2020–2021 Indian farmers' protest

The 2020–2021 Indian farmers' protest is an ongoing protest against the three farm acts which were passed by the Parliament of India in September 2020. Farmer unions and their representatives have demanded that the laws be repealed and will not accept anything short of it.[5][6][7][8] Farm leaders have rejected a Supreme Court of India stay order on the farm laws as well as the involvement of a Supreme Court appointed committee.[9] Nine rounds of talks have taken place between the central government and farmers represented by the farm unions between 14 October 2020 and 15 January 2021; all were inconclusive.[10][11]

2020–2021 Indian farmers' protest
2020 Indian farmers' protest - sitting protest.jpg
Date9 August 2020[1] – present
(5 months, 1 week and 1 day)
Location
Caused by
Goals
Methods
StatusOngoing
Parties to the civil conflict
Number
Unverified
Casualties and losses
Over 70 dead since 15 September 2020, including 4 suicides, hundreds injured
(see section Fatalities for more details)
Infrastructure damage:
National highways dug up by police to stop protestors from marching to capital[2]
Over 1,500 telecom tower sites damaged (as of 28 Dec)[3][4]

The acts have been described as "anti-farmer laws" by many farmer unions,[12][13] and politicians from the opposition also say it would leave farmers at the "mercy of corporates".[14][15] The government, however, maintains that they will make it effortless for farmers to sell their produce directly to big buyers, and stated that the protests are based on misinformation.[16][17][18]

Soon after the acts were introduced, unions began holding local protests, mostly in Punjab. After two months of protests, farmer unions—notably from Punjab and Haryana—began a movement named Dilhi Chalo (transl. Let's go to Delhi), in which tens of thousands of farming union members marched towards the nation's capital. The Indian government ordered the police and law enforcement of various states to attack the farmer unions using water cannons, batons, and tear gas to prevent the farmer unions from entering into Haryana first and then Delhi. On 26 November a nationwide general strike that involved approximately 250 million people took place in support of the farmer unions.[19] On 30 November, it was estimated that between 200,000 and 300,000 farmers were converging at various border points on the way to Delhi.[20]

A section of farmer unions have been protesting, whereas the Indian Government claims some unions have come out in support of the farm laws.[21][22] Transport unions representing over 14 million trucker drivers have come out in support of the farmer unions, threatening to halt movement of supplies in certain states.[23] After the government did not accept the farmer unions' demands during talks on 4 December, the farmer unions planned to escalate the action to another India-wide strike on 8 December 2020. The government offered some amendments in laws, but unions are asking to repeal the laws.[24] From 12 December, farmer unions took over highway toll plazas in Haryana and allowed free movement of vehicles.[25]

By mid December, the Supreme Court of India had received a batch of petitions related to removing blockades created by protesters around Delhi.[26][27] The court also asked the government to put the laws on hold, which they refused.[28] On 4 January 2021 the court registered the first plea filed in favour of the protesting farmers.[29] Farmers have said they will not listen to the courts if told to back off.[30] Farmer leaders have also said that staying the farm laws is not a solution.[31]

On 30 December, the Indian Government agreed to two of the farmers' demands; excluding farmers from new pollution laws and dropping amendments to the new Electricity Ordinance.[32]

Background

In 2017, the central government released the Model Farming Acts. However, after a certain period of time, it was found that a number of the reforms suggested in the acts had not been implemented by the states. A committee consisting of seven Chief Ministers was set up in July 2019 to discuss the implementation. Accordingly, the central Government of India promulgated three ordinances (or temporary laws) in the first week of June 2020, which dealt with agricultural produce, their sale, hoarding, agricultural marketing and contract farming reforms among other things.[33][34] These ordinances were introduced as bills and passed by the Lok Sabha on 15 and 18 September 2020.[35] Later, on 20 and 22 September, the three bills were passed by the Rajya Sabha, where the government is in a minority, via a voice vote – ignoring the requests of the opposition for a full vote.[36][37] The President of India gave his assent by signing the bills on 28 September, thus converting them into acts.[38] The legality of the acts has been questioned since both agriculture and markets come under State list.[39]

These acts areas are:[33]

  1. Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act: expands the scope of trade areas of farmers produce from select areas to "any place of production, collection, and aggregation." Allows electronic trading and e-commerce of scheduled farmers' produce. Prohibits state governments from levying any market fee, cess or levy on farmers, traders, and electronic trading platforms for a trade of farmers' produce conducted in an 'outside trade area'.
  2. Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act: creates a framework for contract farming through an agreement between a farmer and a buyer before the production or rearing of any farm produces. It provides for a three-level dispute settlement mechanism: the conciliation board, Sub-Divisional Magistrate, and Appellate Authority.'
  3. Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act: allows for the center to regulate certain food items in the course of extraordinary situations like war or famine. Requires that imposition of any stock limit on agricultural produce be based on price rise.

