By Sushil Kutty
“Farming is a profession of hope,” said someone and passed on, never to take up ‘hope’, and because of that he lived a long life and didn’t have to escape debt by hanging himself from the tree next to the tube-well. The farmers are leaving Delhi’s borders and many have already left, after 15 months of squatting on the highways that plough through into Delhi where sits the disruptor-in-chief and his army of ‘yes men’.
All because of three farm laws which sought to restrict farmers. From ‘deciding’ it came to ‘dictating’—the powerful State hell-bent on putting unsolicited order in the farmer’s life. Ambani and Adani, who knew them? The farmers had nothing to do with the ‘moneybags’ and if the treasure-troves had bought the government to do their bidding, that onion wasn’t going to peel.
The farmers took up cudgels for themselves. For far too long they had taken up cudgels for others. Sometimes you have to fight your own battles, and this was no skirmish, this was War! Like the invaders of the bygone centuries, they did not rush into ‘Dilli’ for the slaughter. This march on Delhi was to fight for rights—robbed by the mighty State.
The ‘Black laws’, they called ‘Oppression’. They asked for them to be repealed. The tractors spoke for them. Indeed, the world spoke for them—Greta, Rihanna and Kamala’s sister Maya. But the State played deaf, and acted dumb. Eleven times they had met to talk sense but the State had other things in mind, Greta and Rihanna notwithstanding.
The problem is right of centre is a long way from right. The farmers were not dumb, definitely not deaf. They heard loud and clear. The war was out in the open. The battle was joined. The “townships” at the borders wouldn’t dismantle on their own, the Modi regime was on its own. There was very little support. And the ‘border’ erupted in spontaneous expressions of disgust and rebellion off and on.
If violence spilled over, it wasn’t because of the red of the Lal Qila—it was because the farmers saw red and the tractors trod on! The tricolour and the symbolism of Republic Day! Everything was tried to bring the farmers to drop the flag, leaving Delhi’s border unguarded! Of all the gall.
But the farmers were there first, long before Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. “If you call us terrorists and Khalistanis, rogues and misfits, greedy gluttons living lavish lifestyles, then it is time you got a taste of what’s coming your way!”
Looking back, the 15 months farmers ringed Delhi and sat in defiance of weather and the State’s weathercocks were not easy. The “townships” that came up at the borders housed fiery spirit and resplendent hope in equal measure.
There were some “untoward happenings”. Can they be dismissed as aberrations better left buried—the gang-rape, the burning and the horrible lynching? Nostalgia tinged with blood! The farmers have been variously described as “middlemen” and “zamindars” and “bloodthirsty Orangutans” who had nothing to do with the plight of farmers, 80 percent of whom were not around Delhi like the rings of Saturn!
But the first farmer was not Neanderthal and neither were these. And, whoever ever thought one day farmers would be called ‘Andolanjeevi’? For sure, there’s never been a bigger disruptor than this Prime Minister, as if demonetization wasn’t enough? Whatever takes hold of this man can be a topic for a thesis; only thing is the doctorate will elude the thesis!
That said, of the several unforgettable incidents of the farmers’ ‘Andolan’, the one that stood out was the very forgettable ‘Lakhimpur-Kheri’. Why would anyone—father and son duo?—orchestrate a crushing and a lynching at, of all the places, a green glade? Maybe there’s a cool gurgling brook in the vicinity, but nobody that day felt thirsty after the bloodletting!
Yup, it is tough to be a farmer at the best of times. And if 80 percent of them are ‘ryots’, why did they not come out in the streets showing solidarity? It defies explanation, except that the 80 percent now don’t have the nostalgia of a “farmer uprising” to fall back on, to mark time in history.
The farmers have dismantled the tents and temper and gone home, tractors piled high with mattresses and ACs; tent poles and bedrolls. The weather has turned cold, but there is an air of victory travelling with the caravan back to home and hearth—to the ‘Khet’ and the ‘Khalihan.’ The Sikh and the Punjabi farmer—the Jat and the rest of Western UP—everyone familiar with hoe and how?
Did the farmers win, snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat? At least there is that spring in the air, and in the step. The 3 black laws are history and Modi accepted all the other conditions of ‘defeat’. As the tractors tread the path home, there’s the feeling they will be coming this way again! That is because there is this other feeling that ‘India is a Wounded Civilisation’, an ‘Area of Darkness’, crying out for a ‘Million Mutinies Now’! (IPA Service)