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Violent Protesters on Brand-New Tractors Who Unleashed Mayhem in Delhi Were Not Farmers

The 'tractor rally' to protest Centre's farm reform laws amid the Republic Day celebrations at GT Karnal road in New Delhi. (PTI Photo/Shahbaz Khan)

The 'tractor rally' to protest Centre's farm reform laws amid the Republic Day celebrations at GT Karnal road in New Delhi. (PTI Photo/Shahbaz Khan)

The farmers' protest has lost whatever little sanctity it had. The talks are now bound to fail.

The Supreme Court and the Indian Constitution allow peaceful protests, but the visuals from the tractor protests, which turned violent, are shameful. We saw the protesting farmers entering the Red Fort and deviating from the planned route on the Republic Day, followed by unfurling of the Kesari flag. The protesters did not realize that apart from insulting the iconic ramparts of the Red Fort, they have also desecrated the holy and revered Kesari flag (Nishan Sahib).

This is not the way farmers protest and is not representative of all the farmers. Out of hundreds of farm associations, only 40 are participating and some were formed only in June 2020. The Bharatiya Kisan Sangh and the Consortium of Farmers Associations and hundreds of other farmers associations representing vast majority of farmers are supporting the farm laws. So, the reality is different from the fiction of farm protests.

The protests have been on for almost three months over the three farm acts. ‘The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020’ expands the area of trade. The ‘Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020’ defines dispute resolution among other things. The ‘Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020’ removes stockholding limits on select items among other things. The farmers have been demanding that the laws be repealed without being able to pinpoint what is wrong with them.

The Narendra Modi government defined them as much-awaited reforms and also agreed upon finding a solution. Incidentally, all parties had promised to make the very same laws that are being opposed now. But the farmers and their leaders rejected participation in the committee appointed by the Supreme Court or any other committee. After multiple rounds, the talks were bound to fail due to the rigidity of the so-called farm leaders. The protests and the tractor rally that led to violence and mayhem in Delhi were led by people who by no stretch of imagination were farmers.

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Is this the way farmers behave? My experience and interactions with them show otherwise. The people we are seeing as leaders of the protests are not farmers but millionaires or ideologically motivated. How do you explain the presence of Yogendra Yadav, he is not a farmer, or Darshan Pal Singh?

The armed protesters riding on brand-new tractors and using foul language could be anyone but farmers.

Everything that transpired between the police and the farmers shows this has nothing to do with the farm acts. I believe that farmers don’t vandalize public property. They don’t use the kind of abusive language they used on Tuesday. This is an attempt to defame the country at the global level.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s video went viral ahead of the protests, wherein he is instigating the farmers and labourers by telling them that they can take on China, by implication the police force. This requires investigation. He says the farmers can handle China and we don’t need the Army. This is a couched and veiled instigation.

The protest has lost whatever little sanctity it had. The farmers forgot that the government was open for dialogue. With the vandalism, they might not have a chance to negotiate with the government which had started giving concessions and rethinking changes in the acts. The talks are now bound to fail. I am also suspicious why some farmers would protest the idea of getting a direct benefit through electricity subsidy. This reeks of corruption.

In our democracy, the government cannot withdraw the law. It is Parliament that can repeal it; the government is just the executing agency. All one can do, in case you don’t not like the government, is not vote for them in the next election.

Now, the so-called farmer leaders have to worry about how to resume talks with the government that was open to negotiation.

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The law on protest is very clear—if a protest turns violent, the leaders who called the protest will be held accountable and any loss to public and private property can be recovered from them as arrears of land revenue apart from criminal prosecution.

The hypocrisy of the opposition parties has been unmasked—they are responsible for the violence even as they hold Tiranga in one hand and the Constitution in another. None of them seriously condemned the violence. Now is the time for all political parties to send a clear message that violence and mayhem cannot be tolerated and mobocracy cannot be allowed to defeat democracy.

Rise above narrow selfish interests as nation is first and supreme. Every citizen’s duty is to be the guardian of the world’s largest democracy. We have to see violence of this kind is not repeated.

Disclaimer:The author is lawyer, Supreme Court of India. Views are personal.

first published:January 27, 2021, 10:45 IST
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