One of the front line leaders of the citizenship protest that hit the country in late 2019 and early 2020, was a student of JNU from Bihar Sharjeel Imam. Despite having taken a B.Tech and M.Tech from IIT-Bombay with creditable grades, Sharjeel did not go after any lucratice job that would easily be available for one with such qualifications; instead chose to study history in JNU. The now 32-year old youth, who is seized of the reality that Muslims are the most alienated social section in India, considers that the right course is to stand by the most oppressed section. That was how he assumed the mobilizing role of the stir against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) - both aimed at stripping Indian Muslims of their citizenship. With no ties to any organisation, Sharjeel was playing a co-ordinating role for the voices against the CAA.
That was how Sharjeel Imam became one of the leaders of the Shaheen Bagh protest. The sangh parivar, who were nervous about his organising capability, was soon found filing cases against him in five BJP-ruled states, slapping major charges including under the notorious UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act). It is now when Sharjeel's arrest completes a year that the farmers' strike in Delhi runs into a kind of violence that baffles everybody and then cases are filed against leaders of the farmer protests, again slapping charges including under UAPA. On the whole, the method used by the Modi government to take on the farmer stir replicates what it did to dissipate the anti-CAA agitation. When the anti-CAA had gained strength overcoming the diabolic machinations against it, and attracted international attention, the sangh parivar implemented its scheme of inciting anti-Muslim riots and thwarting the agitation. The sangh infiltrated the protest sites including Shaheen Bagh and even resorted to gun fire. And when that was caught red-handed, the outfits unleashed riots.
The farmer protesters assert that on 26 January, the stooges of ruling party sent trouble-makers into their clusters and triggered trouble, resembling the pattern of infiltrating the anti-CAA protest and fomenting skirmishes. And recall that following the so engineered Delhi riots, the student organisers of the citizenship protests were charged under draconian laws and were recklessly arrested. Many of those arrested then, are still in jail. In the same model, using the ruckus that happened on Republic Day under the cover of farmer protests, the central home department has started a clamp down on farmer leaders.
As per reports, cases have been filed under UAPA and National Security Act (NSA) against Yogendra Yadav, Medha Patkar, Rakesh Tikait, leading one to infer that planned moves are afoot to put the farmer strike leaders and exponents in jail not letting them see the light of day. At many levels the farmer protest bears resemblance to the citizenship protests. The anti-CAA movement was not masterminded or mobilised by any particular organisation or political party. It was a spontenous move launched by student leaders mostly belonging to the community thought to be the target of, and hunted by the citizenship law. Naturally, the marks and symbols of that community were widely visible in the protests. The farmer protests are not the product of any well-knit body. It was an organic response of the farmers who would be directly hit by the new farm laws. The Sikhs, who form a majority of the farmers of Haryana and the Punjab, were the dominant section of that protest. Again naturally, Sikh signs and symbols were widely raised across the protests.
During the anti-CAA agitation, the BJP leadership beginning with Narendra Modi had tried to demonise the anti-CAA protests in the context of the Muslim symbols that accompanied it. It was in such context that Modi made the discredited statement at that time that 'one can recognise the protesters by their clothes'. But it was not the sangh parivar alone who made an issue of the Muslim marks of the protests. Even the 'left progressive' block had raised objections to the presence of the religious identity of the protests and chosen to keep away. What now turns curious is the fact that among those who had raised that objection then, there was also Yogendra Yadav, who is now facing government's action in the name of the farmer agitation.
In a way it is both surprising and consoling that the 'progressives' have not taken such an approach in the name of the Sikh symbols in the farmer protests. But the BJP has been busy endeavouring to float a narrative that the farmers' protests is a Khalistani extremism. When the anti-CAA protest organiser Sharjeel Imam was arrested, there weren't any protests amplified by the progressive and human rights camp. The basis for the relative indifference was that Sharjeel represented a protest that had born symbols of Muslim indentity. It is when Sharjeel's arrest is crossing a year without much hubbub that a government plot to arrest an array of prominent social and political activists of Delhi slapping black laws is unfolding. It is but natural for a fascist regime to resort to ingenious means to decimate counter voices and resistance. If their target yesterday was Muslims, today it is the farmer leaders. But the key pre-requisite of defence is that the victims of fascism should come together in undiluted solidarity.