The Supreme Court-appointed panel to mediate the dispute over the farm reform laws may well be stillborn. Even before its constitution, one of the four members nominated by the court on Tuesday has resigned. Bhupinder Singh Mann, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, who came under pressure from the protesting farmers, said his proBhupinder Singh Mann, president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, who came under pressure from the protesting farmers, said his pro-reform views rendered him unfit to sit on a committee meant to resolve the impasse between them and the Government-reform views rendered him unfit to sit on a committee meant to resolve the impasse between them and the Government.
In a statement on Thursday, Mann said he was recusing himself from the committee and ‘will always stand with my farmers and Punjab’. Given the fact that the farmers’ unions had earlier decided to boycott the SC-appointed panel, it is unlikely it will serve any purpose. Bridging the distance between the farmers and the government seems impossible when the farmers insist on the outright repeal of the three reform laws while the Government is ready for everything but the repeal. In other words, the siege of the capital is set to continue indefinitely.
How unreasonable the farmers are can be gauged from the fact that they assert that the apex court has no role to play in mediating the dispute between them and the government. The court intervened only following a clutch of PILs seeking, among other things, the eviction of farmers from public thoroughfares. Realising the sensitivity of the situation, the court sought to defuse the tense situation by constituting a panel of farm experts. Aside from the four experts nominated to the panel, farmers were to name their own representatives for thrashing out the dispute in good faith, but the farmers, suspecting a trap, boycotted the SC proceedings after initially showing enthusiasm.
In short, despite the SC intervention, the situation is back to square one, with the farmers now bent on staging a tractor rally on Rajpath on Republic Day. As a consequence, apprehensions about the protest in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi on a day of heightened security threat perception are not misplaced. The proposed tractor rally is a grave provocation to the guardians of law and order and must be called off immediately.
Meanwhile, the farmers need to be wary of the self-styled intellectual-activists who have insinuated themselves into the dispute. They seem motivated more by their animus against the government than any concern for their welfare. The intransigent attitude of the farmers does not help their cause. Considering that after 50-odd days, the protest has failed to animate farmers from the rest of the country, confining it essentially to the Punjab farmers with a sprinkling from Haryana, shows the limitations of the protest. Should the government harden its stand in the face of farmers’ obduracy, the force of public opinion will be behind it. Farmers should quit when the going is still good.