in India — by Vidya Bhushan Rawat — January 27, 2021
The tractor rally on Republic Day in Delhi allegedly turned violent at several places as the protesters clashed with the police and tried to remove the barricade but these incidents could be termed as stray as given the nature of it things could have gone out of control. Ofcourse, the attempt to run through a tractor trolley in and around ITO and then hoisting the flag at the Red Fort, could have been avoided but then any movement which ignited people, fill them with the feeling of an uncaring and irresponsible state.
The problem is not about supporting or condoning the violence of either farmers or police. That India is deeply divided on caste and religious line is a fact today. A few days back when the US President Joe Bidan’s Presidential office was inaugurated, each speaker emphasised about building up bridges and working to bring people together. In India, the ruling party, its leaders, ministers continue to spew venom and speak in a language of ‘we versus them’. Sadly, it reflects their strategy to allow the movement to be prolonged and then create differences among them and use them for political and corporate profit.
In fact, a few days back, I was asked about the farmers’ protests by a friend and I sincerely informed him that if it is prolonged then I fear, it could be used by BJP because longer a protest, bigger the changes of its getting derailed from the original motives. Also, RSS and BJP has used the contradictions to suit their political interest hence the decision of Kisan March with tractor on Republic Day was great to ignite the spirit of the people but had risk of getting out of hand if not properly managed. It is important for all of us to understand that a movement or protest which is prolonged might go out of hand of the political leaders and therefore they have bigger responsibility when giving such a call. There are many who are using these platforms to strengthen their ‘political clout’ and looking for some ‘miracle’ to happen that ‘establishes’ them on the ‘national scene’. In the social media digital age, protests are fast becoming ‘event managements’ led by powerful groups. It may look beautiful in the age of ‘fake narrative’ created by diverse pro and anti-groups but anything which is a ‘platform’ fast brings diverse groups into it. The fight for the rights of the farmers and agricultural workers is too big an issue to be handled by one or two organisations. And therefore, it should have been there in the minds of the organisers when they gave a call for the tractor march in Delhi that some people might hijack the protest and defame the entire protest which has been peaceful so far.
It is also surprising that Delhi, UP and Haryana police did not have a proper coordination. When you start lathicharging tractors and stopping people once it has been allowed, the result will be chaos and anarchy. Police need proper training, persuasion skills with mass movements. You can’t criminalise a protest through such a beastly attitude. Most of the time violence happens when a situation comes where physical power becomes more important and negotiations fail. Why should people be disallowed to participate in a rally? Why can’t our republic day and other national events become people’s festivals like the religious festivals we celebrate so powerfully?
The biggest villain in this entire exercise is our ruling party and its public relations media who have been trying to find ways and means to demean these protests. ‘ No protest should turn violent’, we must not allow violence, many ‘moaned’ , it is a ‘threat to democracy’ suggesting many, it is terrorism said those who demolished Babari masjid and celebrated it. Let us see this dubious role of the Brahmanical media in India related to ‘movements.
The first big political unrest happened in 1989 related to acceptance of Mandal Commission Report and the entire media was up in arms against V P Singh. So much so that even the ‘secular’ patrakars abused VP in the worst ever language. One of the most honest and efficient political leaders of our time was made a brutal politician. Even today, the Savarna journalists, activists abuse him the most.
The media supported the savarana students’ protest against Mandal and showed ‘police brutalities. In October 1990, the same media supported the Ram mandir campaign launched by BJP and RSS and several Sangh karyakarta termed as ‘karsevaks’ were killed in police firing. The BJP and Sangh made them ‘shaheeds’ and spoke loudly against police violence.
After that the first major crisis against the government came in the form of Anna Movement which was wholeheartedly supported by the savarna media. Many thought that all decisions should be taken at Ram Leela Ground and Kejriwal was looking to be the ‘prime minister’ of the country. Immediately after Anna, we had the Nirbhaya case when police barricading was broken and Delhi saw ‘revolution’. It made and unmade many new netas.
We all know that Anna and Nirbhaya narrative helped the BJP and RSS in not only dislodging congress but vilifying the Gandhi family permanently. After Modi assumed power we saw many protest movements such students against Rohit Vemula’s institutional murder, JNU students movement, farmers movement and anti CAA-NRC protests. All these protests had been massive and spontaneous but shamefully, our media anchors made every effort to discredit them. They stood with the power, the mighty state and its brutal police force. During the Mandal period, Newstrack of India today showed visuals of police beating students and carrying the dead body of a person in an undignified way and helped create a false narrative against V P Singh, despite the fact when he appealed to students to stop protesting. Contrary to this, Narendra Modi has never bothered to speak about the issues to farmers. He does not speak and his party people, rather than taking things seriously, launch offensive, term farmers as terrorists.
As I said, no movement can be peaceful if a solution does not come. Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose differed with Congress and Gandhi because they felt that Gandhi as well as the party were compromising with the British and did not utter a word about Chandra Singh Garhwali and his brave soldiers of Garhwal Rifles who refused to fire on their own countrymen. That was unprecedented. During the emergency JP called the police and military not to obey the orders of the government How can that JP whose political chelas are in power ignore that factor.
Violence of a movement should be seen in its size and not because it happened. Whatever happened at many places in Delhi was a serious breach of trust but for that you can’t blame the entire movement because no one party can claim to lead it. The commonality between the aggressive and not so aggressive groups are the farm laws. If the government really wants people to despise violence, then it is time for our political leaders to encourage and support leaders who are democratic and support negotiations but when the government itself fails in conveying the message that it wants to resolve the issue, then anxiety creates anarchy.
Violence is not merely what you witnessed in the streets but also that which is being unleashed institutionally and verbally. We can not ignore the violent messages and abusive language at our TV channels, social media and by the political class. We can and should not condone the police brutalities. At the end brutalities and violence do not take us to any logical conclusion. It only spread hatred and divisions. The people who have been violent and resorted to police brutalities against democratic protests are today giving us sermons on democracy and non violence.
Non Violence does not come from sermons and lectures. No society will remain non violence if its institutions are collapsing and where people feel justice is not coming.
The institutions of democracy have to show their autonomy and deep respect for democratic republican values. Democracy is not merely people and public gatherings or right to abuse.
Democracy is the autonomy of our institutions and how the check and balances work to strengthen people’s rights. Democracy and non-violence will never be our stronger points when we have a corrupt and thuggish media attempting to manipulate the information and vilifying the opponents of the ruling party. Each of our institutions, political parties, judiciary, media and political Executive have actually failed in performing their duty in protecting people’s rights. Selective outrage has become a hallmark of our ‘democracy’. Our heart beats for those who spread hatred and they get defended through the court of law in the name of freedom of expression but the same can not happen with a cartoonist who is arrested for an act he would have done though did not do. It can only happen in theocratic countries where you can arrest anyone, make any case and punish him. No democracy will flourish in such a degrading situation.
It is good that the Samykta Kisan Sangharsh Samiti has dissociated with the Delhi violence and condemned it unequivocally. Good that the people have returned. Once the temperature cools down, the government must start negotiations. The protest is against three laws which are unjust and the government should not hide behind the January 26th violence. The resolution to the issues will only come through constructive negotiations. Any further delay in it will ultimately hurt the interest of India. It is time, the government must not allow vilification of farmers on TV channels. Violence happens in movement when there is oppression and as most of the farmers organisations have already condemned it, time is to come back to the negotiating table and the best way could be to repeal the laws and show that the power really cares for Indian farmers.