The farmer protests going on in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra have been presented to us as a story of poor debt-ridden farmers, suicide-prone victims of the system, whose dependence on the crisis-rid agricultural sector has cost them their livelihood. Nothing can be farther from the truth. While the crisis itself has also been politically engineered by the Congress to divide the Hindu community and destabilize the government, its deeper reason lies in the organized greed and selfishness that has come to afflict all political and social groups, including the farmers.
Stop Glorifying the Protests
There is little doubt that glorification of the farmer has run in our DNA since the time of freedom struggle. But now it has obfuscated into blind support, where we refuse to see the real issue, in our haste to appear sympathetic. So, when Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra saw large-scale farmers’ protests recently, it was not surprising that public opinion automatically reacted with sympathy, keeping in mind the image of the poor, oppressed farmer – a victim of the fallen fortunes of the agrarian sector and apathy by the government.
What happened in Madhya Pradesh has particularly evoked virulent reactions, with the outrage over the death of the six farmers worrying the BJP about its prospects in upcoming elections in Gujarat and in the 2019 general elections. The fact that five of the six farmers shot dead by the police belong to the powerful Patidar community has the party worried, since it was the Patidar community that has traditionally supported the BJP in both Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. Farmers from this community are known to be rich and powerful, and it was the Patidars who Hardik Patel led to protest in Gujarat.
Despite the politically privileged status of rich farmers being known, it is surprising that the popular discourse seeks to analyse the farmers’ agitation simply through the terms being set by a group of rich and politically influential farmer unions. It is well-known that farming unions have been deeply entrenched in the politics of this country since the last 40 years or more, and that, historically, all political parties have had to bend over backwards to please them. That is why we have reached the situation we are in now – a situation where farmers insist on extorting loan waivers from the government. And the more the government gives (like the farm loan waiver given by Yogi Adityanath), the worse does the blackmailing keep becoming.
Yet, we insist on popularly painting protesting farmers in angelic colours. We don’t seem to realize that protests are not always a sign of democracy. Nowadays everyone easily resorts to protests. And the moment we see a mob protesting, our automatic reaction is to accept that it must be right. Especially so if it is a group of debt-ridden farmers. This short-sightedness prevents us from seeing the politics of falsehood in which such protests – essentially blackmail – are often entrenched.
What does a group of protesting farmers actually reveal? At the root, it reveals the conflicts and strife in a utilitarian, greed-based society, where organized ‘interest’ groups are based on nothing but selfishness. What they advocate in the name of granting their ‘rights’ is essentially an agenda of their petty interests. Such mass groups – farmers or traders or other unions or political or religious groups – can never be expected to work for the national interest. Because that would mean performing duties instead of just demanding ‘rights’. If there is ever a conflict between their short-term, petty interests and some national goal, clearly they would end up protesting for their interests and ‘rights’.
And the situation is set to get much worse. We are already in the thick of a time where scarcity of food and water will commonly make people resort to violence against each other. People will soon begin to kill each other for basic essentials, which we have destroyed by our greed.
The case is not limited to the farmers only. The country has, recently, seen agitations by Dalits (recall the outrageous and brazen Jai Bheem Army in Uttar Pradesh – with new evidence of how it has been defrauding people), by Marathas, by Patidars, by Jats, by students, protests over Jallikattu sport and numerous others.
Just like the farmers’ protests, even the other protests need to be treated skeptically, instead of being automatically glorified. There is clear evidence of manipulation to subvert national interest. Consider the protests by Tamil Nadu farmers held for several days outside the Rashtrapati Bhawan in the capital, about two months back. Not much heed was given to it by parties, and later there were conspiracies that the protests – where farmers were seen eating rats – might have been funded by some sources. Not surprising, given that it has been a historically common sight to see social activists and organizations and parties hobnobbing with farmers and funding them and ‘participating’ with them in various agitations.
In the case of Madhya Pradesh, while we are not drawing comparisons with Tamil Nadu farmers, it is important to note that the protests are entirely being led by some powerful unions, with prominent names like ex-RSS person Shiv Kumar Sharma, and, farmer-MP, Raju Shetti, cropping up.
The government has no option but to yield to such blackmails. To give an example from the recent protests, when the BJP got worried about losing the vote of the Patidar farmers, it not only provided crores of compensation to the dead farmers’ families, but also ensured that the police looked the other way as rioting farmers engaged in hooliganism, destroyed property and looted lakhs of cash from toll booths. There was also proof being circulated in form of videos, where police officers are seen lamenting that Congress leaders had failed to keep their promise of maintaining peace while organizing farmers’ protests. In another video recorded proof, Congress MLA, Shakuntala Khatik, is seen inciting the farmers to violence.
And now it is openly known that the Congress is planning ‘farmer agitations’ across the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat also. Moreover, since the past few weeks, the leader of a powerful farm union, who was a BJP supporter, could be seen campaigning against the party, saying that asking people to vote for the BJP was a big mistake. This shows that seeds of the present unrest were sown well in advance by politically motivated elements. The only thing left was to trigger violence amongst the mob, which the union leaders succeeded in doing.
And all this when the state government had met all the demands of the farmers, except for two – loan waivers and remunerative prices for farm produce. If this is not outright blackmail (with the backing of popular sympathy of course!), then one doesn’t know what is.
The fact that the politics behind the protests are clear and that meeting most of the demands also did not pacify the protestors shows that we have entered times where more will always be less.
None of these protests are a good sign – for the society. They do not reflect on the government, but on the fact that organized groups have become more greedy, self-centered and extortionist than ever, necessitating the need to save the country’s unity from such attempts to divide by organising the turning away of the country from the gospel of materialism and the utilitarian spirit accompanying it.