Other related issues include farmer suicides and the state of the economy in Punjab and in India in general. India reported a total 296,438 Indian farmers suicides between 1995 and 2015.[40][41] In 2019, 10,281 people who work in the farming sector committed suicide.[42] The slower growth of Punjab's economy, particularly its agricultural sector, is believed to have helped fuel the protest.[43][44]

International precedence

Many developing economies reformed their agriculture policies in the 1980s and 1990s to encourage private section participation.[45] Swati Dhingra of the London School of Economics cites the case of Kenya in which their agriculture reforms increased the ease of doing business, however this very increase caused other problems for the farmers.[45]

Farmer unions' demands

The farmer unions believe that the laws will open the sale and marketing of agricultural products outside the notified Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis for farmers. Further, the laws will allow inter-state trade and encourage voluntary electronic trading of agricultural produce. The new laws prevent the state governments from collecting a market fee, cess, or levy for trade outside the APMC markets; this has led the farmers to believe the laws will "gradually end the mandi system" and "leave farmers at the mercy of corporates". Further, the farmers believe that the laws will end their existing relationship with artisans (commission agents who act as middlemen by providing financial loans, ensuring timely procurement, and promising adequate prices for their crop).[46]

Additionally, protesting farmers believe dismantling the APMC mandis will encourage abolishing the purchase of their crops at the minimum support price. They are therefore demanding the minimum support prices to be guaranteed by the government.[46]

 
Among the demands is the removal of punishments and fines for stubble burning as well as the release of farmers arrested for burning paddy stubble in Punjab

As of 17 January 2021, the farmers' demands include: [47][48]

  1. Convene a special Parliament session to repeal the farm laws[49]
  2. Make minimum support price (MSP) and state procurement of crops a legal right[50]
  3. Assurances that conventional procurement system will remain[51]
  4. Implement Swaminathan Panel Report and peg MSP at least 50% more than weighted average cost of production[52]
  5. Cut diesel prices for agricultural use by 50%[47]
  6. Repeal of Commission on Air Quality Management in NCR and the adjoining Ordinance 2020 and removal of punishment and fine for stubble burning[53]
  7. Release of farmers arrested for burning paddy stubble in Punjab[51]
  8. Abolishing the Electricity Ordinance 2020[54]
  9. Centre should not interfere in state subjects, decentralization in practice[47]
  10. Withdrawal of all cases against and release of farmer leaders[55]

Insistence on repealing the farm laws

The insistence of the farmers over repealing the farm laws has been noted extensively by the Indian media over the course of the protest. Other than the farm unions and leaders, people such as Markandey Katju[56] and Thol. Thirumavalavan have also made statements in relation to staying the farm laws.[57]

Timeline

  • On 5 December, ThePrint reported that there are "no takers for governments offer to amend farm laws, farmers say nothing short of repeal acceptable".[58]
  • On 16 December, a farm leader said that they "make" the government repeal the farm laws, "...we are determined to win no matter what."[7]
  • On 25 December, The Wire reported that farmers remain resolute over the demand to repeal the farm laws.[6]
  • On 1 January, farm leaders were reported saying that there is no alternative to repealing the farm laws.[8]
  • On 8 January, a farmer was reported saying that there would be no clause wise talks until the laws are repealed.[5]
  • On 12 January, farmer unions and leaders rejected the Supreme Court committee and demanded repeal of the farm laws.[9]

Protests

 
March to Delhi, 27 November

Farmers against the farm laws

In Punjab, small-scale protests had started in August 2020 when the Farm Bills were made public. It was only after the passage of the acts that more farmers and farm unions across India joined the protests against the reforms. On 25 September 2020 farm unions all over India called for a Bharat Bandh (lit. transl. nation-wide shutting down) to protest against these farm laws.[59] The most widespread protests took place in Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh[60] but demonstrations were also reported in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka,[61] Tamil Nadu,[62] Odisha,[63] Kerala[64] and other states.[65] Railway services have remained suspended in Punjab for more than two months due to the protests, starting from October.[66] Following this, farmers from different states then marched to Delhi to protest against the laws.[67] Farmers also criticized the national media for misrepresenting the protest.[68]

In certain parts of India, bullock-cart rallies in support of farmer's protest have also been organized by marginal farmers.[69]

Farm unions

Under the coordination of bodies such as Samyukt Kisan Morcha and All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee[note 1], the protesting farm unions include:[70][46][71]

Transport bodies such as the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), representing about 9.5 million truckers and 5 million bus and taxi drivers, have threatened to halt the movement of supplies in the northern states, further adding that "We will then escalate it to the entire country if the government fails to address (the farmer's) issues."[23] After a meeting with government officials and 30 union representatives, "the farmers have rejected the government's proposals," Darshan Pal, president of the Krantikari Kisan Union told the press on 8 December 2020.

