Skip to main content

How Sikh community is 'utilising' positive emotions of religion for farmers’ struggle

By Sandeep Pandey, Simran Kaur, Harleen Sandhu*

BJP and its ideological parent, RSS, have used religion in manipulating the sentiments of the masses to gain political mileage, strengthening its grassroots presence as well as skyrocketing its electoral mandate. A mosque was demolished a few decades ago to mobilize the Hindu votes in the name of building a temple at the same exact spot.
The perpetrators walked away with impunity while the police appeared to look the other way when thousands were killed and left homeless in its aftermath. Under this Hindu nationalist administration, the cow has been accoladed a political significance and used as an instrument to polarize public opinion leading to a series of cold and dreaded mob lynchings across the country.
Any intellectual, artist, journalist or even a student, anyone who has dared to question these Hindutva vigilantes through their work and advocacy are either put behind bars or murdered in broad daylight. Anybody holding a differing viewpoint was and continues to be branded anti-national or a Naxalite. Using the national interest narrative, the Indian government has been silencing any form of remonstration and dissent comes at a very high cost in India.
Under the shield of this toxic communal politics the government so far has got away with a number of unpopular and brazen decisions like making and enabling electoral funding by private corporations opaque and removing any ceiling on donations, demonetization, implementation of Goods and Services Tax, repeal of Articles 370 and 35A from Jammu and Kashmir, passage of Citizenship Amendment Act and instituting National Register of Citizens exercise, totally dampening down the labour laws, diluting Environment Impact Assessment regime, without any significant challenge except on the CAA/NRC where coronavirus came to government’s rescue.
This democratic alienation that our government seems to have grown very fond of increases the distance between the people and the decision makers. The government thought that it could also road-roll three laws pertaining to farmers likewise, but got a surprise in the form of a rock solid resistance from Punjab and Haryana farmers.
The Sikh community has been at the forefront of the struggle at all the protest sites surrounding Delhi from all corners, whether in Haryana, Rajasthan or Uttar Pradesh. Their religious ethos of langar (free meals), sewa (service), charhdi kala (high spirits) and hakk (right/dignity) have been deeply imbibed and resonate in every space of the ongoing protest.
The farmers and their families have been there for almost two months in harsh cold conditions but their firm resolution to stand against this tyrannical government doesn’t seem to be slowing down rather seems to be getting stronger with each passing day. The Sikh community has ensured that anybody coming to participate in protests will not face any inconvenience of any sort.
The trolleys and tractors are parked in a very organized manner on highways, and they ensure that it does not disrupt the movement of the passing vehicles. The Punjabi youth and women have been playing a very key role in keeping the protest organized such that even despite the large number of protestors that keep joining everyday, it looks like a new village that has sprung up altogether than a protest site. 
Langar, one of the most unique characteristic of Sikh religion and a hallmark of their faith makes them stand out from the rest of the world. The practice of langar, and community kitchen is the most humanitarian deed there can be perhaps as it thrives on the principles of equality according dignity to all since it symbolizes ‘sharing’ and not charity.
The Sikh community has utilized the positive emotion or energy of their religion to relentlessly support a political cause of farmers’ rights which is not just a matter of economic rights but these laws jeopardizing the dignity of living and livelihood of farmers as well as everyone associated with this sector at the grassroot level.
They have the moral strength and zeal to take on the Indian government as they are determined to get the anti-farmer laws repealed and there is no question of retreating back. The ruling dispensation on the other hand has used sophistry, manipulation, misappropriation of narrative, illusion of a false sense of pride in an abstruse idea of nationalism which may not stand them in good stead.
The seismic waves of protests have to a large extent also eroded the credibility of the government as it was busy trying in every which way it could, to discredit the thrust of the protest and delegitimize it by calling it ‘anti-national’. It has exposed the vulnerability of the ruling alliance that churns out facts that dispel the truth. As the government dithers in taking a decision on the farm laws it is increasingly becoming abundantly clear that it is serving the interests of its corporate sponsors.
Religious ethos of langar (free meals), sewa (service), charhdi kala (high spirits) resonate in every space of farmers' protest
Graphic posters at the protest site keep depicting how Narendra Modi is controlled by Adani and Ambani and how the Prime Minister at the behest of his capitalist masters further controls the media houses, throttling free speech and dissent in many ways. It is very clear that all three laws in question are aimed at serving the corporate interests in totality. In spite of the best and concerted efforts of the government in trying to question the motive of protestors, its own intent and vision pertaining to the laws is now considered to be dubious carrying multiple designs.
The Hindutva brigade which is quick to ascribe motives to people who oppose its agenda is at a total loss to even comment on posters like ‘Non-Resident Indians for Farmers,’ ‘We are not terrorists but farmers’ or the active participation of bodies like Khalsa Aid and British Sikh Council in facilitating the protests or the presence of martial Nihang Sikhs who have taken upon themselves to form the first line of defense at the Singhu border.
They are there willing to sacrifice themselves at any given point of time for the cause of farmers. Even Muslim farmers from Maler Kotla have set up a langar to offer solidarity. The spirit of service, a unique feature of this protest, has overcome all political propaganda unleashed at the protestors or attempts to divide them by employing various tactics invoking the bogey of communalism, terrorism, foreign hand, etc., but no charges seem to stick.
The government, whose morality is hollowed out by corruption, politics of divide and polarization will not be able to face the truth that resides in the hearts of committed protestors. None of the tools employed by it to browbeat its dissenters seem to be working at this time as the protestors have successfully fought back to counter those wishing to taint the movement with cogent analysis of the consequences of the laws.
Almost two months of dialogue process has not yielded a result because the ministers engaged in dialogue on behalf of the government are probably not empowered to take a decision on their own. Amit Shah could have taken a decision in consultation with the Prime Minister, but farmers refused to dialogue with him rightly pointing out that farmers’ problem cannot be viewed as a law and order problem alone.
Narendra Modi himself will never engage in dialogue as became clear during the 112 days of fatal fast of Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand, earlier known as Professor GD Agrawal, in 2018 at Haridwar demanding a law for conservation of Ganga. Modi didn’t respond to four letters written to him by Swami Sanand but was quick to send a condolence message after his death.
Death of hundred farmers during the movement will not move him if he didn’t care for the life of an eminent saint-scientist-environmentalist on an issue which was apparently close to his hear. Hence the dialogue process is doomed. We can only hope that the struggle of these farmers will triumph soon one day.
---
*Magsaysay award winning social activist Sandeep Pandey is national vice president of Socialist Party (India); Simran Kaur is 5th year student of BA-LLB (Hons) at University Institute of Legal Studies, Punjab University, Chandigarh; Harleen Sandhu is doctoral student at Louisiana State University

