Farmers Protest 2020: Reading the revolution

A selection of columns, opinions that recorded, analysed the biggest on ground protests since the anti-CAA-NRC-NPR movement

farmers protest
Image: AP

As the Union Government’s fifth round of talks with the farmers is now underway, it is important to remember that the lakhs of farmers protesting have stuck to their demands for months. For over a week they have continued a peaceful protest at the Delhi border, after surviving water cannons and tear gas attacks, and overcoming massive barricades ordered by the government, particularly the Haryana government.

The farmers protesting on the Delhi border have come from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and other states to protest the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020- enacted by the Centre during the monsoon session of Parliament earlier this year.

At round five of talks with Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar, food minister Piyush Goyal and minister of state for commerce and industry Som Parkash, the farmers have asked for the government’s commitment to a solution. According to a tweet by news agency ANI the farmers said “they don’t want further discussion and want to know what has the government decided on the farmers’ demand.”

The cabinet ministers present at the meeting had met at the Prime Minister’s residence along with Union home minister Amit Shah earlier in the day on Saturday. Here is a ready recocker of what has happened so far in the biggest farmer led protest in the country in recent times:

Bharat Bandh announced on December 8

Farmers assert they will not back down on their demands for withdrawal of the three laws. Sick of the central government’s patronising behaviour, Indian farmers reiterated their demand of repeal of the three agriculture laws as the whole and sole agenda of the farmers’ movement. Speaking from the Singhu border on December 4, 2020, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) General Secretary Hannan Mollah said that the organisation has called for a Bharat Bandh on December 8, “The central government cannot play with us. They call these discussions, trying to show people that they are trying to talk with us. However, they have spent every discussion trying to convince us about the benefits of these laws. We have studied these laws and understand it better than the central government. Farmers know them better than the government. We don’t want your [the government’s] lecture,” he said.

India’s top sports stars say they will return state awards, in solidarity with farmers

Punjab’s senior most politician, and once Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ally, Parkash Singh Badal, also announced that he will return his Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award in India, the highest is the Bharat Ratna. These eminent citizens are protesting the “betrayal of farmers.” Leading sportspersons and coaches from Punjab who will return their awards, will also march to Delhi in solidarity with the farmers, stated the news reports. Among them are Padma Shri and Arjuna awardee wrestler Kartar Singh, Arjuna awardee Sajjan Singh Cheema and Arjuna awardee hockey player Rajbir Kaur.

Sikhs give befitting reply to being tagged ‘Khalistani’ by the pro government lobby

“Go ahead, call me a Khalistani!” Gurpreet Singh, a Sikh journalist based in Canada writes about the unfairness of dubbing protesting Sikh farmers as Khalistani.The armed struggle for an imaginary Khalistan to be carved out of Punjab had left thousands of people dead between mid- 1980s-mid 1990s. It partly fizzled out because the Sikh militants also lost support because of the excesses committed by them. Although the movement has become irrelevant and mainly survives at a propaganda level mostly in the Sikh Diaspora, it has become convenient for the followers of Modi or the Indian establishment to brand any Sikh as a potential Khalistani to silence any voice of dissent.  

Civil society stands up and speaks in one voice for farmers’ rights

Govt must repeal the new farm laws, say  hundreds of activists who are conducting support meetings both online and pledge their support to the lakhs of farmers fighting against this law. Those speaking in solidarity with the farming community. They say farmers are aware of the impact of the news laws and  that the government must listen to their demands. The organisations including leaders from All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), All India Peoples’ Science Network (AIPSN), All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), All India Mahila Sanskritik Sangthan (AIMSS) ANVESAN Financial Accountability Network (India), Forum for Trade Justice INSAF, Janwadi Lekhak Sangh Nation for Farmers, National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), People First, Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Right to Food Campaign, Working Group on IFIs and others demand that the Union government unconditionally withdraw and “repeal of the new farm laws,” and show its “sincerity to meet the farmers’ demand”.The civil society group has demanded that the government “immediately promulgate an ordinance to stop the implementation of these laws.” They have also sought the “withdrawal of all cases imposed on the struggling farmers and leaders of the farmers’ organisations”. 

Bad journalism was the rotten apple at the protest

Many mainstream media houses launched a bigger attack at farmers’ cause, than water cannons, teargas and lathis did; independent journalists, social media came to the rescue and offered real news. The same mainstream media houses had used the same lines at the same time last year when they were covering the anti-CAA-NRC-NPR protests at Shaheen Bagh on the other end of Delhi (a site also close to Uttar Pradesh-Delhi-Haryana link roads). The  farmers were deemed Anti national/ Khalistani/ terrorists. Women protesters at both places were labeled ‘available for hire’. Biryani ‘being served at the protest’ was on top of the manipulative media’s news menu.

Bharatiya Janata Party officials posted manipulated media to twist protest narrative

In a first, Twitter officially flagged Bharatiya Janata Party’s IT head Amit Malviya’s posts from the farmers protest as ‘manipulated media’ . on, it is The manipulated clip from the farmers’ protests, he tweeted  showed an elderly Sikh farmer being hit with a baton by a policeman in riot gear. However, Malviya had claimed that the man was not hit at all, and instead showed a clip taken from the cop’s POV of the laathi mid air, and the old man running away. He used this ‘manipulated media’ to taunt Rahul Gandhi calling him the “most discredited opposition leader India has seen in a long long time”. 

Right Wing affiliated actor Kangana Ranaut, led the troll army in amplifying fake news, and anti farmer propaganda

Images of farmers being hit with lathis, water cannons, being met with razor wire barricades and marches by paramilitary forces seem to have inspired the self declared ‘nationalist’ right wing affiliated online influences to begin spinning fake news theories in the same way they did when the Shaheen Bagh protests were underway in December 2019. Leading this online onslaught was actor Kangana Ranaut, who shared fake news that the old Punjabi woman farmer (seen in a month old photo) was Bilquis Daadi of Shaheen Bagh. Her myopia and lack of information also lead her to believe and amplify the fake news that these women protestors were available for ‘hire’. Similar fake news of ‘pain protesters’ had been floated by the right wing during the anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh. After thousands called out her fake news laden tweet, the actor was forced to delete the tweet. However many took screenshots and fact-checked Ranaut. Many world famous artists, actors, singers, from Punjab, have since shut her propaganda down and exposed Ranaut’s intent.

Pictures worth a thousand words

The photographs and videos from the Farmer’s movement have shown the world the grit and determination of the agrarian community and the nation’s workers unions. Here are the top 10 Moments of November 27, 2020, when the movement as it marked its second day on the Delhi border. The real time blog that was live on SabrangIndia, for two days placed on record all the action as it unfolded when the lakhs of farmers pitched camp at Delhi borders, and continue to demand their rights from across the country.




Related Articles