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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

RSS feared farmers agitation was impacting social cohesion

While the Sangh has never openly opposed the farm laws in totality nor supported the idea of their repeal, for almost a year it has been hinting to the government about its discomfort with Centre’s inability to resolve the issue.

Written by Deeptiman Tiwary | New Delhi |
Updated: November 20, 2021 12:50:20 pm
Farmers celebrate after the announcement of farm laws' withdrawal, at Singhu border in Haryana. (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)

The decision of the government to repeal the three controversial farm laws was also informed by RSS feedback from the ground that continued protests against them was adversely impacting social cohesion. The Sangh Parivar, sources said, was particularly worried about what it felt could translate into a chasm between Hindus and Sikhs.

While the Sangh has never openly opposed the farm laws in totality nor supported the idea of their repeal, for almost a year, it has been hinting to the government about its discomfort with Centre’s inability to resolve the issue.

In a February interview to The Indian Express, then RSS General Secretary Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi made it very clear that the Sangh was worried about the impact the protests were having on social cohesion.

“Any agitation running for long is not beneficial. No one should have a problem with an agitation taking place. But a middle ground must be found. An agitation does not just affect people associated with it, but also impacts society, directly or indirectly. It is not good for the health of society for any agitation to run for too long. So a middle ground must be found and both sides must work to find a solution,” Joshi said even as he underlined that laws such as these are not repealed in any country.

Notably, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat, who had supported the farm laws in his October, 2020 Vijaydashmi speech, steered clear of the issue in his 2021 speech. The RSS chief’s Vijaydashmi speech is considered a policy signal to the government. Even the resolutions of the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha and the Akhil Bharatiya Karyakarini Mandal–both top decision making bodies of the RSS–did not speak on the subject this year.

The BPS Annual Report – 2021 released in March this year, however, did broach the subject. While highlighting that anti-national and anti-social forces were not letting a solution come through, the report said, “It is not in anyone’s interest for any kind of agitation to be prolonged for a long time. Discussions are a must, but with a view to finding a solution. It is possible that not all issues are agreed upon, but it is essential that some agreements must be reached upon.”

Even in his 2020 Vijaydashmi speech, Bhagwat had laid stress on “self-reliance” in agriculture.

“In self-reliance, dependence on self is intended …the newer policies should aim to make our farmer aware of modern agricultural science and also enable him to blend that knowledge with time-tested, contextually relevant traditional knowledge. The policies should be such that a farmer should be able to use these research findings and sell his produce without getting trapped, either in the profit aimed interpretations of those findings or sponsored research by the corporate sector or under the pressure of the market forces and middlemen, only then such a policy will be compatible with the Bharatiya view and be a truly Swadeshi agrarian policy,” Bhagwat had said.

Sources in the RSS said that the continued agitations, resulting in deaths of several farmers and precipitating the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, had now begun to worry the BJP politically as well. “The feedback from the ground was that at least in 20 constituencies in western UP, where there is a sizable population of Sikhs and Jaats, there was going to be negative impact of the farmers’ agitations and the Lakhimpur Kheri incident. During our meetings with workers and leaders, we had told them to not use any harsh words for Sikhs and Jaats during election campaigns,” a senior RSS functionary said.

The Sangh, however, has been more worried about long-term implications of the dispute between the government and the Sikhs over the farm laws. “The Sangh is worried about the sense of alienation that Sikhs have begun to feel in the past one year. We are working on reviving the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, which was formed in the wake of developments in Punjab in the 1980s. The division between Hindus and Sikhs had grown wider at that time and the Sangat had done a lot of work to bridge it,” another senior RSS functionary said.

Notably, the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, RSS-affiliate organisation dealing with issues of farmers, had always supported the farm laws, but never in totality. In September last year, ahead of two key Bills related to farmers’ produce and price assurance being taken up by Rajya Sabha for passage, BKS had said the Bills in their current form were not acceptable.

The main thrust of the BKS suggestions then was that all traders must buy farmers’ produce at not less than the Minimum Support Price (MSP). BKS had even asked for the Bills to be sent to Standing Committee for adequate discussion. It had asked the government to either incorporate assured MSP in the Bills or bring another law. However, both the Bills were passed without incorporation of its suggestions.

In its letters addressed to Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, the BKS had then said it doubted whether the ordinance brought by the government would fulfil the objective of providing farmers the right price for their produce.

On Friday, following PM’s announcement of the laws being repealed, BKS said, “The decision of the government to repeal the three farm laws is a good step in the direction of deferring an unnecessary controversy. Due to the stubborn attitude of so-called farmers, this is going to harm the farmers in the long term. Small and medium farmers would have benefitted if these laws had been amended.”

BKS also reiterated its demand to guarantee MSP under law.

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