Comments

TRENDING

RSS wanted Constitution 'replaced' by Manusmriti which abused Dalits, women

By Shamsul Islam* The Constituent Assembly of India finalized the Constitution of India on November 26, 1949 which is celebrated as the Constitution Day This Constitution promised new born Indian Republic a polity based on democracy, justice, egalitarianism and rule of law. However, RSS was greatly annoyed. Four days after the historic event of approval of it, the RSS English “Organiser” in an editorial on November 30, 1949, complained:

Nuclear energy 'can't solve' global warming, will 'strain' financial, natural resource

Counterview Desk  Taking strong exception to Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who has favoured nuclear energy as a solution to global warning, well-known power and policy analyst Shankar Sharma has said that the IAEA chief's “unsubstantiated advocacy” of nuclear power is associated with “diversion of considerable amounts of scarce resources, both financial as well as natural, of many developing countries, such as India.”

Covid taught us: Exams are cruel process of 'eliminating' those seeking education

By Sandeep Pandey, Seema Muniz, Gopal Krishna Verma* Some people are disheartened with the disruption in children’s education due to the menace of Covid and the successive lockdowns. While a number of children are getting used to attending online classes, their counterparts from the weaker socio-economic backgrounds continue to struggle either because of unfamiliarity with technology or because of having to share a single device with their siblings and/or parents. More unfortunate ones have been completely pushed out of the system which has resulted in the virtual drop in the rate of enrolment.

Book on Bhil rebels offers other side of history, neglected by 'nationalist' historians

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  One of the major accusations against Indian historians is that of neglecting and ignoring the role of the marginalised in the freedom struggle. Most of the time, we are ‘informed’ that there were some ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ of the freedom movement, all of them belonging to the same stock of caste as well as ‘power’ positions as their opponents.

Mysterious death of Kishenji 'triggered' series of splits in Maoist camp in India

By Harsh Thakor* On November 24 fell the 10th death anniversary of Kishenji, a prominent Maoist leader, he was also a poet, a scientist, and a soldier. Since his school days he dreamt of planting the seed to create new man. Born in 1954 in Peddapally town (in Karimnagar district, north Telangana), Kishenji was raised by his father Venkataiah (a “freedom fighter”, he called him) and a progressive mother, Madhuramma.

Govt of India responsible for 71% delays in NREGA wage payments, say economists

Counterview Desk  In an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, more than 70 economists have urged the Government of India to release “adequate funds” for implementing the rural jobs guarantee scheme under the MGNREGA immediately, pointing out that the pandemic continues to adversely affect the living condition of working families.

Learning to bridge 'huge chasm' between highly educated, illiterate, badly literate

By Shrey Ostwal, Sandeep Pandey*  The pivotal point of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s journey to become Mahatma Gandhi began when his “political guru” – Gopal Krishna Gokhale – advised young Mohandas to travel around India. This rigorous journey was essential for Mohandas to understand his country and countrypersons better if he were to fight the inhumane and unempathetic British regime which had been looting India of its glory for about two centuries then.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Dalits 'celebrate' Constitutional Power Era in 12,500 villages of 16 districts on Nov 26

By Pradip More*  It is a fact that the majority of the people do not have much knowledge about the law, and especially the Constitution. Yet, today's younger generation is becoming increasingly aware of its rights. One wished it would have been good if it was taught about the Constitution well in the schools.

Arrest of top J&K civil society leader shows contempt for international law: PUCL

Counterview Desk  Commenting on the arrest of Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez, India’s top human rights advocacy group, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), has said that the Government of India action is “one more attempt ... to silence peaceful, non-violent dissenters”, adding, it suggests how “a brutalizing state machinery" has been acting.