Rail Roko

On 24 September 2020, farmers started a "Rail Roko" (transl. "stop the trains") campaign, following which train services to and from Punjab were affected.[73] Farmers extended the campaign into October.[74] On 23 October, some farmer unions decided to call off the campaign, as supplies of fertilizer and other goods in the state were starting to run short.[75]

Dilli Chalo

After failing to get the support of their respective state governments, the farmers decided to pressure the Central Government by marching to Delhi.[46] On 25 November 2020, protesters from the Dilli Chalo (transl. "let us go to Delhi") campaign were met by police at the borders of the city.[76] The police employed the use of tear gas and water cannons, dug up roads, and used layers of barricades and sand barriers to stop the protesters,[77] leading to at least three farmer casualties.[78] Amidst the clashes, on 27 November, media highlighted the actions of a youth who jumped onto a police water cannon targeting protesting farmers and turned it off. He was later charged with attempted murder.[79][80]

The march on Delhi was accompanied by a 24-hour strike of 250 million people across India on 26 November 2020 in opposition to both the farm law reform and proposed changes to labour law.[19][81]

Between 28 November and 3 December, the number of farmers blocking Delhi in the Delhi Chalo was estimated at 150 to 300 thousand.[82]

The Central Government Of India announced they would for discussing the future of the new farm laws on 3 December 2020, despite the protesters' demands that the talks took place immediately.[83] It was decided that the government would only talk to a select group of farmer unions. The Prime Minister would be absent in this meeting. The KSMC, a leading kissan jatha (transl. farmer organisation) refused to join this meeting for these reasons.[84] While the Center wanted the farmers to move away from Delhi to a protest site in Burari the farmers preferred to stay at the borders and instead put forward a proposal of protesting at Jantar Mantar in central Delhi.[85]

The farmers' unions announced that on 4 December they would burn effigies of PM Modi and leaders of corporations. Prominent personalities began announcing their plans to return their awards and medals received from the Central Government. On 7 December, farmers announced their plan to organize a Bharat Bandh (national strike) on 8 December.[86][87] After talks with the central government failed to find a solution on 5 December, farmers confirmed their plans for a national strike on 8 December. Further talks were planned for 9 December.[24]

On 9 December 2020, the farmers' unions rejected the government's proposals for changes in-laws, even as the Centre in a written proposal assured the minimum support price for crops. The farmers also said they will block the Delhi-Jaipur highway on 12 December and nationwide dharnas will be called on 14 December 2020.[88] On 13 December, Rewari police barricaded Rajasthan-Haryana border to stop farmers from marching to Delhi, and the farmers responded by sitting on the road and blocking the Delhi-Jaipur highway in protest.[89]

Blocked border and roads
 
Roadblock before Sangrur
Affected borders and locations due to the farmer protests around Delhi[90][91]

A number of borders, including the Kundli Border, Dhansa border, Jharoda Kalan border, Tikri border, Singhu border, Kalindi Kunj border, Chilla border, Bahadurgarh border and Faridabad border, were blocked by protesters during the protests.[92][93] On 29 November, the protesters announced that they would block five further points of entry into Delhi, namely Ghaziabad-Hapur, Rohtak, Sonipat, Jaipur and Mathura.[94]

Farmers in favor of farm laws

On 14 December, a group of 10 farmers' unions extended their support to the Central government over its decision to undertake the necessary amendments in the three farm laws. Under the banner of the All India Kisan Coordination Committee, the group of farmers belonging to states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana expressed their support after a meeting with Narendra Singh Tomar.[95][96] On 24 December, 20,000 Kisan Sena members marched to Delhi in support of farm laws.[97][98] However, 5 of the groups supporting the laws were directly linked with the ruling BJP and many do not have any relation to agriculture or farmers.[99]

Farmer camps

Langar

Scores of langars and makeshift kitchens[100] have been deployed by farmer's organizations and NGOs to meet the food needs of the tens of thousands of farmers in the farmers-camps that have sprung up on the borders of Delhi after the Delhi Police barred the farmers from entering the city on 26 November 2020. These langars work round the clock and provide free food without distinction of caste, class, or religion.[101][102][103] The hot meals provided by the langars include lentils, seasonal vegetables, roti, buttermilk, and tea. Delhi-based media outlets have made significant commentary on some aspects of the langars, such as the use of mechanical roti makers which can cook 1000 roti an hour,[104] or when farmers were seen eating pizzas made by the langar at the Singhu border, which drew mockery of the farmer's movement.[105] The media also made adverse comments on farmer's consumption of dried fruits and nuts such as cashews and raisins at an "almond langar" provided by beneficent NRIs.[106] Organizations engaged in setting up and running langars include Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Committee at Singhu border; Baba Kashmir Singh ji Bhuriwale sect, Tikri border; Khalsa Aid; Dera Baba Jagtar Singh from Tarn Taran, Delhi based Jamindara Student Organisation; Gurdwara Head Darbar Kot Puran, Ropar, Muslim Federation of Punjab, and several others, including NRI-NGOs which have pitched in with aid in kind.[103][106][107]

Accommodation and supplies

In addition to food, and tea, the farmer's in the camps, are being supported by domestic and international NGO, including UK based NGO Khalsa Aid, with provisions of tents, solar-powered mobile charging points, laundry, library, medical stalls, dental camp, which did tooth retraction, cleaning, filling, and scaling treatments, foot massage chairs for elderly protesters.[108]

