By Sajjad Shaukat PAK VT
Indian extremist Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government led by the fanatic ruling party BJP has bulldozed major liberal and pro-minorities’ movements in the recent past.
Last year, Modi’s government ended special status of the Jummu and Kashmir by abrogation of articles 35A and 370 of the Constitution to turn Muslim majority into minority.
Similarly, the Indian Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA), passed by the Indian Parliament further exposed the discriminatory policies of the Modi-led regime. The CAA coupled with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is mainly against the Muslim immigrants especially from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Despite criticism of the rights groups, foreign leaders, the UNO and moderate Hindus in wake of violent protests which killed and injured hundreds of persons—mostly Muslims by the police and fanatic Hindus, Modi has not withdrawn the CAA/NRC.
Recently, farmers’ unions in India launched a nationwide shutdown and strike amid large-scale protests and clashes over new agricultural laws passed by the Indian rulers.
Since last months, over 12 million farmers from the northern states of Punjab and Haryana, and neighbouring New Delhi have been at the forefront of the protests and have set up protest camps in and around the Indian capital to force the government to repeal new laws. There is also heavy police deployment along border checkpoints.
The strike, called Bharat Bandh, saw tens of thousands of farmers blocking key roads and rail lines across the country, affecting transport services and offices. They received support from railway workers, truck drivers, and other unions, who joined them.
The deadlock between farmers and Centre has been continuing with no side willing to concede ground. The farmers also began a one-day hunger strike on December 14, this year.
In September, India’s parliament passed three controversial agriculture bills aimed at liberalizing the country’s farm sector, sparking farmers’ protests across the country.
The government argued that the new laws will give freedom to farmers to sell their produce outside regulated markets and enter into contracts with buyers at a pre-agreed price.
Farmers’ associations say that the legislation does not guarantee the acquisition of farm produce through state-run organizations which guarantee a minimum support price, thus leaving them at the mercy of corporations which are now expected to enter the country’s troubled farming sector.
The opposition parties, including many non-BJP-ruled state governments backed the demonstrations and have called the laws anti-farmer and pro-corporation, while insisting on the central government to accept the farmers’ demand to roll them back.
Notably, the Shaheen Bagh protest by Muslim women was dealt by incentives of talks and coercion through state machinery, taking help from Indian courts, which are already compromised by the extremist outfit RSS.
In this regard, India Today wrote: “Protest over the three farm bills at Delhi borders has brought back the memory of the Shaheen Bagh agitation over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)… The protesters squatting at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi demanding repeal of the CAA alleged that the government passed the law showing acute high-handedness…In case of the farmers’ protest over the farm bills, the protesters accuse the government of the same high-handedness”.
Some so-called top analysts and opinion makers like Shekhar Gupta are calling Modi not to budge from his reformist policies, after all what can 2 % of Sikh population in 1300 million strong India do to Modi. They actually projected Modi’s macho image by quoting how he has confronted China and Pakistan in Ladakh and Balakot.
Indian media which projects stance of Modi’s flawed policies by the stalwart of the biased parities such as RSS and BJP tried to link Pakistan and China with Sikh farmers with a view to dent the cause of farmers’ movement.
A former assistant director of the Finance Commission of India, Ritesh Kumaar wrote in an article, “Narendar Modi has left India’s economy a shattered mess…Managing the economy hasn’t been Modi’s only fumble…Modi approved a disastrous banknote demonetization scheme aimed at eradicating the black market economy and clamping down on tax evasion. In addition to the chaos it created, the scheme ruined the prospects of hundreds of thousands of farmers and small to medium enterprise owners”.
Nevertheless, a number of Indian celebrities-Bollywood stars have, also, been showing support for the protesting farmers.
The farmers’ movement has found resonance on social media, and among the influential Sikh community in Punjab and overseas.
Thousands of people mostly Sikhs protested in support of the farmers outside the Indian embassy in London and some other countries.
Several US lawmakers have voiced their support for the ongoing protests.
In this respect, Congressman Doug LaMalfa said: “I stand in solidarity with the Punjabi farmers in India protesting for their livelihoods and protection from misguided, manipulative government regulations.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated his support of Indian farmers, “calling the police crackdown on the farmers protests concerning”, elaborating: “they should be allowed to stage peaceful protests…Indian ministry of external affairs shamelessly reacted to a very basic question of human rights.”
A group of 36 cross-party parliamentarians in UK have written to British foreign secretary, asking him to make representations with his Indian counterpart about the impact on British Punjabis, affected by the demonstrations of farmers against new agriculture reforms.
Australian parliamentarians Rob Mitchell and Russell Wortley have joined several world leaders to urge the Indian government to show restraint and compassion to protesting farmers.
It should not be forgotten that the Khalistan movement, which was so powerful in the late 20th century, now survives mostly in the large Sikh diaspora. The Khalistan movement had links to the farmers’ movement of that time. The combination of a farmers’ movement and the diaspora has meant that the once moribund Khalistan Movement is once again gaining traction.
Nonetheless, Modi’s inflexibility to revoke the new agricultural laws has brought India’s farmers’ protests on global radar.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations
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