As farmers' protests enter the sixth week along the borders of Delhi, braving the cold and continued attempts of the central government to undermine it, doubts regarding its victory run high. Though negotiations were listed for Sunday, it was not known if the government would concede to the farmers' demands. This fear is fueled by the anti-people nature that the centre perpetrated and sustained in the last six years. It is insensitive to democratic needs and protests. The Modi-led government is dictatorial. The unilateral passing of the farm reforms without any discussion on the floor attests to the same.
Though agriculture is in the concurrent list, states have a pivotal role in implementation. With no ear for reservations, the Centre passed the three controversial farm reforms without heed to the opinions of the states or farmers or even the resistance within the parliament. The Centre went forward with reforms to cement its corporate ties. The protests within the parliament or even allied parties deserting the alliance, could not impact the decision. Once the reforms were passed, protests from Punjab and elsewhere made into Delhi.
Farmers' protest is the biggest challenge faced by the Modi government in six years. However, kneeling to the demands of protests is not in sync with the pride, nature or agenda of the Centre. They have assessed that if they concede to the demands of the protests, the opposition would gain strength raising challenges for the government in due time. Hence, the government has been seeking to quash the protests than concede to the demands. The government attempt to label protesting farmers as Naxalites, Maoists, Khalistanis and anti-nationals is a much-played tactic. They have been prolonging negotiations in the hope that the strength of the protests die out making it easier for them to quash it. The country is watching if the Centre's whims shall win against Sikh farmers renowned for their resilience and resistance.
In reality, Modi and Amit Shah draw strength from challenges and protests. The Centre is eager to break down the existing framework to replace them with their agenda and history with their imprints. This was the intention behind the construction of a new building of parliament and the division of Jammu and Kashmir. The renaming of the planning commission as NitiAyog, renaming of roads, demonetization, GST, building Ram Mandir on Babri Masjid site, statue of Vallabhai Patel trying to overshadow the popularity of Nehru are all attempts at the same. The attempts are towards building a dictatorial regime replacing the secular, pluralist one. The Centre continues to nurse the interests of the urban, middle-class, and corporates. Rather than being disturbed by the protests, they await nullifying these resistances and turning it in their favour. This was exposed during the anti-CAA protests. The worry of the protests being undermined is rooted in this history.
The Centre avoided the winter session of the parliament under the garb of Covid-19. One could say that the government preemptively gauged that the meeting of the parliament as the farmers' protests continue would fuel the strength of the protests. The parliament now is a venue to push the Centre's agenda as opposed to a forum to voice the public opinion, and is met with the same regard as Gujarat legislative assembly did when Modi was the chief minister. The convening of the legislative assembly was of little concern when Modi was the CM. There were no significant debates on the floor. Now the Centre is likewise faced with a situation when the democratic legislative process is undermined and power is concentrated in the hands of a few.
There are no debates within the ruling alliance let alone with the opposition. Agenda are put forth without a discussion in the parliament. The speakers consent to the same. Despite the federal structure of Indian democracy, states ruled by opposition parties and the centre are in constant tension. The opposition is quashed by unleashing central agencies. State machinery continues to hound members of the opposition, social activists, organizations and journalists. From citizens with equal rights, minorities are relegated to be victims. Democratic India is ailing.
Covid-19 and lockdown have been used as state weapons to push forth their fascist agenda and to victimize the vulnerable. Together with the health front, democracy has also been overwrought with a disease. The disease which brought the world to a standstill might be resolved with the introduction of a vaccine. It is expected that life would return to normal in 2021. But Indian democracy continues to be plagued. The strength of protests to retrieve its well-being is on test with farmers' protests. In the coming days, the Indian public will witness the final round of negotiations between the Modi-Shah regime and farmers.