The response to the Bharat Bandh, especially in areas of North India, has again indicated growing farmer agitation even after 10 months of the stir. There are no signs that farmers may go back on their demands despite all efforts by the BJP to allay their fears over the three contentious farm laws. The Indian Express explains why the agitation is still growing, what is boosting the morale of farmers and what they hope to attain from such a long agitation.
A feeling that the corporates may grab their land after the implementation of three farm laws had laid the foundation of this agitation in 2020. With the passage of time, this feeling has only grown despite repeated insistence by the government that the laws are meant for the welfare of the farming community.
The efforts by the leaders of BJP and JJP to hold their activities became a rallying point for the agitator farmers which mobilised more farmers. Whenever the government opted for use of force, it proved counter-productive. Any detention or arrest of farmers just fuelled their anger as proved by the gherao of police stations.
The reaction after the lathicharge in Karnal and massive gathering in Muzaffarnagar Mahapanchayat are indicative of the increasing momentum to the farming community. In Karnal, the agitators had succeeded to gherao the Mini Secretariat despite deployment of as many as 3,400 security personnel including those from paramilitary forces.
Meanwhile, response to Bharat Bandh call has further boosted the morale of agitators. Terming the Bandh as “historical”, acting president of Haryana BKU (Chaduni) Karam Singh Mathana said, “I am active for the BKU for the past 28 years but never saw such an impactful Bandh in Haryana before it.” A farmer leader from Yamunanagar, Subhash Gurjar claims that “Almost 70 per cent of the rural population in Haryana has extended support to the agitation in one or other way. The support will grow further, if the agitation continues further.”
Continued dharnas at toll plazas on highways across Punjab and Haryana apart from permanent morchas at the borders of Delhi are proving centres of energy for the agitation. They go to these dharna venues in rotation so that the burden doesn’t fall on the farmers of a particular area. In case of any eventuality, they move to the site of fresh protest without wasting any time.
A farmer leader from Kurukshetra, Jasbir Mamumajra says: “On the call of our leaders all roads of the state stand blocked within minutes. Even when we upload a video in case of any emergency, more than 1,500 farmers gather at the point of protest immediately.”
Further, farmers are habitual of handling ups and downs in their personal life too. Subhash Gurjar, who is from BKU (Tikait), explains, “Often, natural calamities destroy or cause damage to the crops of farmers. Sometimes, they even lose both crops within a year. But still, they don’t lose hope and manage to survive. Till now only ten months have passed since they started camping at the borders of Delhi.” He adds, “When a farmer works at their fields during night, they don’t fear snakes or anything else as they have to earn their livelihood. Even during this agitation, they are fighting to save their livelihood.”
Now, the farmers have started fighting unitedly even for their local demands. Whenever they succeed in getting their demands accepted, it encourages more farmers to join the agitation. The farmers of Fatehabad district sat on a dharna in front of the office of deputy commissioner just to demand recovery of a car of a fellow farmer which was stolen earlier when they had gone to gherao the police station of Tohana on June 7 this year.
A farmer leader from Fatehabad, Mandeep Nathwan says. “Ultimately, the police have recovered this car. This is the victory of farmers’ agitation.”
Subhash Gurjar says, “Now, the government listens to our voice. It may be a problem with electricity or irrigation water. Now, we have decided to set up a 25-member committee for every mandi which will look into the problems of farmers, especially related to registration on ‘meri fasal-mera byora’ portal.”
Gurjar adds, “It was pressure of the farmers’ agitation which forced the government to give jobs to two family members of a farmer who had sustained injuries during the police lathicharge and died of cardiac arrest later. Not only this, the SDM who had ordered to break the heads of protesters was sent on leave apart from ordering a judicial inquiry.”
With the participation of a large number of farmers, the morale of the agitation farmers is still high. Further, they have succeeded in preventing arrests of farmers in connection with the cases lodged during the ongoing farmer agitation.
Jasbir Mamumajra says, “There is a feeling among the farmers that they are moving to their target. They feel that the government will bow down sooner or later and these black laws will be repealed. Now, other sections of the society, especially labourers, workers and employees have also started joining our agitation as they feel that they would also be targeted later or sooner. Now, our agitation has become a mass movement.”
Since the beginning, the BJP has been blaming the Opposition for the ongoing agitation. Haryana BJP spokesperson Dr Virender Singh Chauhan says, “This agitation, which is run by some jathebandhiyan (farmer bodies) under the protection of opposition political parties, is now causing inconvenience to the common man. The people are upset because of dharnas and bandh calls. It has further dented the image of protesters. BJP and the central government want to resolve the matter with dialogue.”
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had earlier stated, “Currently, only a muthee bhar (handful) of people are supporting the agitation. Their numbers are not big. The common farmers have no opposition to these laws.”
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