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Farmers' protest: When passengers in UP train accepted BJP's 'fake' conspiracy theories


By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*

As the farmers’ protest is all set to become more powerful and is looking for a long haul, BJP as well as its 'information network' have gone overboard in discrediting them. Whatever the ground realities, the fact is, social media trolls and disinformation have had their impact on large sections. Travelling in a train in Uttar Pradesh gives one some insight into what people seem think.
While being amidst the marginalised sections, I found no love lost for the government or BJP. However, I found people were quite sensitive about their communities and how they would be affected. This appears to have helped BJP. A large number of people who are now part of BJP, especially those from Dalit and OBC background, seem to have no love lost for the ideology of the Sangh Parivar.
However, their pragmatism and local caste equations appeared to be uppermost in their minds. Most of them felt that the current government was actually helping the Ambani and Adani. Yet, the narrative offered by Rahul Gandhi is still not acceptable. People still seemed to believe in the words being spread by the saffron brigade about Nehru, Indira and Sonia Gandhi.
Conversation with people revealed that whatever was being offered in the social media was still very much in the people’s minds, even if all of it was fake. In the train people were worried about the bandh and the possible delay of the train and other local services, one reason they said they won’t “side with the opposition.”
BJP's aim to project the protests as problem making that would lead to disturbances was, apparently, being accepted. “The problem is too much of democracy in India”, is what one of them remarked. “I hail from a kisan family in Haryana”, said another co-passenger, who was worried about whether he would be able to get his connection to Yamunanagar from Anand Vihar.
Another one remarked, “The problem is not with the farmers but whether Khalistanis, Canadians, JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University)  people and Communists who have joined hand, which is wrong. What is more worrying is that Muslims too have now infiltrated in it, and it has now become anti-national,”
A third person jumped into the discussion. 
BJP's aim to project the protests as problem making that would lead to disturbances was, apparently, being accepted
“Are these poor farmers?”, he asked. “They are drinking Bisleri water, good food is being served to them, they have dry fruits available for them. Where is the money coming from?” The narrative was clear: Farmers might be fighting for their rights, but why were Communists, JNU wallahs, Canadians, Khalistani joining them? And as Muslims had also joined them, it has become a 'security' threat!
I was not amused. Without quarreling with them, I asked, “But Modi ji has been helping Ambani and Adani only. Food prices have gone up, unemployment is high, and there are many issues confronting the nation, yet this government only thinks about Hindus, Muslims, India, Pakistan, Ram Janmabhoomi, etc.”
There was silence for a while, but most of the passengers seemed to accept what I said. “You are right”, one of them asserted. “What has the government done for the people?”, wondered another. “It is time for the government to speak to people and listen to their concerns.”
But, in the end, all of them insisted, commuters should not suffer during the bandh. This despite the fact that it was common knowledge, the bandh was for not for the whole day; it was from 10 am to 3 pm.
There is reason to conclude: The way BJP IT cell has been operating and carrying on campaign against the ongoing agitation suggests that the party appears to feel that by bringing in conspiracy theories it can discredit the movement and polarise it. Indeed, the BJP troll army has sought to vilify the movement as anti- national by insisting it has the support of the minority groups, left parties, student leaders and international organisations.
Indeed, BJP’s social media campaign has worked in creating fake narratives. Large sections of people still don’t seem to understand that farmers know about their issues much better than those making laws for them. They still don’t seem to appreciate the fact that farmers will not put any harm to the country, or that by handing over the big farming sector, only cronies will flourish.
---
*Human rights defender

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