The historical significance of the farmers’ agitation

Justice Markandey Katju-
Justice Markandey Katju

Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.

Today, 8th December is being observed as Bharat Bandh, on the call of the agitating farmers’ organizations. I submit that the ongoing farmers’ agitation is not just a fight for the farmers’ interests, it has also historical significance.

Our national objective must be to transform India from an underdeveloped country to a modern highly industrialized one, for unless we do that we will remain condemned to massive poverty, record unemployment, appalling child malnourishment, almost total lack of healthcare and good education, etc which afflict perhaps over 75% of our huge population of 1.35 billion people.

This historical transformation will not be easy, for there are powerful forces, both internal and external, which will strongly oppose it. It will require a mighty people’s struggle to achieve it, but for that unity among the people is absolutely essential.

Till now we have been divided on caste or religious lines, and have often dissipated our energy fighting each other, instead of jointly fighting to create a social and political order in which our people get decent lives. The agitations in India till now were usually either religion-based e.g. Ram Mandir agitation, or caste-based, e.g. agitations of jats, gujars, dalits etc.

The ongoing farmers’ agitation, on the other hand, has risen above caste and religion and has united the people, at least temporarily. Hence it is of historical significance.

India has all that is required to become a highly industrialized country–a huge pool of technical talent and immense natural resources. In 15-20 years we can easily become like North America, Europe, Japan or China, and provide our people a high standard of living.. But to achieve that historical transformation, unity among our people is an absolutely essential prerequisite, which has unfortunately been missing. Now the farmers’ agitation has provided this unity.

It is not possible to predict the outcome of the farmers’ agitation, whether their demands will be accepted by the govt or not. But to my mind, that is not so important. What is significant is that people have displayed their creativity, and forged unity among themselves. Thus the farmers’ agitation has shown that the biggest hurdle before us, viz. our disunity, can be overcome. No doubt this is only the first step in forging our unity, and certain vested interests will still make desperate efforts to divide us on caste and communal lines, but the farmers have shown that such designs can be thwarted.

The Indian farmers, our ‘annadatas’, who are about  60% of our population, have thus created history, as in the Chinese Revolution.