Visuals from a section of the protests at the Singhu border

Security and control

At the Singhu border, farmers have installed eight CCTV cameras to keep a watch on the protest site, "[...] since there are so many people coming in now. We come to know of incidents where people with ulterior motives try to create problems. This way, we can keep a record of what is happening and counter any narrative to blame us for any anti-social activity," said a farmer from Sanyukt Kisan Morcha's CCTV department.[109]

Fatalities

On 8 January 2021, the week following the onset of winter rains, death toll of farmers including death by suicide during farmer's satyagraha, according to leaders of the farmer's movement, had crossed 70.[110] On 2 January 2021, the estimate of dead-farmers was 57.[111][112] On 20 December 2020, the day the farmer's collectively condoled the deaths of farmers, the death toll was 41.[113] On 30 December 2020, it was over 50.[114]

The first farmer to die was Dhanna Singh (age 45) of Mansa district in Punjab. He was a leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakaunda). He died, on the night of 26 November 2020, according to farmer leaders and media reports, while trying to negotiate his tractor past the Haryana Police road barricade of sand laden truck and stones. He was on his way to join the farmers who had been stopped by the Delhi Police on 26 November, on the border of Haryana, and Delhi.[115][116]

26 November – 20 December 2020

On 20 December, the death toll of farmers for the period 15 September to 20 December, according to media reports, was 41.[113] Of these 38 were from Punjab (30 from Malwa, six from Doaba,and two from Majha), and three from Haryana.[117][118][119][120] This total includes seven farmers who have died due to the cold and heart attacks at the Tikri border, and six at Singhu border, including Sant Baba Ram Singh, who committed suicide on 16 December. In the period 26 November – 18 December, according to Manoj Yadava,[121] Director-General of Police, Haryana, 25 farmers died (heart attacks and cold 14, accident 10, suicide 1).[122] This estimate however did not match with the estimated deaths in the 'struggle' by Dr Darshan Pal, the farmer leader, according to whom the death toll of farmers in the 'struggle' during this period is 35.[122]

21 December onwards

Piara Singh, a 70-year-old poor farmer, and member of BKU (Dakaunda) died on 29 December, of pneumonia, in a Sangrur private hospital. Piara Singh, according to his elder brother, was part of the contingent participating in the farmer's-satyagraha since 26 November. Other farmers cremated on 29 December included Amarjeet Singh Rai in Jalalabad, and farm laborer Malkiat Kaur of Mazdoor Mukti Morcha in Mansa, Punjab.[114] On 1 January 2021, Galtan Singh, 57, of Baghpat, UP, who was part of the protesters at Ghazipur border, died after complaining of breathlessness. He became the first farmer fatality of 2021, and first reported farmer-death on the UP border.[123] On 2 January, three farmers died: two at the Tikri Border, and one at the Singhu border. In Tikri Jagbir Singh, 66, from Jind district, died of suspected heart-attack; and Jashnpreet, 18, from Bathinda, died after he was evacuated to after evacuation to PGIMS, Rohtak. Shamsher Singh, 44, a dalit farmer, who was in Singhu camp with his son, 13, died after he complained of chest pain, before reaching the hospital in Soneput, Haryana.[124]

Suicides

As of 8 January 2021 death toll of farmer by suicide to protest government's farm policy was four. Sant Baba Ram Singh, a Sikh priest, shot himself on 16 December 2020 at the Singhu border in protest against the farm laws.[125][126] According to J.S. Randhawa, Senior Superintendent of Police, Sonepat, Haryana, Ram Singh, Left behind 10-page note, dated 14 December, and a handwritten suicide letter, dated 16 December 2020, in which he wrote that he could not bear the pain of the farmers. At his funeral on 18 December, in Karnal, attended by farmer leaders, religious heads, and Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee chief Bibi Jagir Kaur, the suicide letter was read out, which said, "Bullets fired from the guns kill only those whom they strike. The bullet of injustice, however, kills many with a single stroke… It is humiliating to suffer injustice."[127]

On 18 December, according to Joginder Singh Jawanda, BKU (Ugrahan) leader, a heavily indebted 22-year-old Punjab farmer, killed himself with poison in his village after returning from Singhu, the protest site on the Delhi border.[113] On 27 December, Amarjit Singh Rai, a lawyer, committed suicide by taking poison. Rai before he took his life wrote in a note that he was "sacrificing his life" in support of farmer's protest, and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to "listen to the voice of the people".[128]

2 January 2021, Kashmir Singh Ladi, 75 year old farmer from Bilaspur, Rampur district, Uttar Pradesh (UP), committed suicide. He is the fourth farmer suicide since the farm protesters were stopped on 26 November 2020, by UP Police on Delhi-UP Ghazipur Border, also called UP gate. Kashmir Singh who had been camping at the border since 28 November along with his son, and grandson, hanged himself in a toilet. Ladi, according to a government official, left a note in Punjabi, that says, "Till when shall we sit here in the cold? This government isn't listening at all. Hence, I give up my life so that some solution emerges."[111]

