FPJ Edit: Lessons to be drawn from farmers' protest

FPJ Edit: Lessons to be drawn from farmers' protest

It was not easy to sit on the roads and roadsides and experience the vagaries of nature when the temperature fell to 1 or 2° C during winter and went up to 40+° C during summer. They also lost over 700 of their brethren during the strike. In short, success did not come that easy.

EditorialUpdated: Saturday, December 11, 2021, 08:23 AM IST
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FPJ Edit: Lessons to be drawn from farmers' protest | (ANI Photo)

Agitations generally fail or succeed partially. Few of them succeed fully. Fewer are those which succeed in achieving more than their initial demands. The farmers’ strike, which ended on Thursday, after more than a year, belongs to the rarest of rare agitations. When they started agitating, first, in Punjab and, later, in the rest of the country, their only demand was withdrawal of the three farm laws the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government had hastily enacted. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi ‘apologised’ to the farmers for his inability to convince them and made a promise that the laws would be annulled during the winter session of Parliament, most people saw in it the end of the stir.

Modi would also have thought that the farmers camping at the Delhi-UP, Delhi-Haryana and Rajasthan-NCR borders would immediately pack up and leave for their homes following his announcement. By then they had known the government too well to accept the announcement at its face value. They said they would continue the agitation till the three controversial laws were irrevocably annulled. They also wanted the government to give a commitment on the other demands they made. The most important of them was the minimum support price (MSP) for all agricultural produce, based on the cost of inputs like labour and manure. When the government agreed to set up a committee of experts to decide the MSP, the Kisan Morcha wanted the farmers to get representation.

The government’s plan to end the subsidy on electricity was foiled when the morcha extracted a promise that it would hold wide-ranging consultations with all the stakeholders. They also forced the Centre to consult the states concerned to withdraw nearly 48,000 criminal cases filed against the farmers during the agitation. Not only this, the government had to give it in writing that all the demands would be accepted in both letter and spirit. In other words, the farmers have achieved more than what they had set out to achieve when they began the agitation.

One reason why the government had to cave in was the steely determination of the farmers. It knew that they would not leave the borders, come what might. Even when police and the ruling party goons tried to manhandle the farmers, they resisted them not with their own physical might but with the sagacity and willingness to undergo any suffering. The sight of the farmers offering tea and snacks to the policemen, who got tired after lathi charging them, made a huge impact on public opinion. All the efforts made to call them anti-nationals, Khalistanis and professional agitators were in vain. For once, the government knew that they were taking part in a do-or-die kind of agitation.

The strike received the full-hearted support of the ordinary people because they knew that if there was any food security in the country, it was not because Parliament had enacted a law but because the farmers toil day in and day out to produce foodgrains and vegetables. They knew that farmers were central to the success of the green revolution. It is this support that rattled the government. It knew that if it were to use force to break the sit-in on the borders, it would have to pay a heavy price in the elections due in states like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. But for some minor incidents and the provocations, the agitation remained more or less peaceful. It was truly a Gandhian agitation in the sense that the farmers did not take the law into their own hands.

The agitation succeeded in fostering unity among the farmers, whatever be their ideological predilections. It provides a lesson to all those who are forced to agitate that they should, first, show unity among themselves and be prepared to go the whole hog to have their demands achieved. The farmers had to suffer a lot.

It was not easy to sit on the roads and roadsides and experience the vagaries of nature when the temperature fell to 1 or 2° C during winter and went up to 40+° C during summer. They also lost over 700 of their brethren during the strike. In short, success did not come that easy. It imparts a lesson to Central and state governments that they should not rely on their numerical strength in the legislature alone but should hold consultations with all the stakeholders before enacting any major law in the country

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