The protests centred in capital Delhi by various farmer organisations – Samyuktha Kisan Morcha, federatin of 500 farmer bodies - demanding repeal of the recent farm laws passed by the central government, is getting further intensified. The negotiations which union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar held with the striking bodies fizzled out without getting anywhere. And the farmer leaders did not even accept the tea and snacks offered by the government. The hope of the Modi-Amit Shah team to win over the farmers with sleight of hand, does not seem to materialise, for the leaders of protesting agriculturists have declared that they will not be satisfied with anything less than repeal of the new legislation. Taking the protests one more step forward, they have also declared a Bharat Bandh on Tuesday December 8. The protest leaders have also gone to the extent of calling for burning the effigy of the prime minister all over the country on December 5. The truck owners' collective who came out in support of the farmer outfits, have also announced that if the strike is not resolved amicably, they will join the protest. And if that happens, it will critically affect the goods movement of the entire country.
It was during last December that country-wide anti-citizenship law protests happened shaking the country. In the vanguard of that anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) stir were Muslim youth, and for this very reason the BJP government made an all-out attempt to topple it by slapping labels of communalism and terrorism on it – and going by the norm, when it comes to Muslims, any propaganda of that kind will find easy acceptance among a section. And since these youth gathering raised slogans also revealing Muslim identity, even liberal-left quarters at one point had started disowning that protest.
But as it happened, the anti-CAA agitation overcame all such obstacles and evolved into probably the most vibrant popular surge of independent India. It is when that protest is nearing its first anniversary that the national capital is feeling the heat of the farmer agitation. The Sikhs of Punjab are in the forefront of the strike, and they also form the dominant section going to feel the pinch of the new farming laws.
However, in the backdrop of their key role in the protest, the 'Modi-devotee' media and their cyber warriors have started trying to put a Sikh extremist/Khalistan stigma on the farmer agitation; however that propaganda commodity is not selling as easily as Muslim extremism. It is while upholding their Sikh identity, by celebrating Guru Nanak Jayanti and even chanting Sikh prayers at the venue of the strike that they are leading the strike. (As a curious aside, no liberal-left intellectuals have so far come out with the advice that these religious symbols will damage the secular nature of the agitation!). The fact that the customary tactics of the BJP regime to overturn popular agitations in north India do not click now, may be exasperating the BJP camp. It is their wont during any such crisis to whip up anti-Muslim sentiments and divert attention from people's burning problems.
But Punjab is a region where the BJP's rampant anti-Muslim plank does not cut much ice. In this context, the raids by the Centre's investigating agency, Enforcement Directorate at 26 locations of the Muslim organisation Popular Front of India, including its offices and leaders' residences, is likely to be part of a BJP strategy. And it is all too plain that there are few politicians in this country to beat Modi as a crafty tactician adept at fabricating stories about extremism and diverting attention from real issues.
Punjab is a land of people with resilience and tenacity, bearing the legacy of Bhagat Singh. As per media reports the line of tractors carrying protesters along the Delhi's border at Singhu extends for about 20 kilometers. When they have ventured out for the strike, they were equipped with food and essentials to last weeks. And it will not be possible to kill their morale using baton and grenade. Worn-out techniques will not work to resolve this. The sooner the BJP realises this, the better for that party and for the country too.