Commemoration of the dead

On 20 December, the 25th day of the protest, to honour the memory of 41 farmers who have died since 15 September, called shahid by the farmer's leaders, national 'Shradhanjali Diwas' (Homage and Remembrance Day), was observed at Singhu, Tikri, UP Gate, and Chilla, farmer-camps with largest farmer's presence on the borders of Delhi, and in town and villages all-round the country.[129][130] According to Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary of BKU (Ugrahan) simultaneous events were organized in 98 villages in 15 Punjab districts, on 20 December, to honour the dead. These commemorations continued till 24 December.[113][131]

On 4 January 2021, on the insistence of farmer's leaders, government ministers and officials of National Democratic Alliance Government, who had been reluctant to commemorate, condole or comment on the death of farmers, participated in two-minute silence during the seventh round of talks between the government and farmers leaders held in Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi.[124]

Response and reactions

Domestic

On 17 September, the Food Processing Industries Union Minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal of Shiromani Akali Dal, resigned from her post in protest against the bills.[132] On 26 September, Shiromani Akali Dal left the National Democratic Alliance.[133] On 30 November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised concerns over the issue of misled and radicalized farmers. He stated that "the farmers are being deceived on these historic agriculture reform laws by the same people who have misled them for decades", citing numerous times opposition members were convicted of spreading lies. Modi added that the old system was not being replaced, but instead, that new options were being put forward for the farmers. Several Union Ministers also made statements to this effect.[134][135]

On 1 December, Independent MLA Somveer Sangwan withdrew support from the Bharatiya Janata Party government in the Haryana Assembly.[136] The BJP's ally, the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) also asked the central government to consider giving a "written assurance of the continuation of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops."[137] On 17 December, the Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare wrote an open letter to farmers over the new laws.[22]

Talks between centre and farmers

Nine rounds of talks have taken place between the Centre and farmers (represented by farm unions) uptil 15 January 2021.[138][139] The meeting on 4 January was attended by three Union Ministers – agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar, and commerce ministers Piyush Goyal and Som Parkash.[138] The three Union Ministers declined the requests of scrapping the three new farm laws as it required more consultation with higher authorities.[140] It is reported that the two sides have managed to reach an agreement on two issues which the farmers are concerned by, the rise in power tariffs and penalties for stubble burning. [140][141]

The first round of talks were on 14 October 2020 in which the farmers walked out on finding that the agriculture secretary was present but not the minister.[11]

All-India Bandh

On 4 December, the farmers protesting on the outskirts of Delhi against the center's new agricultural laws called a nationwide strike on Tuesday, 8 December, saying they will block all roads to the capital, amid a stand-off with the government.[142] A day before the strike, the farmer's union announced that it would hold the strike between 11 am and 3 pm alone to avoid inconveniencing the public.[143]

Incidents of fake news

Several politicians have circulated misinformation and fake news about the protests, and based on this, have made allegations of separatism, sedition, and 'anti-national' activities concerning the farmers' protests. In response to these, in December 2020, a group of protesting farmers announced that they would be establishing a unit to counter misinformation being spread about the protests.[144] Notable incidents of fake news include:

  • The general secretary of the BJP, Dushyant Kumar Gautam, alleged slogans of "Khalistan Zindabad" and "Pakistan Zindabad" being used during the protests.[145] On 28 November, the Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said that "unwanted elements" like radical Khalistan sympathizers have been seen among the peacefully and democratically protesting farmers.[146] These allegations were supported by news outlet, Times Now.[147] However, fact checks conducted by news outlet India Today as well as non-profit fact checking website, Alt News, both indicated that old images from a 2013 protest were being used to make false claims about Khalistani separatism during the farmers protests.[148][149] Protesters also have accused the national media of not telling the truth in relation to the laws.[150] A protester told Scroll.in that "The Modi media is calling us Khalistanis [...] We have been sitting peacefully for one month, however recently violent. That make us terrorists."[150] Commentators have said that the Khalistan angle is being used to defame the protests.[151] The Editors Guild of India asked the media not label protesting farmers as "Khalistanis" or "anti-nationals" saying that "This goes against the tenets of responsible and ethical journalism. Such actions compromise the credibility of the media."[152]
  • In December 2020, Bharatiya Janata Party IT Cell's head, Amit Malviya, shared a misleading and fake video regarding the farmers' protests, claiming that there had been no police violence, in response to evidence of police violence shared by Congress politician Rahul Gandhi. Twitter flagged Malviya's video as 'manipulated media', placing a warning below the tweet to indicate that the content shared by Malviya was "deceptively altered or fabricated" with the intention of misleading people.[153][154][155]
  • A tweet by Canadian MP Jack Harris in support of the protest was falsely attributed to American Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris. Harris released a statement clarifying that she had not made the statement.[156]
  • The BJP's Punjab unit shared an advertisement containing what they claimed was of a 'happy farmer' supporting the new laws. The image was actually of a protesting farmer, who had not consented to their use of his image. After he publicly objected and filed a legal notice against the Punjab BJP, the image was replaced with a cartoon drawing of a farmer instead.[157][158][159]
  • Priti Gandhi, the social media for the BJP's Women's Cell, shared an image of farmers allegedly protesting the change to the state of Kashmir's constitutional status in 2019. This image was not taken during the farmers' protest, but was from a protest held in 2019 by the Shiromani Akali Dal political party.[156]
  • Several BJP politicians, including Union Minister Giriraj Singh, shared a video of police officials removing the turban of a Sikh protester, and falsely claimed that the protester was not Sikh but was in fact Muslim, and further claimed that this was evidence of Muslims instigating protests. This video had previously been shared during the 2019 Citizenship Act protests and was debunked as fake then, despite which it was shared again during the 2020 farmers' protests to raise allegations against Muslim citizens.[160] I
  • In January 2021, a user generated National Geographic Magazine cover was circulated as a real cover depicting the farmers' protest as the cover story.[161]
  • In January 2021, several BJP leaders, including Jawahar Yadav, and Facebook fan pages of Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused protesting farmers of vandalizing signboards on highways, sharing images of such signboards. The images were later established as being taken from old news articles covering protests in 2017 about the placement of Punjabi language signs on these boards.[162]

