The Centre has decided to repeal the three contentious farm laws, PM Modi announced this morning. It is a day for farmers victory, and a great victory for people’s movement all over the world.
“Next is what? Article 370, CAA, NRC?” asked the godi media journalists like Smita Prakash, Navika Kumar and Rahul Shiv Shankar and many others.
What is next is more power in people’s hand. This victory will inspire more people’s movements, and yes maybe CAA is next. Anti-CAA protests which started from Shaheen Bagh had to end, not because of the vilification, abuse and fear tactics like jail and bullets, but because of the Covid pandemic. Had it not been for the lockdown, perhaps, India’s first social movement led by Muslim women would have won by now. At an opportune moment, that movement might gather force again.
King George III’s Break Up Song from Hamilton
Modi started his speech this morning by gaslighting the farmers. It sounded a lot like a toxic abusive husband who cries to his wife, “all I do is for the love I have for you, still you don’t love me.” He enlisted all the wonderful things he has done for farmer and then announced that the Centre has decided to repeal farm laws. Just as I thought, it was no “gift” or “masterstroke.” It was the ranting of an arrogant abusive authoritarian who just cannot stand to take a step back. Even when he is forced to by people’s power, he pretends he is the best, and it’s the farmers who were too stupid to understand his love. Reminds me of King George III from the American musical Hamilton. “And when push comes to shove, I would send a full battalion to remind you of my love. You are my favourite subjects. My sweet submissive subjects. My loyal royal subjects,” said King George to the American people who revolted against the British crown and fought for freedom.
The Democracy Team Nehru built Still Works
Today’s victory also showed the power of democracy. Even if for UP and Punjab elections, the fact that mighty Modi had to bend shows that people still have the power of ballot. Thanks to the strong democratic foundation team Nehru built, elections are still the anchor of Indian politics while most other former colonies in the developing world are battling a military rule here and a coup there.
Rahul Gandhi’s Constant Support To Farmers Protests
It is also a day to remember Rahul Gandhi’s continued support to the farmers protests. Even as the BJP called the farmers khalistanis and anti-nationals and targeted Congress party and Gandhi with imaginary “toolkit” cases and tractor conspiracies he never took a step back. He was the only political leader who personally met the farmers and joined the protests by taking out tractor rallies in various parts.
Rahul Gandhi’s first tractor rally was from Oct 4 to 6, 2020 in Haryana and Punjab. As soon as it kicked off, Minister Hardeep Singh Puri mocked him saying, “The ‘protest’ launched by Congress is a political protest by those whose vested interests are hurt by the Farm Bills.” He labelled Gandhi as “VIP farmer” because apparently there were cushions in the tractor seat. “Cushioned sofas on tractors is not a protest. It is ‘Protest Tourism’ to misguide our farmers who are educated and intelligent to see through this façade,” Puri said.
His next tractor rally was in Rajasthan and Kerala in February 2021, and then again in July 2021 he rode a tractor to the Parliament. Delhi Police termed the action as “major security breach” and even started an investigation on how and who got the tractors to Delhi. They even found some conspiracy in the rise of tractor sales.
Despite the abuse and intimidation Gandhi remained unfazed. In several of his media statements he kept saying that the farmers will not take a single step back and that Modi will have to repeal the laws. “Mark my words, the Govt will have to take back the anti-farm laws,” he said on Jan 14, 2021.
This is perhaps the 4th or 5th such issue where Rahul Gandhi stood to his ground and BJP kept abusing and mocking him only to eventually do exactly as he demanded or predicted. The Land Acquisition laws in 2016 was first such issue where Modi had to take a step back. Then there was single GST slab, fast tracking of Covid vaccines and so on.
How Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi Responded To Another People’s Protest
Finally, today I would like to make a comparison between the decision Modi took in response to farmers protests with something that happened during Rajiv Gandhi regime in response to another people’s protest.
In 1985, the widespread protests by Muslim religious leaders and other groups against the Supreme Court verdict in Shah Bano case forced the then government to bring in a new law which is said to have “overturned” the SC verdict. For over 40 years Congress party is being blamed for Muslim appeasement based on this single incident. But the truth is Rajiv Gandhi merely responded to people’s protests and did what he thought was best for the nation which was in turmoil. It is the duty of the government to pay heed to people’s protests and not use brute force to silence them.
Ironically, multiple first person narratives exists which claim that it was not even Rajiv Gandhi himself who opposed the SC verdict or introduced the law in the Parliament. Wajahat Habibullah writes in his memoir, “…M.J. Akbar, then a rising star in journalism, convinced Rajiv that Muslims needed the reassurance that only legislation could bring. This was in direct conflict with the opinion of then minister Arif Mohammed Khan, who had been asked by Rajiv to convince Muslims of the merits of the Supreme Court judgment…”
Both Akbar and Arif Khan today are BJP stooges.
The new law titled Muslim Women (Protection on Divorce Act), 1986 did not even “overturn” apex court verdict in so far as that it did not take away Muslim women’s right to maintenance. It merely took the matter out of the purview of criminal code and created a new civil law under Sharia Act. It in fact gave Muslim women more security than what Section 125 could provide.
Lastly, Rajiv did not create the original problem that led to the protests unlike Modi who first brought these laws without proper consultation with the farmers, and without proper debate in the Parliament. Then he waited a whole year during which over 600 farmers died and repealed them only to serve his electoral agenda.
The point I am trying to make is to highlight the sheer hypocrisy and the dangerous level of propaganda the BJP machinery can churn. A law which Modi himself enacted is now being taken back but it is not called a mistake or failure or appeasement. Instead, BJP’s propaganda machinery is trying to spin it as Modi’s “masterstroke”, a “gift” to the farmers on Guruparab, an act in “national interest.” Organized twitter trends are being run to thank Modi and proclaim Modi love for farmers. While the same propaganda machine till date is targeting Rajiv Gandhi and Congress party for an act which was actually a positive step towards conflict resolution without causing any harm to any section of the nation.
Cover image, by Naveen Sharma/Sopa Images/Lightrocket Via Getty Images, found on Fortune web magazine. No copyright infringement intended.