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Peasantry may bring NDA on its knees

By Prabhat Sharan

Behind the electoral din and cacophony of the corporate media drum beaters, a spectre in raiment of flames leaping out onto the skies, from the fields on fire continues to haunt the ruling powers.

Irrespective of the outcome of the election results, the peasantry-adivasi populace like the mythical bird Phoenix will continue to resurrect itself from its own ashes across the Indian sub-continent much to the discomfort of rulers.

The spark that set the hay on fire in the granaries of the country in 2020-21 was the passing of three contentious farm bills through clandestine corridors where parliamentary procedures for the past one decade, are used for cosmetic purposes to gloss over the practice of illiberal democracy.

After a long spell of blustering and bluffing, the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was on its knees and for once found its empty rhetorical flourishes and damage control barbs boomeranging.

The veneer of BJP’s condescending intransigence and paper courage was in smithereens and fluttering like dry autumn leaves in the breath of old wizened farmers smiling with the chill of the cold wind and squinting eyes in the glassy blazing breeze of Delhi.

The bellicosity and contempt for people while pushing anti-people policies whetted and crafted out in the boardrooms of corporate and big business houses, vapourised in front of the rage and fury of farmers hailing from the granaries of the country.

Political parties in opposition although reduced to a deflated punching bag for the corporate media the ruling BJP led NDA was forced to withdraw its contentious bills.

This was the first of the salvo emerging out of the sharpening of class differences in a nation where for the past several decades identity politics replaced class based polity.

Interestingly, a bourgeoisie political party like Indian National Congress which had ushered in Thatcherite economic policies during early nineties, this time round rather than over focussing on identity politics made class-rooted issues connecting it with the agonies of subaltern and marginal population as its main campaigning plank.

This turnaround by a bourgeoisie political party primarily stemmed from witnessing the massive show of strength of peasantry class.

The peasantry class irrespective of the class and stratification that it is riddled with for the past several decades has been looking  into the eyes of an abyss from where the only exit was the door to death.

While the lines between propaganda and truth has gotten blurred in recent years thanks to the round-the-clock tom tomming by the corporate media concomitant with carpet bombing of twisted loaded messages purported as facts but designed to tap the deep seated biases, prejudices and fears of Reichian ‘Little Man,’ the peasantry class has somehow kept its voice of dissent and anger alive.

As tiller Kashinath Jobane, in the All India Kisan Sabha’s (AIKS) ‘Long March’ from Nashik to Mumbai in 2017 remarked: Yes. We are living a lie because it is on the mirage of hopes we are living. But even the city dwellers are also living the same lie”.

As former Nashik bureau chief of national daily Times of India and columnist Rakshit Sonawane commented “You cannot set the hay on fire if it is damp.  If it is dry then a single match can set the entire field on fire. This is what is happening in the rural area where farmers have become a dying breed because of the lop-sided policies of the government”.

Of course the privileged city dwellers are known for their indifference towards their fellow being sufferings but the carapace of neo-upper urban middle-class for once started seeing dents in their conscience despite their rationalisations and justifications for police excesses against the protestors.

And 2020-21 agitation was not the first time that the farmers had raised their voices against the anti-agrarian policies but what was in earlier regime a ‘push,’  during NDA rule this push turned into a ‘shove’.

Sinking reality of agrarian policies

Ironically most farmers in elections had voted heavily for BJP hoping that the promises doled out to them would be implemented.

With expectations high, the sinking of stark reality into one’s mind takes time but when such revelation does dawn, it comes as a “slap on the hopes.”

And the farm bills specifically plotted out to increase the stranglehold of the corporate and mega business houses over agriculture sector was the last straw. It has left the farming community in a room with no-exit with massive rise in the input costs.

Noted scholar, documentarist and cultural activist who has spent over four decades in country’s hinterlands studying agrarian issues while talking to this writer once commented that the situation facing the farming community in India, “is extremely complex involving a lot of factors including the politics of water.”

Elaborating on the issue of water politics, Nadkar pointed out that “Marathwada in Maharashtra is reportedly a drought-prone region but the aerated and carbonated and beer manufacturing companies have an endless supply of water while the agrarian community has to beg even for drinking water.”

However, water politics is just one of the symptoms plaguing the farming community. “The input cost has been increasing over the years and with over 40 per cent of farming community comprising small land holding owners, landless labourers, and tribals involved in share cropping or cultivating on lease land, the loan waiver will in no way benefit the cultivator. As per the Swaminathan Commission Report recommendations the MSP should 50 percent more than the actual input cost.

“Moreover, since early nineties there has been a tectonic shift by successive governments from agriculture to industrialization. From rural areas to urban areas. Not that the farmer earlier lived an idyllic life but today even a big landholding farmer is facing the sting of this paradigm shift. And alienation is high.”

Increase in agrarian protest after NDA

While it is true that hinterlands have always been witnessing agrarian protests and many a time even violent uprisings, the fact is that the farmland mass struggles have increased.

The corporate and mega business houses were tired of earlier Congress led UPA’s vacillation and snail-speed over the implementation of policies designed to increase their profits and hold over public goods and public land and thus helped BJP gain ascendancy.

But even if the ruling power manage to come out of this cauldron, the simmering subterranean rage would certainly keep on erupting and history shows, “Tyrants often fall because they do not know their limits.” (Paul Woodruff, Ethical Philosopher)

This is an updated article that was written on Dec7/2020 for a news portal. The article was removed after a couple of days.

Prabhat Sharan is a Senior Journalist with interest in social, human interest, working class, wild-life conservation, philosophical and literary studies.

4 June 2024

Source: countercurrents.org

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