When the chronicles of the farmers’ protest are finally written, it is possible that some will call the protest a sociological miracle. Considering how much the farmers have been smeared in the mainstream media, how many fatalities they have suffered (636 at last count), and how much the government has lied to them and about them, it is, frankly, nothing short of a miracle that the 40-odd very diverse farmer unions leading the movement have managed to remain strong and stick together for as long as they have.
The protest has survive its moments of gravest crisis – the chaotic events at Red Fort on January 26, the foiled attempt to attack and uproot the Ghazipur protest site a couple of days later, and now, most recently, the pre-meditated murder of farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri. The recent mutilation and murder of a young man by a Nihang at Singhu border have threatened to cast a dark shadow on the protest since it took place at a protest site itself. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha has condemned the act in no uncertain terms.
I spoke to Dr. Ashish Mital, General Secretary of the All Indian Kisan Mazdoor Sabha, and a member of SKM, about the threats the protest constantly faces.
Amit Malviya, head of the BJP IT cell has said that what happened at Singhu border is the result of Rakesh Tikat’s comments about ”action and reaction” at Lakhimpur Kheri where BJP workers were also killed. Would you agree?
Let’s make one thing very clear. The SKM is not for violence. The mowing down of farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri is the most horrible thing I have seen in my life. Such violence is barbaric, and is reminiscent of what the Huns of old inflicted on their victims. Tragically, other people were also killed in the retaliatory violence that followed. That happened on the spur of the moment and was unfortunately a reaction to the murderous attack on farmers. It should not have happened.
Please also understand that there has not been an iota of counter-violence by SKM. The SKM, in fact, prevented anything from happening anywhere in the country in response. Please record it. Please underline it. Please headline it.
But what about what Rakesh Tikait said?
You will have to ask him what he meant, but in my opinion, Tikait was not calling for violence. I am very sure what he meant to say was that what happened was a spontaneous, though very unfortunate, reaction to the violence that was inflicted on the farmers.
This attack on the farmers, by the way, is the ‘corporate method of governance’ that the BJP is following. Crush the opposition, quite literally, by any means possible. For me, even more than the BJP or the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the real culprits are the corporates who call the shots. The corporate sector is desperately trying to find a way to stop the farmer protests. Of course the BJP also has its own tools of punishment such as the brahminical order and Manuvad and all that, but what you saw at Lakhimpur was, ultimately, the effect of corporations who stand to benefit from the Farm Laws and who want to subjugate the farmers at all costs.
What are your thoughts on what happened at Singhu border?
The Nihang Sikhs are not part of our movement. They did not come with us on November 26, 2020. They have been riding their horses recklessly and at times flinging their swords at people. We have tried to calm them down and we have had a tough time dealing with them.
The man who was killed was with them in the camp, and he ran away with their granth and was killed in a most brutal hammer for it. None of them have anything to do with our movement. Our plea to the police will be to please deal with them.
Do you feel there will be an escalation of tensions for the protest, now that the UP elections are around the corner?
The effects of the UP elections are one more challenge that we will have to deal with. But before I talk about that, there is something you need to understand about elections. Elections have unfortunately become irrelevant to people’s struggles. They come and go, and the problems of the people remain the same.
And although election time is supposed to be a time of political participation for people, the government’s policy is to keep people politically inert for five years and then make them participate in a very limited manner at election time within the confined limits of choosing one or the other, a limited participation zone to choose between lesser and greater evils. To choose between the BJP which is overtly, aggressively and violently pushing forward to enforce corporate policies, and the other parties who are also pro-corporate but who may be not that aggressive. Please note, other political parties are not fundamentally against the corporates, but during election time they have to make adequate noises against them to garner votes.
Our movement is beyond this confine. Our movement is asking political parties to take back the thrust of this pro-corporate government policy. These farm laws are an attack on all the people of India, not just the farmers. Our movement is asking for a withdrawal of the attack on the people of India that was launched by the BJP on June 5, 2020 with the introduction of the farm bills. That is the real issue.
Our real position is that people should see through the corporates’ agenda, throw out the BJP from power and force the opposition to reject these pro-corporate laws and give legal guarantee for MSP. That is our real challenge.
Do you see SKM becoming a political party?
Not an electoral party, but definitely a political force of the farmers for fighting their battles.
Rohit Kumar is an educator with a background in positive psychology and psychometrics. He works with high school students on emotional intelligence and adolescent issues to help make schools bullying-free zones. He can be reached at email@example.com