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Aftermath of Tikait's tears: Political scenario in UP, Haryana shows early signs of change

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*

Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait's tears appear to have changed the dynamics of not merely farmers’ movement but politics, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Till January 26, it was clear that the protesting farmers were largely from Punjab and those in power with their daily calculators at hand were visualising to politically profiteer from the prolonged movement. They had decided for a police action after the Red Fort incident of January 26.
The corporate media was attempting to divert the debate from farmers to deshdrohis or anti-nationals. The protesting venue, we were told, was isolated, as more and more people had started returning to their homes. Most of those who had been staying put to protest along Delhi borders felt that police action could happen any time.
By the evening, reports started coming in about heavy police mobilisation, with Uttar Pradesh chief minister ordering strong action to get the protesting sites vacated. It was reported that police was planning swift action and there was heavy mobilisation for the same at the Ghazipur border. Tikait too had visualised that this would happen.
Indeed, till 26th, the farmers’ movement was mostly confined to Punjab. Tikait's tears shocked the farmers from the predominant Jatland of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Within no time, farmers started marching towards the Ghazipur border. The Uttar Pradesh administration had to assure people that they planned no action against the protest dharna. The police returned.
The full-throated entry of the farmers from western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana has worrying indications for the ruling BJP. It is a reality that Jats during the last few elections have voted for BJP. Even Tikait was used to weaken the position of Ajeet Singh and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD). Indeed, the Mujaffarnagar model of the BJP of dividing Hindus and Muslims along communal lines could not have succeeded without involvement of the powerful Jats and Gujjars.
However, it is also a fact that it is Jats and Gujjars who now feel they have lost their political power in the region to Rajputs and Brahmins, along with Banias. The latter have benefitted from BJP's rabid nationalism. The tables have turned. Farmers are holding mahapanchayats, in which Jats and Muslims together participate. Tikait has said that voting to BJP was his biggest fault, and farmers have realised that the current farm laws are only meant for crony corporates.
Indeed, the government till date has used its 'developmental model’ against Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs. But for the first time their 'model' is being challenged by the ruling castes, a part of their own 'structure'. It has jolted them from inside. Mahapanchayats are being organised in various parts of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana with massive presence of people, and this is a message for BJP to not to be arrogant about its governance.
In a democracy it is people who are sovereign. Indications from western Uttar Pradesh are not good for BJP. However, one has to be wary. It is also important for farmer leaders and others to not allow powerful groups to play the ruling politicians’ favourite Hindu-Muslim card. So far things look good. But then in India any one event changes the track. So, when people are upset with the government and Jats are hurt, it is the time to build bridges among different communities.
Baghpat mahapanchayat, Uttar Pradesh
No doubt, the impact of change is visible everywhere. Even the savarnas or dominant castes are upset at the moment. However, one still finds that many of the most marginalised castes are yett displeased with the ruling establishment. And yet, resentment among the people is growing. There was a time when in trains and buses one wouldn’t dare speak anything negative about the saffron politicians. But now people appear to begun to openly question them.
A few friends of PM from Gujarat want to take away everything. People will revolt. BJP will find it hard to get through Varanasi with ease
I was in Varanasi recently for a short trip. An auto driver, who took me to the city, was speaking about the problem that they are facing. “Sir, it is not the politicians but the administration which is running our city, and they damn care. Poor is getting poorer, petrol-diesel prices are so high, our land is being snatched. Small shop owners are dying. Who is happy?”, he asked, lamenting, “A few friends of the Prime Minister from Gujarat want to take away everything. People will revolt. BJP will find it hard to get through this city with ease.”
However, there were other voices as well. At Assighat in Varanasi, I spoke to a boatman, Munnu Nishad, who said, “Thanks to Modiji, I could survive with my family during the Covid period. I did not get any money, but everyday we got food to eat.” He was happy with “developmental work” in Varanasi. A cab driver who took me to various places was happy that Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath was taking action against the mafias. “Sir, UP is changed now. Roads are wider and law and order has become better”, he informed me.
However, a bigger revelation was in the train while returning to Delhi. A middle-aged couple, an army person and some youngsters were found questioning the government. “They have sold everything that our forefathers had brought for us”, complained the couple. “My daughter is MBA and she was getting an offer of Rs 12 lakh per annum, but after Covid she is not even getting Rs 2 lakh. This government is busy with nationalist-anti nationalist, Jai Shri Ram etc.”
Referring to the recent Union budget, the interlocutors seemed upset the way the government was destroying the public sector. “Modiji wants to give everything to Adani and Ambani”, said a young man. The military person was upset with the new terms and conditions related to pensions. The budget for the army has been reduced, he was upset.
In Kushinagar, Deoria, I spoke to local OBC leaders who were Modi fans last time. They appeared unhappy with the way the government is dealing with the farmers’ protests. A young aspiring politician questioned Modi's treatment to issues related to Dalit OBCs. It seemed clear: The farmers’ issue has hurt BJP's core supporters, and terming them as anti-national or Pakistani has boomeranged. It is these communities that send their children to serve our borders. They hail from Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan. They are all from farming communities.
Indeed, the impact of the government's policies is beginning to be felt. Middle classes feel they are getting crushed. Public sector employees, bankers, insurance companies, all face an uncertain future. Reservation is under attack and things look to have crossed their limit. People tolerate things up to some point, till they are not affected. But the realisation is dwelling upon them that the nationalism plank is nothing but to hand over India's resources to crony capitalists in the name of 'development' and 'growth'.
The lethal mixture of unbridled capitalism and majoritarianism is beginning to show up. It has hurt India’s socio-economic growth, resulting in hunger deaths and farmers’ suicides. The growth story is the exclusive domain of the powerful cronies.
---
*Human rights defender

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