Conspiracy theories

Several BJP leaders have claimed without any evidence that the protests are the result of a conspiracy, launched by what they have described as "anti-nationals". The Union Minister for Food, Railway and Consumer Affairs, Piyush Goyal has described the protesting farmers as "Leftist and Maoist" and being "hijacked" by unknown conspirators.[163] Former Rajya Sabha MP and vice-president of BJP in Himachal Pradesh, Kripal Parmar stated, "The protest is driven by vested interest of few anti-national elements."[164] Union Minister and BJP politician Raosaheb Danve has alleged an international conspiracy, claiming that China and Pakistan are behind the ongoing protests by farmers.[165] BJP MLA Surendra Singh said, "....this is a sponsored agitation by anti-national forces and has foreign funding."[166] BJP Uttarakhand chief Dushyant Kumar Gautam stated that the protests had been 'hijacked' by "terrorists" and "anti-national" forces.[167] Several BJP leaders have blamed what they have called the 'Tukde Tukde Gang' – a pejorative term used by the BJP and its supporters, against anyone who disagrees with its politics, which implies that the person supports secession – as instigating the protests, and linked them to previous protests about India's citizenship laws. Delhi BJP MP Manoj Tiwari has accused such unnamed conspirators of instigating the protests, as has Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.[168] In response to the BJP's claims, Sukhbir Singh Badal, former Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab, claimed that the BJP was the real 'Tukde Tukde Gang' and trying to divide Punjab.[169] BJP General Secretary Manoj Tiwari has also described the protesting farmers as "urban naxals".[170] Rajasthan BJP leader Madan Dilawar has accused protesting farmers of "conspiring" to spread avian influenza in India after reports of some cases of avian flu were made in January. Dilawar claimed that protesting farmers were spreading avian influenza by "eating chicken biryani and cashew nuts/almonds" although he did not clarify how these foods and avian influenza are connected.[171]

Opposition to the claims of conspiracy has been voiced from within the BJP and outside it. BJP leader Surjit Singh Jyani, who was part of a committee that negotiated with several farmers unions, vocally opposed the claims, stating, "This type of language should be avoided. We know many farmers groups are Left-leaning but branding them tukde tukde gang and anti-national will not end the deadlock."[172] Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena leader, Uddhav Thackeray has voiced opposition to the labelling of protesters as "anti-national", pointing to some confusion among BJP leaders about the source of the allegations of conspiracy.[173] He stated, "BJP leaders should decide who farmers are – are they Leftist, Pakistani, or they have come from China."[173] The conspiracy claims have also been opposed by Rajasthan Chief Minister and Congress politician, Ashok Gehlot, who urged the government to come to an "amicable solution" with protesting farmers "...instead of blaming gangs, anti-national elements for these protests."[174]

