India: Farmers win an important victory

November 24, 2021
Indian farmers protesting in 2020. Photo: wikimedia commons

Fourteen months after the Narendra Modi government bulldozed its way in Parliament to convert the widely resented farm ordinances-turned-bills into laws, the Prime Minister had to bow down to the unprecedented farmers’ resistance to announce a repeal of all the three contentious laws.

It will be remembered as a historic instance when a courageous and tireless movement of the people brought a tyrannical regime to its knees and people’s power prevailed over the arrogance and brutalities of state power and the ruling elite. Modi chose the Guru Purab, the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, to announce this U-turn, obviously with an eye on placating the enraged Sikh community and cutting the much feared losses in the forthcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab.

The Godi (pet) media anchors and commentators, having played cheerleader for the farm laws all this time, for once appear utterly confused and demoralised. Some of them are wondering if the government would now bend on other issues like CAA [Citizenship Act] and Article 370 [the revoking of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in 2019] too, some are calling the move the sagacity of a statesman, some are calling it driven by national interests, and some have already discovered an electoral masterstroke in this much belated announcement! One Godi media manager has also compared this “retreat” with a lion taking two steps back, not to run away but only to spring on its prey!

Time will tell if and how far Modi’s “masterstroke” will reduce the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) losses, and how exactly the regime will try to spring on the farmers. What is clear as daylight at the moment is the fact that the government has failed, in spite of trying all possible tricks to discredit, demoralise and demonise the farmers and divide and crush their movement.

It is actually a desperate, diffident and fearful government which has announced the repeal of the laws. The protesting farmers and all other forces who are fighting for justice, democracy, and people’s rights must seize this moment and push for bigger victories.

What has made this great victory possible? It has proved once again that it is not possible for the Indian state and powerful governments to ignore and antagonise India’s farmers beyond a point. India’s freedom movement was punctuated by major peasant agitations and revolts, it was the energetic participation of India’s peasantry which sustained the freedom movement and eventually ended colonial rule.

Every major social and political upheaval after 1947 has had India’s farmers and youth at the forefront. Even in the last three decades when the politics of Hindutva and economics of market domination and globalisation have generally been on the ascendant, the farmers’ movement has managed to break the shackles at several junctures.

The anti-SEZ [Special Economic Zone] movement ended the 1894 Land Acquisition Act, and farmers and adivasis also successfully thwarted Modi’s bid to subvert the 2013 Land Acquisition and Compensation Act in the interest of corporates. This is the second time in Modi’s seven years that farmers have managed to push the government back.

The farmers’ movement has achieved this victory by forging and maintaining a broad-based and disciplined functional unity involving hundreds of farmers’ organisations across the country, and by consciously rejecting the divisive communal propaganda of the Sangh [right-wing Hindu] brigade.

While remaining independent of the opposition political parties,the united forum of farmers took a bold stand against the BJP. The combination of the broad unity and bold political voice of the farmers' movement left the Modi government with no other option.

[Abridged from]

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