Rajat Sharma

How farmer leaders lost the trust of the Indian people

akb fullThe 52-day-old farmers’ agitation on the outskirts of Delhi is fast reaching its denouement. As farmers started leaving the dharna sites in Shahjahanpur, Singhu and Tikri borders, and also in Ghazipur, the curtain is beginning to fall on a leaderless and directionless agitation, that was marred by anti-national elements who dishonoured our national flag. Only a few supporters of Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait are sitting at the dharna site, while his brother Naresh Tikait has withdrawn from the agitation. The additional district magistrate of Ghaziabad issued a notice to Tikait under Section 133 of IPC to leave the dharna site immediately, but Tikait is adamant.

The entire Ghazipur border area has been sealed off by UP police, water and electricity supply have been cut and temporary toilets have been removed. The free ‘langars’ are over. Delhi Police and UP Police are guarding the border from both sides, and Rapid Action Force has been deployed.

On Thursday evening, BKU leader Rakesh Tikait created a drama of sorts in full glare of the cameras. He first threatened there would be firing if his supporters were forcibly evicted, he also said, he would hang himself if police tried to remove him forcibly. Soon after his speech, Tikait came down the dais and, sitting on the ground, he started sobbing in front of mediapersons and police officials, who were watching aghast. His brother, Naresh Tikait, had, by then, taken away most of his supporters saying that the panchayat has called off the protest. Since Rakesh Tikait used to speak to media daily during the agitation, it was being incorrectly assumed that he was the leader, while the actual leadership lies in the hands of his brother, who has the backing of the panchayats in western UP.

Already, Delhi Police has filed case of sedition against more than 35 farmer leaders for the mayhem that was caused on January 26. The arrest of farmer leaders is imminent, and they have been issued summons by police on Friday. Police action began on Wednesday night when the UP police uprooted the tents of farmers squatting in Baghpat near Meerut, and evicted farmers who were blocking the Delhi-Saharanpur highway for the last 40 days.

Farmers’ protests have also started folding up in Saharanpur on Rajasthan-Haryana border, where local villagers threatened the squatters to move out or face action. The local villagers were facing problems for the last two months due to this dharna. Protests folded up at Atoha in Palwal on the Delhi-Agra highway, and the crowds of farmers and their supporters have already started thinning at Tikri and Singhu border points.

Most of the old and experienced farmers who were part of these protests, became disillusioned when rioters insulted the national tricolour at the historic Red Fort on Republic Day. Villagers in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are angry over the Red Fort incident and are blaming the disparate leadership for causing this to happen.

At the Singhu border, the focus of farmers’ agitation, local villagers who had been extending support to the farmers, on Thursday came to the protest site holding tricolour flag and demanded that the farmers must leave. They demanded that the Delhi-Haryana border be reopened and vehicles be allowed to move on national highway. Most of the villagers told India TV that they had supported the farmers in the beginning, but violence and insult to national honour has no place in such an agitation.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the umbrella of all farmers’ outfits, on Thursday said that the dharna would continue, come what may. But the body language of farmer leaders clearly showed that they are now a disappointed lot because the crowds are thinning out. Only a few tractors were visible on Singhu border, compared to thousands of tractors that had assembled on the eve of Republic Day.

At the Masani Barrage in Rewari, Haryana, thousands of farmers who were sitting on dharna have left the protest site. After watching visuals of anti-national elements insulting the national flag at the Red Fort, enraged villagers came to the protest site and asked the squatting farmers to leave immediately. Villagers from 20 nearby villages assembled in a panchayat and gave the farmers 24 hours’ ultimatum to leave the protest site. India TV reporter went to Masani Barrage and found all the tents, barricades and langars removed.

The bottom line in this sordid saga is this. Farmer leaders and their supporters have now realized that they have lost public sympathy after the January 26 mayhem. The thinning of crowds at Tikri and Singhu borders clearly show that the farmers and their relatives have already left for their homes, disillusioned with a divided and directionless leadership.

Imagine the anger of people who were providing milk, fruits, vegetables, grains and water to the protesting farmers for the last two months, but now they are unwilling even to serve water. They are, after all, patriots who will never countenance any insult to national flag and honour. Even the farmers who were sitting on dharna are angry over whatever happened on January 26. This is the reason why the farmers left for their homes in disgust. However, there are leaders who are unwilling to admit their mistakes. I had already said that these leaders must apologize to the nation and suspend their agitation like Mahatma Gandhi did after the Chauri Chaura incident.

The farmer leaders have lost the trust of the people of India. Most of the countrymen are sad and hurt. People are unhappy because the agitation somewhere lost its way when the national flag was insulted and the national heritage was desecrated.

People are angry that hoodlums posing as farmers attacked policemen with speeding tractors with the intent to crush them to death, they attacked them with swords with the intent to maim them. People are angry because already the Supreme Court has stayed the implementation of the three farm laws, and the Centre had offered to stay these laws for one and a half years, and yet the farmer leaders wanted to display their strength. They rejected all appeals to postpone their tractor rally on Republic Day, a day when the entire nation celebrates.

People are angry because the farmer leaders were deviously planning to extend their tractor rally and take their supporters right up to Parliament with the intent to gherao the august House, in order to force the government to bend. People are angry because these leaders, claiming to lead the farmers, were absent, when their supporters were hurling stones, trying to crush policemen with tractors and brandishing swords. These leaders now claim that the disrupters were not farmers.

Till the time Deep Sidhu, Satnam Singh Pannu and Sarwan Singh Pander were sitting with them on dharma, they were kisans, and now that they have insulted national honour, they are being named as miscreants.

People are angry because the farmer leaders who were claiming to represent the majority of the people of India, are now giving lame excuses that many of their supporters did not listen to their orders. The bitter truth is that the nation has now realized that rioters and anti-social elements were partners of these so-called farmer leaders, and the leaders were using them to exert pressure on the government.

Now that the leaders stand exposed, they are now trying to distance themselves from these rioters and hoodlums. But I do not think that this may be possible any more, because the farmers, who were sitting on peaceful dharna against the farm laws and were considering them as their leaders, have now lost all trust and respect for them. It is now time for the farmer leaders to do penance and call off an agitation that has ceased to exist on the ground.

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