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How protesting farmers were targeted by Govt, BJP

From PM to Tomar to Prasad to Goyal to BJP IT cell: chorus was that protests hijacked by ‘anti-national’, Naxalites, tukde tukde gang

Written by Harikishan Sharma , Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi |
Updated: November 20, 2021 4:22:46 pm
Farmers celebrate at a protest site in Ludhiana’s Ferozepur Road on Friday. (Express Photo by Gurmeet Singh)

From calling it a shield for “andolanjeevis” to linking it to “Khalistani agenda” and Maoists, the BJP and its leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, targeted the farmers’ movement over the past one year, before the announcement on repeal of the three farm laws finally came on Friday.

The Prime Minister coined the term andolanjeevi (one who makes a living out of protests) to say that the farmers’ protests were being used as a tool by people who thrived on protests.

“Andolanjeevis have maligned the farmers’ protests. The country needs to distinguish between protesters and andolanjeevis,” Modi told Lok Sabha on February 10 in his reply to the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address in the Budget Session.

“I consider the farmers’ protests sacred. But when andolanjeevis set out to destroy a sacred protest for their own benefit, what will happen?” he said. He said “terrorists, Naxals and communal elements” were involved in the movement.

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“…in the matter of three farm laws… to brandish photos of terrorists, Naxals and communal elements who are in jail, and to demand their release… it maligns the sacredness of the farmers protest,” he said.

Citing incidents in Punjab last year, he said: “To disrupt and take over the toll plazas are an attempt to malign the sacred protests. When telecom towers are broken in Punjab, is that aligned with the demands of the farmers?”

At a function in Gujarat on December 15 last year, the Prime Minister said that farmers were being misled as part of a conspiracy. “Farmers gathered near Delhi are being misled as part of a conspiracy,” he said.

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“Farmers are told that their land will be grabbed by others if new farm reforms get implemented. I want to ask you, did the dairy owner take your cattle because you are selling milk to him?”

Key BJP leaders, often seemingly in a coordinated fashion, chipped in from time to time to target the protests.

On November 27 last year, BJP’s IT Cell chief Amit Malviya tweeted a video titled “Khalistani agenda behind farmers protest in Punjab”. “What kind of farmer agitation is this? Is Capt Amarinder Singh playing with fire? When will Congress realise that politics of aligning with radical elements has reached its sell date?” he tweeted.

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On December 13, 2020, former Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that “tukde tukde log” who want to break India were using the farmers’ movement. “Narendra Modi ji respects the farmers a lot and the farmers of the country also respect Narendra Modi ji a lot – we are winning everywhere. But if the people who want to break India under the guise of the farmers’ movement – tukde-tukde people – try to shoot from the shoulder of farmers, very strict action will be taken against them,” the then law minister said in an address in Bihar’s Bakhtiarpur.

As the protests drew international attention, the ruling establishment hit out on social media.

As singer Rihanna and climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted, drawing attention to the protesting farmers, Home Minister Amit Shah on February 3 tweeted: “No propaganda can deter India’s unity! No propaganda can stop India to attain new heights! Propaganda can not decide India’s fate only ‘Progress’ can. India stands united and together to achieve progress.”

Months before that, Shah said he would not term the farmers’ protest “political”. “Whoever wants to oppose it [the farm laws] politically let them do it. I have never said the farmers protest is political and would never say (that it is political),” he told reporters in Hyderabad.

On March 3 this year, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said people who have “flopped” in all areas are using the farmers’ protests. “There is no doubt that some people who have failed and flopped in other areas, who have nothing to do with agriculture, are training their guns from the shoulders of gullible farmers,” he said in an interview to TV channel CNN News 18. Months before Modi spoke in Parliament, his Cabinet ministers Piyush Goyal and Narendra Singh Tomar linked the movement with “Maoists” and “anti-national elements”.

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“We now realise that the so-called farmer agitation hardly remains a farmer agitation. It is almost infiltrated by Leftists and Maoist elements, a flavour of which we saw over the last two days, when there were extraneous demands to release people who have been put behind bars for anti-national activities,” Goyal, the then railways and commerce minister, said on December 12 during a virtual address at the 93rd annual convention of FICCI. He was part of the government’s parlays with protesting farmers from Punjab last year along with Tomar.

A day before that, Tomar tweeted: “In the guise of farmers, anti-social elements are conspiring to spoil the farmers’ movement. I appeal to the farmers to be vigilant and not provide their platform to such anti-social elements.”

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First published on: 20-11-2021 at 02:57:19 am
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