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.
A lot of claptrap and drivel has been spouted by media persons and others, who have been whining about the breaching of the barricades, clashes with the police, and the storming of the Red Fort by agitating farmers on Republic Day. The farmers have been portrayed as an unruly mob of hooligans and crazy anarchists, who will create chaos in society unless disciplined and put down by the use of force. The hoisting of a Sikh religious flag, in particular, has been depicted and emphasized to show that the farmers’ agitation has been taken over by anti-national elements.
But what is the truth? The truth is that what the agitating farmers did on 26th January is of great significance, and an achievement portending the coming times in the country. I have already written briefly about this in my article ‘ Long live the Indian farmers ‘ published in indicanews.com. I may now elaborate.
As regards hoisting of a religious flag on the Red Fort by the agitators, in my opinion, this was just a trifle whose import has been exaggerated and distorted, as if it was the work of anti-national belligerents, when the truth is that it was the work of angry, emotionally charged and overwrought youth who had been shivering in the cold for over 60 days at the Delhi border, frustrated by the seemingly endless and deadlocked talks between their leaders and the government. Was hoisting of a Sikh flag on the Red Fort such a great anti-national act, or was it the misdeeds of our political leaders over decades that have brought the nation into the terrible crisis it is in today ( see my article ‘ Why I will not celebrate Republic Day ‘ published in indicanews.com)? The hoisting of the flag harmed no one, but the misdeeds of our leaders has brought a country of 135 crores to the verge of ruin, with record unemployment, appalling level of child malnourishment ( see Global Hunger Index ), massive farmers distress ( about 3.5 lac farmers have committed suicide over the last 25 years, with about 30 suicides still taking place daily ), almost total lack of healthcare and good education for our masses, skyrocketing prices of food and fuel, atrocities on minorities, etc.
Also, it has been alleged by Rakesh Tikait, one of the farmer’s leaders, that in fact this hoisting of a religious flag on Red Fort was done by agent provocateurs of the government.
The events on 26th January have shown the following :
1. The Indian farmers cannot be befooled by the government, which has been taken over by the corporates. The government’s attempt to drag on the talks so that the agitation fizzles out ( like Anna Hazare’s movement ), and its Goebbelsian propaganda to defame and brand the agitation as the work of Khalistanis, Pakistanis, maoists, tukde tukde gang etc, has deceived no one and come to naught.
Today’s Indian farmers are not like their forefathers earlier, who were mostly illiterate, politically unconscious peasants, like those depicted in Premchand’s famous novel ‘Godaan’. Today’s farmers are largely educated, and aware of what is going on in politics and society.
2. The movement is from below upwards. In other words, the driving force behind the movement is the farmers themselves, and they keep a careful eye on their leaders, who dare not betray them for their own personal benefit.
3. Some people may think that the farmer’s agitation can be smashed and the farmers dispersed by force, by using the police or army. But in this connection certain things must be kept in mind :
(a) Farmers constitute 60-65% of India’s population of 135 crores, i.e. they are a huge force of about 75 crores ( 750 million ), two and a half times the population of the USA. All of them could not possibly assemble at the Delhi border, but they are almost all supporting the movement, as its demand of remunerative prices for their produce is shared by all Indian farmers.
To shoot at the agitating farmers is bound to result in immediate civil unrest, turmoil and guerilla type incidents, initially in Punjab, Haryana, western UP and Uttarakhand, but which will later spread everywhere.
(b) The mob at St Petersburg in Russia in January 1905 could be dispersed by shooting by Cossack troops on Bloody Sunday, but this mob did not consist of farmers but of factory workers and urban laborers and lower-middle-class people. The troops who fired on them, on the other hand, were mostly from the peasantry. So they belonged to different classes.
On the other hand, the Indian farmers and the Indian policemen and soldiers both come from the same peasant class ( a soldier is a peasant in uniform ). So to order policemen or soldiers to shoot at farmers is bound to create disaffection towards the government in them, with unforeseeable consequences. After all, they will be shooting at their own fathers and brothers.
4. Some people complain of the illegal acts done by the agitating farmers on 26th January like breaching the police barricades. But in such a massive movement such incidents are bound to occur, and the movement itself cannot be condemned for this reason. I have mentioned in my article ‘ The historical significance of the farmers’ agitation ‘ published in indicanews.com that the ongoing Indian farmers movement is historical.
As said by a great Asian leader, a historical people’s movement is not like ” a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery. It cannot be so leisurely or gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained or magnanimous.”