Justice Markandey Katju-
Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.
I have been a staunch supporter of the present ongoing farmers’ agitation, calling it ( in my articles and interviews ) a historical event as it has broken the barriers of caste and religion which have been dividing us, and united the Indian people. Thus it has overcome our disunity, which was the main obstacle to our nation’s progress.
However, I must also point out a mistake that the farmers are making, and that is their strategy of blocking roads for ingress and egress to and from Delhi.
The farmers’ leaders must realize that this strategy will lose the farmers’ public sympathy, as it causes immense difficulties for people living in Delhi and others who have to commute to and from it. Delhi residents are dependent on food grains, vegetables, milk, fuel etc which all come from outside, as nothing is produced within Delhi. If the roadblocks continue much further it will cause immense suffering to the 20 million people living in Delhi, and others who have to use these roads for their daily work. The farmers are presently getting wide support from non-farmers, but they will lose it by this strategy of blocking roads.
What should the farmers have done, since there is a deadlock between them and the government? In my opinion, they should accept the wise suggestion of the Supreme Court that the government should withhold implementation of the 3 laws to which the farmers are objecting, and the farmers should suspend (not cancel) their agitation. The farmers may continue their assembly near Delhi, but not block roads. Having accepted the suggestion of the Supreme Court, they should demand setting up of a Farmers Commission, consisting of representatives of the farmers organizations, govt representatives, and agricultural experts, to consider all aspects of the farmers’ problems, and the consensus which emerges from proceedings of this Commission ( which may require several sittings extending over several months ), to which all sides agree, can then be enacted as a law.
If the farmers accept the Supreme Court’s suggestion, they will have thrown the govt on the backfoot, as then the govt will be blamed if it does not accept the Court’s suggestion and withhold implementation of the 3 laws (which it can do by issuing an Ordinance). The farmers’ leaders are thus missing a golden opportunity.
In a recent webinar held by an international organization called Ibaadatkhana, in which Rakesh Tikait, one of the leaders of the farmers’ agitation and I (amongst others ) participated, I mentioned this suggestion to Mr Tikait, and he said he will convey it to the Coordination Committee consisting of the 40 farmers’ organizations who are leading the farmers’ agitation.
It is hoped that the farmers accept this proposal and correct their mistake.