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Farmers will achieve historic victory : Yogendra Yadav

Anju Grover Anju Grover
07 Dec 2020

The farmers’ agitation against the amended controversial farm laws has put the Narendra Modi government in a tight spot. Tens of thousands of farmers from Punjab, who are spearheading the movement, and thousands of their counterparts from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and other States have swarmed Delhi’s borders. They are staying put on the national highways, braving cold wave, to protest against the new laws that they say could destroy their livelihood.
With support pouring in from across the country and abroad (Canadian Prime Minister came out in support of the farmers), the agitating farmers are in no mood to go back without achieving their demand of withdrawal of the three new laws. 
The agitators have got further boost with many leaders and stars from various arena of life returning their honours and awards to the government. It is pertinent to note that former Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, a former ally of the BJP, returned his Padma Vibhushan award.

The talks between the agitating farmers and the Central government have not yet resulted in a breakthrough as the former are sticking to their guns and are not willing to end the agitation unless the new laws are withdrawn. 

Anju Grover for Indian Currents spoke to Swaraj India Chief and political activist Yogendra Yadav to understand the reasons behind the farmers’ uprising and flaws in the new farm laws. Mr. Yadav is a former leader of the Aam Aadmi Party. He has described the agitation as a landmark in the history of farmers’ movements and hoped that it would lead to a historic victory. 

The stand-off between the farmers and the Centre continues. The protesters are firm on their demand of repeal of farm laws. Your views.

It is a historic moment. The farmers’ agitation reminds me of 1988 period when Mahendra Singh Tikait had come to Delhi with lakhs of farmers. It is similar to that agitation but the government is yet to realise it.  The government says that farmers do not understand these laws. It is playing a divisive politics by carrying parallel negotiations with one group. The government thinks it can side track and distract but none of this will work. This historic mobilization should lead to a historic victory. 

How will you describe farmers’ agitation?
It is people’s movement which enjoys large and deep social legitimacy. It also challenges powers. The movement is political but it has nothing to do with party politics or elections.

What are the flaws in the new farm laws? 
The provisions of these laws have been in discussion in a select technocratic group for nearly two decades. Certain agriculture economists (largely agro-business economists) have been suggesting for changes in the Indian agriculture. They are trying to implement US model. The land holding in India is smaller in size whereas the proportion of population dependent on agriculture is huge. The overall spirit of these laws is to corporatize agriculture. It will spell doom for small farmers of the country. 

Why are the Opposition parties not too visible in the movement?
 At this moment, the Opposition is not in Parliament but on the streets. This is the only serious Opposition that matters in the country because Opposition is weak in Parliament in terms of numbers. But more than numbers, they are weak in terms of ‘will’ and are incapable of articulating the voice of farmers.

If that is the case, why has Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the Opposition parties of instigating the farmers?

He can weaken the farmers’ movement by linking it to a weak force. It is the easiest thing for him to say that this is an Opposition-backed movement. He is giving credit to Congress party which is incapable of leading such a vast movement. It is beyond any Opposition party’s ability to mobilize huge number of farmers. The government has no argument to counter agitating farmers, so it got into political allegations, used religion and even described them (protesters) as Khalistanis. That shows how weak the government is in terms of arguments to defend these laws. 
The fact is that the government has not even reached the starting point of a serious discussion. The starting point would have been that farmers have a grievance and a legitimate apprehension and it is the government’s task to respond to it. This movement has got social support. Sheer volume, geographic spread and social depth have created trouble for the government. The fight is against the state and not the police personnel. We don’t want to resort to any kind of violence because violence is a sign of weakness. With this kind of mobilization and strength, it would be suicidal to think of any kind of confrontation.  

So, you don’t want Opposition parties to join the farmers’ protest?
There is nothing wrong if political parties join the protest. I am a political activist. The farmers’ movement has reached a stage where political parties cannot lead it. Opposition parties are welcome but with no flag. The opposition parties lack legitimacy. 

The issue of minimum support price has not been properly dealt with by governments in the past. The Modi government is no different, your comment. 
We hope that something positive would come out on MSP as well. If the government wants to use MSP as a way to distract farmers from these laws and use it as substitute to these laws, then it won’t be acceptable to us. 

Shaheen Bagh protest was led by women from the minority community. However, Shaheen Bagh’s Dadi Bilkis Bano was stopped from joining the farmers’ protest. Any lesson learnt from that (Shaheen Bagh) protest?
There is a lot to learn from that protest. One was about including women in such protests. But farmers’ movement is generally known to be male chauvinist. A change is visible as more women leaders are taking part in this movement. The kind of resilience and tenacity women had shown at Shaheen Bagh, that is something we need to learn from them. I am confident that the farmers can show resilience and tenacity here. 

If the government refuses to scrap the laws, then what? 
For us, it is absolutely uncompromising as these laws were ‘un-demanded’ and ‘unwanted’ gift from the government to farmers of this country. This unwanted gift has to go. On MSP and other issues, we can negotiate with the government.  The protest will continue. Farmers are in no mood to let go. The onus is on the government to decide if they want the deadlock to continue for weeks.

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