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Farmer leaders should have known: RSS-BJP have 'used' contradictions to suit their end

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*

The tractor rally on the Republic Day in Delhi allegedly turned violent at several places as the protesters clashed with the police and tried to remove the barricades. But these incidents could be termed as stray, given the nature of it things, which could have gone out of control. Of course, the attempt to run through a tractor trolley in and around ITO and then hoisting the flag at the Red Fort could have been avoided. But one must remember: Any movement can become victim of an uncaring and irresponsible state.
The problem is not about supporting or condoning violence of either the farmers or the police. That India is deeply divided on caste and religious lines is a fact today. In India, the ruling party, its leaders and ministers continue to spew venom and speak in a language of ‘we versus them’. Sadly, it reflects their strategy to allow a movement to be prolonged and then create differences among them and use them for political and corporate ends.
A few days back, I was asked about the farmers' protests by a friend. I reacted by saying that that if it is prolonged, then I fear it could be used by BJP, because longer a protest, bigger the chances of its getting derailed from the original motives. Also, RSS and BJP are known to have used contradictions to suit their political interest.
The decision of the Kisan March – the Samykta Kisan Sangharsh Samiti – to hold a tractor rally on the Republic Day was a great to opportunity to ignite the spirit of the people. But it also had the risk of getting out of hand if not properly managed. It is important to understand that a movement or a protest, when prolonged, might go out of hand of its leaders, and therefore they have a bigger responsibility while giving such a call.
There are many who use such platforms to strengthen their ‘political clout’, even as looking for some ‘miracle’ to happen to ‘establish’ themselves on the ‘national scene’. In the social media digital age, protests often turn into ‘event managements’ led by powerful groups. A ‘platform’ brings in diverse groups into it. Given this framework, the organisers of the tractor rally on the Republic Day should have anticipated that some people might hijack the protest and defame the movement, which has been peaceful so far.
It is ironical that Delhi, UP and Haryana police did not have proper coordination. When you start lathi-charging tractor rally participants and stop people once it has been allowed, the result will be chaos and anarchy. The biggest villain in this entire exercise is the ruling party and its public relations media, which have been trying to find ways and means to demean the protest. ‘No protest should turn violent’, ‘we must not allow violence’, many moaned; it is a ‘threat to democracy’, others suggested. ‘It is terrorism’, said those who demolished Babri Masjid and celebrated it.
The first big political unrest happened in 1989 following the acceptance of the Mandal Commission Report. The entire media was up in arms against VP Singh. So much so that even ‘secular’ journalists abused VP Singh in the worst-ever language. One of the most honest and efficient political leaders of our time was turned into a brutal politician. Even today, savarna journalists and activists abuse him. Media supported the savarna students' protest against Mandal and reported only ‘police brutalities’.
In October 1990, the same media supported the Ram Mandir campaign launched by BJP and RSS. Several Sangh karyakarta, termed ‘karsevaks’, were killed in police firing. BJP and Sangh called them ‘martyrs’ and spoke loudly against police violence. 
Our heart beats for those who spread hatred and they get defended through the court of law in the name of freedom of expression
Thereafter, the first major crisis against the government came in the form of the Anna Hazare movement, which was wholeheartedly supported by the savarna media. Many thought that all decisions should be taken at the Ram Leela Ground and Arvind Kejriwal was looking to be the ‘prime minister’ of the country. Immediately after the Anna Hazare movement, we had the Nirbhaya case, when police barricade was broken and Delhi saw a ‘revolution’. It made and unmade many netas.
The Anna and Nirbhaya narratives helped the BJP and RSS in not only dislodging the Congress but vilifying the Gandhi family. After Narendra Modi assumed power we saw many protest movements such students against Rohit Vemula’s institutional murder, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students’ movement, farmers’ movement and anti-Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) protest, and so on. All these protests were massive and spontaneous, but media anchors made every effort to discredit them. They stood with the power, the mighty state and its police force.
During the Mandal period, media showed visuals of police beating students and carrying the dead body of a person in an undignified way in order to help create a false narrative against VP Singh, despite the fact when he appealed to students to stop protesting.
Contrary to this, Modi has never bothered to speak about the farmers’ issues. He does not speak, and his party people, rather than taking things seriously, launch offensive, term farmers as terrorists. During the Emergency, Jaiprakash Narayan (JP) asked the police and military not to obey the orders of the government. How can those claiming to be political chelas of JP currently in in power ignore this?
Violence of a movement should be seen by its size and not because it happened. Whatever happened at many places in Delhi was a serious breach of trust. But for that one can't blame the entire movement, because no one party can claim to lead it. The commonality between the aggressive and not-so-aggressive groups are the farm laws. If the government really wants people to despise violence, it is time to encourage and support leaders who are democratic and support negotiations. But when the government itself fails in conveying the message that it wants to resolve issues, anxiety creates anarchy.
Violence is not merely what you witnessed on the streets, but also that which is being unleashed institutionally and verbally. We cannot ignore the violent messages and abusive language on our TV channels, social media and by the political class. We should not condone the police brutalities either. In the end, brutalities and violence do not take us to any logical conclusion. They only spread hatred and division.
People who have been violent and resorted to police brutalities against democratic protests are today giving us sermons on democracy and non-violence! Non-violence does not come from sermons and lectures. No society will remain non-violence if its institutions are collapsing and where people feel justice is not coming. Institutions of democracy have to show their autonomy and deep respect for democratic republican values.
Each of our institutions, political parties, judiciary, media and political executive, have failed in performing their duty in protecting people’s rights. Selective outrage has become a hallmark of our ‘democracy’. Our heart beats for those who spread hatred and they get defended through the court of law in the name of freedom of expression. But there are different yardsticks for a cartoonist who is arrested for an act he would have done, though did not!
It is good that the Samykta Kisan Sangharsh Samiti has dissociated from the Delhi violence and condemned it unequivocally. It also good that the people have returned. Once the temperature cools down, the government must start negotiations. The protest is against three laws which are unjust and the government should not hide behind the January 26 violence.
The resolution to contentious issues will only come through constructive negotiations. Any further delay will ultimately hurt the interests of India. It is time the government stops allowing vilification of farmers on TV channels. Violence happens in a movement when there is oppression. And as most of the farmer organisations have already condemned it, it time is to return to the negotiating table, and the best way could be to repeal the laws and show that the power really cares for the farmers.
--- 
*Human rights defender

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