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.
Our national objective must be to transform India from an underdeveloped to a highly developed, highly industrialized, and prosperous country, for only then will we be able to abolish our massive poverty, massive unemployment, massive malnourishment, and other social evils.
For achieving this, a mighty united, historical people’s struggle is necessary, which till now was missing. Most of the agitations in India were either religion-based, e.g. the Ram Mandir agitation, or caste-based, e.g. the Jat, Gujar, or Dalit agitations. The Anna Hazare against corruption soon fizzled out.
The present ongoing Indian farmers’ agitation, however, is the first step since the Independence Struggle towards a general upsurge of the Indian masses. It’s the greatest achievement is that it has smashed the feudal barriers of caste and religion and risen above it. It has thereby forged unity among our masses, who were till now divided on the basis of caste and religion, and often fighting with each other. This unity was absolutely essential for a genuine people’s struggle against the system which was keeping India backward.
Every practical step of a real united movement of the people is more important than a hundred declarations and pronouncements. Till now our politicians had sought to polarise society for winning elections on the basis of caste and communal vote banks, and for that end, they often incited caste and communal hatred and strife. It was evident that electoral politics would keep the people divided. But the Indian farmers, using their creativity, have introduced an alternative to electoral politics, and have thereby plunged the government into a state of confusion.
All the tricks used by the government in crushing earlier agitations do not now seem to be working. The government, and the ‘godi media’, which was its ally, had sought to brand the agitating farmers as Khalustanis, Pakistanis, maoists, ‘tukde tukde gang’, anti-nationals, etc but these are deceiving no one. The legitimacy of the demand of the farmers for a remunerative price for their produce is apparent to all, even to the soldiers and policemen who are mostly peasants in uniform ( or sons of peasants ). A vast number of other sections of Indian society, e.g. industrial workers, intellectuals, lawyers, Bollywood stars, ex-servicemen etc are supporting the farmers. Thus it is almost the whole people who have come out against the ruling Establishment. The stimulus for the forthcoming mighty, united historical people’s struggle has thus been provided by the Indian farmers.
No doubt this future people’s struggle will be arduous, and witness many twists and turns, and may last 10-15 years, but it will ultimately result in creating a political and social order under which the country rapidly industrializes, and the people get a high standard of living and decent lives. The farmers’ agitation is thus having an educational effect, for it is educating the Indian people that unless they get united and rise above casteism and communalism, and become themselves actors in the political scene, instead of being led by the nose by our crafty, selfish, reactionary politicians, they will remain condemned to their present sordid and miserable condition. The farmers have thereby untapped the powerful latent energy within the Indian masses, like the energy liberated when an atom is split.
No doubt the farmers’ agitation has begun with economic demands, but it will inevitably create political demands of a sweeping nature, and progressive elements from all sections of society who sympathize with the suffering and oppressed people will ensure this.
The Indian people, with their tremendous potential ( India has a huge pool of technical talent and immense natural resources ), are literally straining to go into action, but till now their ardor ran waste because of our feudal caste and communal divisions, cleverly manipulated by our politicians for their self-interest. The rapid growth of the farmers’ movement has kept the politicians ( of all parties ) lagging behind, and the farmers have wisely told them to keep at a distance,
We are living in stormy times, and Indian history is now marching at a breathtaking pace, with every week signifying more than years of tranquillity. The sleeping giant, of which Napoleon spoke, is awakening from his long slumber.