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by Bhanwar Meghwanshi. Translated by Meraj Rizvi.
This article originally appeared in Forward Press Hindi.
For the last fifteen days, the farmers of India have been conducting sit-in protests around the capital city of New Delhi. In this biting cold, farmers are on the streets; meanwhile, the powers that be are comfortable in their mansions and busy in celebrations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks in his “Man Ki Baat,” but he has no time to listen to what the people of this country have to say. To distract from the issue of farmer unrest, his associates and cyber soldiers in the infamous IT cell speak in a language that can’t be rivalled. While corporations (in collusion with the government) rewrite the future of farming in India, the country’s farmers are labeled traitors.
The Prime minister and his cabinet are trying hard to convince the people that the three farm laws are good for the farmers. They claim that the laws will improve investment in farming and cold-storage, and modernize the food supply chain. PM Modi has gone so far as to declare that these laws are an agent of freedom for the farmers. The BJP and its associates are running a door-to-door campaign to convince people of the benefit of these farm laws. Despite all this effort, the farmers of this country are not willing to accept the laws. Apparently, farmers have completely lost all confidence in the leadership of the Prime Minister and his party.
Let’s take a look at the three farm laws. The first is the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020. The government claims that this act allows the farmers to sell their produce in the market outside the ‘Mandi System’ without paying taxes to other states. The government claims that this is a revolutionary step, but the farmers are apprehensive that it is a ploy to end the ‘Mandi System’ in the long run, leaving farmers at the mercy of the markets. The second act is the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020. This law allows the farmers to do contract-based farming and market their produce themselves. However, the farmers are not so sure: they think small farmers will be crushed by this system because without a safety net, they will be reduced to laborers in their own fields. The third act is the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. This act removes foodstuff such as cereals, pulses, potatoes, edible oilseeds, and oil from the list of essential commodities. It also removes the stockholding limits on them except under extraordinary conditions such as a “war.” Agriculture experts believe this act will promote hoarding, resulting in higher prices. Farmers also believe that it amounts to legal protection for hoarders. It is obvious that farmers are apprehensive that the government is trying to corporatize the farming sector through these laws. On the other hand, the government is claiming that these laws will open up a new age of trade, processing, and investment in the farming sector, that they will create more options for farmers, that farmers will get better and more timely payment for their produce. The PM said: “After much deliberation, the Parliament has codified agriculture reforms, and these reforms have not only freed farmers from the many restrictions but have also given them many rights and new opportunities.”
The question is, why are the RSS and BJP overlooking the legitimate demands of the farmers? A party that calls the earth “mother” is intent on pushing the “children of the earth” on to the streets, making all sorts of allegations against them, and branding them traitors. This is the treachery of the BJP and its mother organization, the RSS. On the one hand, they claim to be with the farmers, while on the other hand, their actions and ideologies give no place to farms, farmers, and villages.
The BJP’s think tank is the RSS. It is the RSS that feeds the ideas to the BJP and creates a narrative from behind the curtains. This makes the RSS equally responsible for the calamity that has befallen the agriculture sector. The RSS’s ideological corruption is evident in the fact that instead of speaking for the workers and farmers, it speaks for the landlords and marketeers.
It is obvious that the flag bearers of Hindutva have always had a cozy relationship with the oppressors. Whether it was the Hindu Mahasabha, or the Sangh or the Jan Sangh, they have always been patronized by the kings and princes, and have thus naturally been loyal to them. Major financial contribution to the RSS comes from corporate interests in the form of “guru dakshina.” Communalism has always played footsie with the market—this is the reason why the RSS and its affiliates have never raised an eyebrow against it.
The farmer organization of the RSS, the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, has registered only limited opposition to the laws that are vehemently opposed by the rest of the farmer organizations all over the country. This calculated response exposes the duplicity of the Sangh’s ideology; their criticism is obviously insincere. This disagreement is a manufactured one, with mutual consent. In local parlance this is called “noora kushti (fake wrestling),” and in politics it is known as a friendly match. In cricket it would qualify as “match fixing.” A similar friendly match seems to be played between the BJP government at the Center and the Swadeshi Jagran Manch.
Evidently, the Sangh has no independent economic ideology of its own. The Bhartiya Kisan Sangh was established on March 4, 1971. Ever since its inception, there has been no major contribution or movement for the farmers by the Sangh fraternity. They have only made occasional statements in order to register their presence. Whenever the BJP is in opposition, the Sangh affiliated farmers and workers organizations become vocal. But when the BJP comes to power, they indulge themselves in constructing a convoluted narrative to confuse the farmers.
So, what does the Kisan Sangh do if not stand with the farmers? It neither promotes a clear ideology, nor does it lead any movement. What exactly, then, is its function? Is it just another wing of the larger Sangh family, or has it ever done anything for the farmers worth mentioning?
It has no part to play in the current farmers protest. On the contrary, by not participating in the Bharat Bandh, the organization made it abundantly clear that in this conflict: it stands with the government and not with the farmers. While farmers across India are protesting because they have lost all faith in the government, the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh was only initially disappointed and now looks satisfied. Sangh’s thinker, Hitesh Shankar, has already published in Panchjanya, the Sangh mouthpiece, that: “It would be a mistake to look at the farmer protest as any other protest, because, in this protest, instead of farmers other anti-social elements are running the show.” Sangh sympathetic publications are asking, “will the crop of frenzy harvest the movement?”
The RSS propaganda machinery has begun to delegitimize the farmer protest by creating distractions and spreading the narrative that the farm bills are good for the farmers. Rumors are being circulated that the movement is receiving foreign funding, that pro-Khalistan slogans are being chanted, and that a banned organization called “Sikhs for Justice” is playing an active role. They have gone as far as to suggest that the protests are being sponsored by Pakistan. In their zeal, Bhindranwale is also being invoked. Shaheen Bagh, the “leftist gangs of JNU,” and “frenzied Naxalite supporters of civil society” are some of the narratives being sold by the media to paint the movement as something tainted with a terrorist character.
On the one hand we find the well calculated strategy of incriminating the oppressed: they are tested on the grounds of their loyalty to the nation, they are declared traitors, and it is alleged that all dissenting voices are sponsored by Pakistan. On the other hand, we see market sympathizers and right-wing organizations like the Kisan Sangh creating confusion and spreading derogatory sentiments against the revolutionary and progressive farmer organizations in the name of traditional farming, Vedic farming, “Gau-mata” organic farming, and so on.
In 2019, the national treasurer of the Kisan Sangh, Jugal Kishore Mishra, commented in a symposium on “Farmer and Agriculture Problems”: “it should be the ultimate goal of a farmer to provide best quality grains to the society. It is getting harder to find toxin free agricultural products and in the coming years it is going to get even more difficult.” The Sangh are too concerned about what the farmers should aim for, but they do not have the guts to tell the Prime Minister what his responsibility and objective should be for the farmers.
The manner in which Sangh has destroyed the cattle-based economy, on which farmers rely, in the name of cow protection is another glaring example of how much (or little) the Sangh and its affiliates really care for the farmers. The cattle markets in the villages are now closed, and stray cattle roam around villages destroying crops. The farmers are destroyed, and cow-shelters are booming. In conclusion, the Sangh never has and never will stand for the cause of farmers, workers, Dalits, Adivasis, and minorities. Its umbilical cord is attached to the market. It stands with the powers that control the market, and with these three bills, the farmer is thrown at the mercy of corporate powers. If you dare speak against this “nationalist exploitation,” you will be labeled an “anti-national.” This loot of the nation is blooming in the name of nationalism, and you better not speak.