By Saiyed Moziz Imam Zaidi
New Delhi, Feb 4 (IANS) The over two-month long farmers’ protest against the three Central farm laws seems to be turning into an ‘Anna Hazare’ moment for the present government, which has so far failed to pacify the agitating farmers despite several rounds of talks between the two sides.
While the government seemed to have garnered some public support following the ruckus that erupted in the national capital on January 26 after the proposed tractor rally by the farmers went awry, cornering farmer leader Rakesh Tikait has proved counter productive for the ruling regime, giving more fodder to the agitators.
The large crowds witnessed in the recent Mahapanchayats in Muzffarnagar, Mathura and Jind seem to have given a new lease of life to the farmers’ protest, as more people have started heading towards the borders of Delhi, which have become the epicentres of the ongoing protest.
In the all-party meeting held on Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had emphasised that the government’s proposal to suspend the three farm laws for 18 months still holds, even though it was rejected by the farmers’ unions which stuck to their demand of repealing the farm laws.
The farmers’ agitation has now garnered international attention with many celebrities tweeting about it, highlighting the police barricading and snapping of internet services in and around the protest sites, adding to the woes of the government.
The government is in a Catch 22 situation now, as the opposition parties have seized the opportunity by rallying with the protesting farmers. The government has to find a solution to the impasse at the earliest, with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi warning that the protest may spread across the country.
Several politicians are now making a beeline for the protest sites to express their solidarity with the protesters after visuals of a weeping Rakesh Tikait went viral, notwithstanding the fact that the January 26 incidents had pushed the farmers on the backfoot, with two farmers’ unions even pulling out of the agitation.
During Anna Hazare’s agitation in 2011-12, the UPA government was forced to consider the Lokpal Bill after the Parliament was not allowed to function by the BJP, which was the principle opposition party then.
Though the opposition is not as strong at present as the BJP was then, a joint opposition might pose a threat, a glimpse of which was seen on the opening day of the ongoing Budget Session when several opposition parties boycotted the Presidential address, said a senior opposition leader.
Not only in Western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab, the farmers’ agitation is taking a pan India shape with the opposition parties in Bihar led by Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav recently forming a human chain across the state in support of the farmers.
“The human chain is a symbolic protest against the Centre’s newly passed farm laws that have met with stiff resistance from the farmers who have been protesting on the borders of Delhi for over two months, seeking repeal of the laws,” Tejashwi had said.
In Maharashtra too, the farmers recently organised a massive protest backed by the NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena, while in Delhi the AAP has blamed the BJP for the violence at Singhu border.
Tikait, the national spokesperson of the Bhartiya Kisan Union, recently said, “There was a storm, and twigs, branches and hollow trees broke in this storm. Now only the strong pillars are standing.”
On January 28, it had seemed as if the protest on the Ghazipur border would not last long. But a sentimental appeal from Tikait has changed the entire picture.
Till then, Singhu and Tikri borders were considered as the main centres of the farmers’ movement, but after Tikait’s emotional appeal, Ghazipur has now emerged as the new epicentre of the protests.
The Mahapanchayat held recently in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh also pointed towards the growing support for Tikait and the farmers’ movement.
When Tikait was recently asked if the fight is now between the Jats and the state government, he had said, “No it is not. There is a farmer from every class in the movement. I have heard this Jat word for the first time in this movement and I have objection to it. This fight is between the farmers and the government.”
The farmers’ organisations are demanding repeal of all three agricultural laws and legal guarantee for procurement of crops at minimum support price (MSP) while the government is willing to give written assurance to amend the new laws and continue procurement on MSP.
By Saiyed Moziz Imam Zaidi