which organised meetings and gheraos across the country. He gave the call for “Safeguard the farmers, save India.” But his Mandal politics eclipsed his move. During those days the big and feudal landlord were usually recognised as farmers. V P Singh wanted to abolish the legacy of the company raj, which badly split the farming community and pit one section against another.
The farmer community was split on class and caste line. The landless agricultural labourers already maintained antagonistic relations with the rich farmers who were represented by organisations like Shetkari Sanghthana. The small and middle farmers constituted a separate class. The people who were related to the agriculture and farming were not perceived as the part of the same class. Their needs and aspirations were quite different.
There is no ambiguity about the farmers’ mission. On June 26 while on the way to Raj Bhawans across the country for submitting memorandum the farmers, protesting against three farm laws, raised the twin flags of “Save Agriculture” and “Save Democracy”. The farmers indicated they would continue to campaign against the BJP during the upcoming polls in the states, including Uttar Pradesh and also protection of the democracy. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha’s decision to have farmers march to the Raj Bhavans in every state underlines the most mature political strategy to place their views and accomplish their mission. This strategy is quite noteworthy as the farmers for achieving their goal have lost 600 colleagues during the agitation.
June 26 has also been birth day of famous peasant leader Swami Sahajanand Saraswati. He fought against the machination of the Britishers and tried to bring the farming community closer to each other notwithstanding their contradictory economic approaches and needs. He formed the Kisan Sabha in 1936. Unfortunately he could not give a shape to his ideas.
In fact the political institution and the ruling elite of the country had realised that closing of ranks would endanger their class interest and they from the beginning have been resorting to the mechanism to pit them against each other. But agriculture gradually turning to be non-remunerative and the agrarian economic taking a nose dive, changed the thought process. The globalisation and neoliberalism played a major role though it did not strengthen the agrarian economy.
Bad policy and unsound agricultural models were the culprits for the falling prices and farm debt. The most unfortunate development was the Centre absolved its moral obligation to help Indian farmers. The entry of the corporate group in the agrarian scenario and their acquiring lands from farmers in Haryana and UP at hugely subsidised rate to set up a power plant made them conscious of the importance of their political power. For the first time in contemporary India, V P Singh had raised the issue of stop pauperisation of farmers by taking their lands and handing it over to corporate sector. For the first time the issue of sale of their land was seen in the perspective of the putting sovereignty at stake.
The farmers , agricultural labourers and middle peasants have come to realise that they cannot survive the machination of the corporate sector unless they join hands and strive to acquire their political stature. The RSS from the beginning has been stridently opposed to the concept of political empowerment of the farmers. We have seen how the RSS prompted the Jana Sangh and later BJP to identify with the interest of the rich and feudal landlords. They derided the agricultural labourers, the task that was being done by the Britishers in the pre-Independence period.
Modi’s reluctance to accept the demand of the farmers agitation primarily owes to the RSS’s stand. Modi cannot dare to antagonise the RSS and also the corporate sector. One thing is quite noticeable that he at no stage offered to talk to farmers except on couple of occasions suggesting that his government was willing to discuss the three laws with the farmers.
RSS and BJP nurse the view that emergence of farmers as a political class would endanger the political system and institution of the country. They are scared of getting marginalised. The farmers leaders have also come to realise this. Visits of the farmer leaders to the states where assembly elections were held in April and May this year and their emphasis on ensuring the defeat of the BJP ought to be seen as a major step towards assertion of the political power of the farmers. The farmers want their independent assertion rather than being dependent on the political parties and acting as their subservient.
It is the compulsion of survival for the political parties that they have been trying to identify themselves with the interest of the farmers. They know that it is the gathering strength of the farmers that would remove the BJP from power. There is no denying that RSS and farmers are engaged in the classical struggle for asserting their political power. The farmer leader Rakesh Tikait has made it explicit that the agitation would continue till 2024. It obviously implied that the farmers would perform the most proactive role during the election.
This stand of the farmers makes it explicit that for the leaders of the movement it is the politics which has gained primacy. It is not legal recourse. It is worth recalling that the farmer leaders had refused to accept the intervention of the Supreme Court and insisted on political solution. They knew that intervention of the Supreme Court cannot reverse the anti-people implications of the processes of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation. These need political initiatives. (IPA Service)