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Chorus on floor: Dhakka from Delhi won’t work, protest now has life of its own

Written by Vandita Mishra
| Chandigarh, Jalandhar, Ludhiana |

December 23, 2020 4:29:22 am

Chorus on floor: Dhakka from Delhi won’t work, protest now has life of its ownIn the course of these farmers’ protests, PM Modi is on the bottom and within the fray in Punjab in a fashion wherein he has not been seen to be in different states, even throughout an election. (Express)

THERE should have been a second, some extent within the ongoing agitation led by Punjab farmers, when a line was crossed. When women and men started speaking much less in regards to the three Central farm legal guidelines that sparked small dharnas at petrol pumps and toll plazas throughout the state and extra about those that began travelling to Delhi’s doorstep to huddle collectively within the chilly.

That second, when the protests grew to become a personality of their own proper, was missed by the BJP-led authorities on the Centre. That’s the place it might want to return to, to discover a decision.

What is extra, as The Indian Express present in a week-long journey by means of villages and cities throughout Punjab’s three areas of Malwa, Doaba and Majha, speaking to scores of farmers and their households, the picture of the un-seeing Centre is compounded by the spate of name-calling.

The protests are “misguided”, it was mentioned, pushed by a “lobby” of Leftist Modi-baiters, skilled malcontents. Or hijacked by the “Khalistanis”, who’re at all times seen — and imagined — within the nooks and shadows of a state that fought and defeated extremism within the Nineteen Nineties and lived to inform the tales.

But to many right here, particularly Jat Sikh farmers, on the centre of the economic system, politics and tradition of the state which has traditionally nurtured an anti-Centre streak, the Centre is once more speaking right down to Punjab. And forcing its means.

“Nobody is a leader in these protests, everyone has minus-ed themselves and the farmer has taken centrestage”, says Balkar Singh, who retired as professor in Punjabi University, Patiala. “Look at them, sitting there in the cold. The person who is leaving behind his children and the comfort of home is not doing it at anyone’s bidding”, says Baljit Singh in Malwa’s Kotra Lehal village. “The government has a point”, says Amritpal Singh, a farmer who additionally runs a store in village Dhesian, district Hoshiarpur, in Majha area, from the place the biggest numbers migrate overseas and which is much less roiled by the agitation than Malwa. “But how can it not listen to those who are sitting out in the open?”

And in Amritsar, Ginni Bhatia, president of a textiles merchants affiliation, marvels “Itna jazba, itni thand(such emotion, in such intense cold)”, and asks: “Why did you not ask the beneficiary if they want the reform in the first place?”

To get a way of this agitation that’s assuming a life of its own with daily that passes with no decision, you would start with two males and a girl.

Meet Sardara Singh Johl in Ludhiana, Bibi Jagir Kaur in village Begowal, and Narendra Modi in-the-Punjab-fray.

There’s no level arguing the deserves of the farm legal guidelines now, says 92-year-old Johl, the grand outdated man of agriculture economics within the state. “I have supported the Bills, I can answer all the questions, but if I do it now, it will be Dr Johl versus Rest of Punjab”.

Over a storied 60-year profession, the Padma Bhushan awardee has had one of the longest and most influential engagements with the difficulty of agriculture reform in Punjab — as vice chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University, member of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council.

His report on crop diversification in 1986 made “diversification” an element of coverage lexicon. “I was looking ahead 50 years… government did not even turn the page (of the report)”, he says.

Johl speaks with remorse about alternatives misplaced, being appointed to boards which didn’t meet, main discussions that reached nowhere.

“My plan was that 1 million hectares of 2.6 million hectares under rice could be diverted to other crops to restore the water table… Rs 1,600 crore could be given to farmers to compensate for the shift (to oilseeds, among other crops, which would eventually cut down the oil and pulses import bill of up to Rs 14,000 crore)… There was a lack of interest in the political bosses and bureaucrats… I tried again but nothing happened”.

Today, “the question is not whether laws are good or bad. They (agitators) are saying ‘yes or no’. The old system they want to go back to is the one that pushed so many farmers to suicide. But now, government should withdraw the bills, begin again by bringing the farmers’ concerns into Parliament.”

A “trust deficit” stands in the best way, says Johl. “These are serious laws, they affect the lives of people. What was the hurry? They should have put the bills in the public domain, through Select Committee… In the interest of the economy and of peace, the government must take them back”, he says.

At the sprawling and well-appointed Sant Prem Singh Murale Wale Dera that she heads in Begowal village of district Kapurthala, Akali Dal chief Bibi Jagir Kaur says: “We are all kisans (farmers), those who are sitting there are ours. The government is looking nirdayi (hard hearted). Things should not have reached this point, we need a quick solution”.

In November, Kaur made a comeback as chief of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, the primary lady to carry that place.

The SGPC, central to the administration of Sikh spiritual affairs intricately entwined with Sikh politics, is contributing with “sewa (service)” on the protest websites, she says. “SGPC has set up continuous guru ka langar, put up waterproof tents, provided medicines and 250 mobile toilets…Four ambulances are working, our doctors are taking turns. We are giving Rs 1 lakh to the family of those who have died during the protest, and Rs 20-25,000 to those injured in accidents on the way.”

What Bibi Jagir Kaur won’t say is that each the SGPC and her occasion are enjoying catch-up.

But you may learn between her strains: “I want to go there, but the first line of SAD leadership is not going to the protest sites, because we don’t want to do politics. The rest, from MLA to sarpanch, are going. The Stree Akali Dal went too… o assi haan (we are them, the protesters)”.

The SAD, which walked out of the NDA on the farm payments’ challenge, tried and did not be the “bridge” between the farmers and the Centre, she says. “Now the government should take the laws back, at least to begin with, so that people can come back to their homes.”

“Dhakka nahi karna chahida hai… dukh lagda hai, nuksan na ho jaye (there must be no force, we are apprehensive that things may not worsen)”, the SGPC chief says.

The time period “dhakka” is usually utilized in Punjab, and also you hear it time and again within the context of this agitation — the Centre, many say, is attempting to get its means, “dhakke naal(with force)”. But increasingly more, the “Centre” is changed by “Modi”.

In the course of these farmers’ protests, PM Modi is on the bottom and within the fray in Punjab in a fashion wherein he has not been seen to be in different states, even throughout an election.

One of the stand-out options of the Modi phenomenon has been his capability to determine his dominance by lifting himself above the fray — and subsequently insulated from the tug and pull of accountability for failures and points even the place the BJP is the incumbent.

In Rajasthan, this took the form of a slogan, “Modi tujh se bair nahi, Vasundhara teri khair nahi (We have nothing against Modi but we will not spare Vasundhara)”, within the election misplaced by the BJP and gained by the Congress. Most not too long ago, in Bihar, it was seen within the last tally that noticed the BJP develop into the bigger accomplice within the BJP-JD(U) alliance that was voted again to energy.

In Punjab, nevertheless, most of those that converse of the Centre attempting to impose the farm legal guidelines on the state — “dhakke naal” — take Modi’s identify. The BJP is a smaller participant in Punjab and the state by no means whole-heartedly participated within the Modi wave that swept different states in 2014 after which once more in 2019.

Yet, within the battle of “anakh” (self-respect, honour, satisfaction), the Jat farmer’s “zid” or insistence is pitted instantly in opposition to Modi’s. The viral video of a track, “Fer dekhange (then we’ll see)”, wherein a Modi-like animated determine clad in white and saffron is surrounded by youth on tractors and finally compelled to throw up his palms, speaks of bigger issues.

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