International

  • A small scale protest in New York City in support of the farmers in December 2020
      Australia: Victoria Member of Parliament Rob Mitchell and Russell Wortley were among the Labour leaders who spoke in support of the farmers' protests, with Mitchell addressing the Victorian parliament on the subject after several protests were held in Australia by citizens.[175]
  •   Canada: Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada expressed concerns about the supposed mishandling of protests by the Indian government.[176] Trudeau stated that "Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protestors" and expressed support for "the process of dialogue."[177] In response, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs summoned the Canadian High Commissioner to India, Nadir Patel, and issued a démarche, stating that Trudeau's comments were "an unacceptable interference in our internal affairs".[178] Trudeau reiterated his statement despite the Indian Government's warning that his comments threatened diplomatic relations between the two countries.[179] On Saturday, 5 December, hundreds of supporters protested in downtown Toronto and Vancouver, gathering in front of the Indian consulate in both cities to show their support.[180][181] Organized by members of the Sikh community, the demonstrators stood in solidarity with the farmers and their right to peacefully protest.
  •   Italy: Indian Ambassador to Italy Neena Malhotra visited a gurudwara in Rome in December as part of an outreach effort by the Indian government to Sikhs amid the farm protests. Malhotra received backlash on social media when the Embassy claimed she had been well received during the visit. However, Malhotra was heckled by members of the gurudwara management committee while she spoke in favor of the new farm laws.[182][183]
  •   New Zealand: In early December 2020, 1,500 Indian New Zealanders protested in Auckland's Aotea Square against the new agricultural laws.[184]
  •   Pakistan: Federal minister Fawad Chaudhry from Punjab, Pakistan called out the Indian government's behavior with Punjabi farmers and termed it "shameful". He further stated that Modi's policies were "threats for regional peace".[185]
  •   United Kingdom: Several Labour MPs in the United Kingdom expressed support for the protests and raised concerns about the government response to protesters, including Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Preet Kaur Gill and John McDonnell.[186][187] A few British MPs and cricketer Monty Panesar also tweeted in support of farmers.[188] In December 2020, a group of 36 British MPs from the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party asked the British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, to raise their concerns with the Indian government.[189][190] The British prime minister Boris Johnson, after being confronted with the issue, confused it with the India–Pakistan conflict, drawing criticism domestically and in India.[191][192]
  •   United States: Several Indian-American protests were held in support of the farmers, with rallies being held outside Indian consulates in San Francisco, Chicago, Indianapolis, New York, Houston, Michigan, Atlanta, and Washington, DC.[193][194] Several American Congressmen from both the Republican and Democratic parties voiced support for these protests, including Josh Harder, TJ Cox, Doug LaMalfa, and Andy Levin.[195] In December 2020, seven Congresspersons wrote to the Secretary of State, asking him raise the issue of the farmers' protests with India.[196][197]

Organisations

  •   United Nations: António Guterres, secretary-general, called on the Indian government to allow the protests, affirming the right to voice opposition to the government, stating "...People have a right to demonstrate peacefully and authorities need to let them do so."[198]
  • International Monetary Fund: Gerry Rice, Director of Communications IMF, said that the agriculture reforms have potential but a "social safety net" should be there to protect "those who might be adversely impacted during the transition to this new system".[199]

Academics

Milind Sathye, a professor at the University of Canberra asserts that the new laws will "enable farmers to act together and join hands with the private sector and that the previous system had led to growing farm debt and farmers suicides, among other problems".[200] Rajshri Jayaraman, Associate Economics Professor at the University of Toronto, states that "the bills are confusing and to pass legislation like this affects the largest single sector of the economy and the poorest people in an already poor country during a pandemic."[201]

On 1 January 2021, 866 academicians from across India came out in support of the three farm laws. This includes seven vice-chancellors and academicians from Delhi University, JNU, Rajasthan University, Gujarat University, Allahabad University and Banaras Hindu University among others.[202][203] Kaushik Basu, former chief economist at the World Bank, supports the cause of the peasants, against the position of Arvind Panagariya, former Chief Economist at the Asian Development Bank.[204] Hansong Li, a Chinese scholar at Harvard University, argues that although India's farm reforms bear resemblance to China's own market-oriented agricultural reforms, India lacks the risk-mitigation mechanisms in the Chinese context, and that the overall crisis has shown a lack of public trust and cohesion in India.[205]

Repudiation of awards

Former Chief Minister of Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal returned his Padma Vibhushan award to the President of India on 3 December 2020, in his support of the farmers' protest. On 4 December 2020, environmentalist Baba Sewa Singh returned his Padma Shri Award.[206] Punjabi folk singer Harbhajan Mann refused to accept the Shiromani Punjabi Award by the Punjab Languages Department of the Government of Punjab, India in support of the protests.[207]

Rajya Sabha MP and SAD(D) president Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa also announced that he would return his Padma award due to his personal support of the protests.[208]

Social media

Videos and images of the protests have helped bring awareness to the farmers cause and many have gone viral including one of a police officer with baton raised in hand towards an elderly Sikh man, Sukhdev Singh,[209] which has been shared on social media. Mr. Singh was interviewed and reported that he sustained injuries however, some people think that the image is being used for propaganda.[209]

Hashtags are also being used by youth to show their support and ensure that their hashtags like #FarmersProtest, #standwithfarmerschallenge, #SpeakUpForFarmers, #iamwithfarmers, #kisanektazindabaad, #tractor2twitter, #isupportfarmersare[210] trending to keep the subject relevant on the various social media platforms. Another purpose for the youth posting on social media is to counter the negative posts. These posts also benefit the unions and help them to reach the public about their issues and concerns.[210]

On 20 December 2020, Facebook removed a page named Kisan Ekta Morcha, an official news source from farmers' protest. It was later brought back after public outrage. Since then both Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram has been accused of removing and shadow banning content that spoke for farmers in favor of BJP led government, an accusation it has faced in past too.[211]

