Talking down to farmers is the worst way to engage with them

First they were silent, then they said things which made the silence seem more appealing. Here are some things senior politicians should not have said to farmers at all!

farmers protestImage: PTI

On the face of it, the Union government has held multiple rounds of talk with farmer leaders to try and convince them to accept certain amendments in 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. However, the farm leaders want these Laws repealed.

Now, two theories seem to have been put in play by the political class. The first is ‘divide and rule’, by speaking to selective pro-government groups of farmers, by addressing one section or state and ignoring others, and by dividing alliances. The other is to use high officials, senior politicians, and social media influencers to discredit the moment. While social media stars can still be called out for their ignorance, words of senior politicians echo longer, for they reflect the mood of the party in power.

After months of silence on the issue, one by one top ministers of the Union Cabinet are now speaking on the protest. Not one has spoken up for the farmers. Here are some of the things the ministers have said recently.

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister: “Farmers are being misled about the agriculture reforms” and he added that the “reforms that have taken place is exactly what farmer bodies and even opposition parties have been asking over the years”. He claimed that the “new agricultural reforms have given farmers new options and new legal protection”; he also said  that the criticism seen now “is based on mere apprehensions” and that “confusion is being spread in society”. He also accused the Opposition of spreading “lies”.

Narendra Singh Tomar, Agriculture Minister:  He had blamed “anti-Modi elements” for the deadlock in the government’s talks with farmers. According to Tomar, there were “rumours” being spread about the nature of the bills, and that “those who believe in the Left ideology are influencing these protests. Attempts are being made to release traitors. This is condemnable and these elements are stopping the movement from arriving at a verdict. And these elements are not farmers, but those who are against Modi.”

Nitin  Gadkari, Road Transport & Highways, and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Minister: He said the photograph of “a person who supports the Naxalite movement” was seen during the farmers’ agitation against the three new farm laws, according to him “some elements that are using this farmers’ movement to defame them and take the agenda to another angle”. He also said, “New laws give farmers more choices, are intended to increase incomes of farmers and added that the laws”can be improved” if unions agitating against the new laws resume discussions with the government. His ministry claimed that the farmers’ agitation is incurring a loss of Rs 3 crore each day in toll plaza revenues. The ministry wrote to the Punjab government to “resume toll collection at the earliest,” a move to put pressure on the agitation that has set up camp on highway and toll entries leading to the national capital.

Piyush Goyal, Railways Minister: He claimed that the protests had been “infiltrated by Leftists and Maoists”. Addressing the 93rd annual convention of FICCI, Goyal had said, “…we now realise that the so-called farmer agitation hardly remains a farmer agitation. It is almost infiltrated by Leftists and Maoist elements, a flavour of which we saw over the last two days, when there were extraneous demands to release people who have been put behind bars for anti-national activities.”  

Ravi Shankar Prasad, Law and Justice Minister: In a ‘famer outreach’ programme in Bihar, said the ‘tukde tukde gang’, a term invested by the right- wing, was taking advantage of the farmer protests. “If in the guise of farmer protests, those breaking up the country, the tukde tukde people, fire from shoulders of the movement, then the government will take strict action against them,” he said.

Smriti Irani, Textiles and Women & Child Development Minister: She accused “radical ‘khalistani’ elements” of “trying to take advantage” of this crisis. “What kind of a movement is this where people are raising slogans like ‘Death to Modi’?” asked Irani.

Nirmala Sitharaman, Finance Minister: She said the three farm laws have nothing to do with the minimum support price (MSP), so doubts arising on these laws about MSP may not have an adequate base. “If you compare the last six years with any six years ever before or the six years before us, the quantum of procurement, the price given and the price announced well in time for the farmer to prepare, has risen by at least one-and-half-times,” she said, adding “It is unbelievable that this particular allegation is being levelled against the government.”  

World leaders have taken notice of farmers who are currently protesting the farm laws, since November 26 on the Delhi border, and for months before that in their home states. The farmers have been firm on their demand from the government to repeal the laws. They have so far rejected all offers of amendments to the law made by the Union government. The Centre has so far been firm that it will not repeal the laws. As Delhi continues to freeze under coldwave conditions, lakhs of farmers are now on the 22nd day of their peaceful protest. 



SC advice to government seen as moral victory for farmers

Farmers protest intensifies: Delhi-Noida Link Road closed

Stop defaming peasant movement: Farmers reject latest gov’t  proposal

Farmers call the peasant struggle a national patriotic movement

Farmers are being misled about agriculture reforms: PM

15 farmers die in two weeks, the central government continues to refuse farmers’ demands

Are the new farm laws constitutional?



Related Articles