Supreme Court of India litigation

The Supreme Court of India has received numerous petitions seeking direction to remove protesting farmers from blocking access routes to the capital. The Supreme Court has also conveyed to the central government that it intends to set up a body for taking forward the negotiations.[26][27] On 17 December, the Supreme Court acknowledged the right to peaceful protest but added, "you (farmers) have a purpose also and that purpose is served only if you talk, discuss and reach a conclusion".[212][213] The central government opposed the court's recommendation of putting on hold the implementation of the farm laws.[214][215] Agitating farmer unions have decided to consult Prashant Bhushan, Dushyant Dave, HS Phoolka and Colin Gonsalves as far as the Supreme Court proceedings go.[216]

A plea submitted by several students of Panjab University on 2 December 2020 was registered by the Supreme Court as a public petition on 4 January 2021.[29] The plea was in the form of a letter which called out police excesses, illegal detentions of protesters, "misrepresentation, polarization and sensationalisation" by media channels and approached the matter on humanitarian grounds.[29] A student who drafted the petition informed The Wire that "over the course of over 100 days of the farmers' protest, this is the first petition filed in favour of the protest".[29]

Farmers have said they will not listen to the courts if told to back off or even if the laws are stayed.[30][31] Farmer union leaders have also raised the issue of the government "dodging dialogue" since the "SC has said earlier that it will not intervene". Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala made a statement in this regard, "Why does the government want the SC to solve all contentious issues, from the CAA and the National Register of Citizens to farm laws?"[30]

On 11 January 2021 the Chief Justice of India said during hearings, "We are not experts on agriculture and economics. Tell us whether you (government) will put these laws on hold or else we will do it. What's the prestige issue here? [...] We don't know if you are part of the solution or part of the problem [...] We have an apprehension that someday maybe, there might be a breach of peace. Each one of us we will responsible if anything goes wrong [...] If vast majority says that laws are good, let them say it to (a) committee."[217] The Court also stated to the government that they were "...extremely disappointed at the way government is handling all this (farmers protests). We don't know what consultative process you followed before the laws. Many states are up in rebellion."[218] The Court also rejected a claim by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the "vast majority" of farmers supported the laws, stating that they had not received any submissions from any person that the laws were beneficial.[219][220]

On 12 January 2021 Supreme court of India suspended the farm laws and formed a committee to look into the grievances of protesting farmers. The CJI Sharad Arvind Bobde requested the farmer unions to cooperate.[221] The members of the committee included agriculture experts Ashok Gulati, Pramod Kumar Joshi, Anil Ghanwat and Bhupinder Singh Mann.[222] However two days later Bhupinder Singh Mann recused himself and released a press statement,[223]

"As a farmer myself and a Union leader, in view of the prevailing sentiments and apprehensions amongst the farm unions and the public in general, I am ready to sacrifice any position offered or given to me so as to not to compromise the interest of Punjab and farmers of the Country, I am recusing myself from the Committee and I will always stand with my farmers and Punjab"

Fallout

As fallout of the growing belief amongst protesting farmers that Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani were the principal beneficiaries of the farm laws enacted by the NDA Government, Punjab and Haryana farmers, in protest, decided to surrender Jio-sims and switch to rival networks.[224][225][226] A number of Reliance jio telecom towers and other infrastructure were damaged in the Punjab in the last week of December 2020.[4] Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh appealed to the farmers to stop disrupting the communication towers.[225][227]

On 30 December, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh took exception to the Punjab Governor Vijayender Pal Singh Badnore summoning state's chief secretary and the Director-General of Punjab Police Dinkar Gupta. Gupta has served as DG of Intelligence of Punjab police, and with Intelligence Bureau for eight years before being appointed DG Punjab police.[228] Amarinder Singh alleged that Badnore had bowed to the "antics of the BJP" which has falsely claimed breakdown of law and order in Punjab. He called upon the BJP to stop slandering the farmers with terms like `Naxalites', `Khalistanis,' and prevail BJP central leadership to pay heed to the voice of the farmers and repeal the draconian farm laws.[229]

In music and popular media

Since the beginning of protests many songs have been released by singers, songwriters describing the protest and showing unity and solidarity.[230] Several clips of the protest featured in an international collaboration "Ek Din" by Bohemia, The Game and Karan Aujla.[231] Canadian rapper Nav also came out in support of the farmers.[232] Kanwar Grewal who has been involved in gathering support for the protests since the beginning said "Wherever Punjabis are settled in the world, they will always be connected to their roots, their land, and their community", and praised the support of those who were living abroad.[233]

  • "Ailan" and "Jawani Zindabad" by Kanwar Grewal
  • "Pecha" by Harf Cheema, Kanwar Grewal
  • "Delhi Aa Punjab Nal Pange Thik Nahi" by R Nait
  • "Asi Vaddange" by Himmat Sandhu
  • "Kisaan vs Rajneeti" by Anmol Gagan Maan
  • "Jatta Takda Hoja" by Jass Bajwa
  • "Haq and Murrde ni laye bina haq, Dilliye" by Harbhajan Mann
  • "Farmers' Protest – Theme Song" by Bidita Bag

Gallery

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Kisān (किसान) means farmer in Hindi.

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Further reading

External links