Rajat Sharma

Reasons why the farmers’ agitation has now become weak


After a gap of 11 months, Delhi Police on Friday removed barricades, barbed wires and concrete boulders put on the capital’s borders at Tikri and Ghazipur border points, in order to ensure smooth flow of traffic on national highways. These barricades were put last year to prevent agitating farmers from entering the capital on tractors. Due to these obstructions, commuters and people living in close vicinity had a tough time in moving from one place to another. A distance that could have been covered in 10 minutes took nearly three hours to complete.

The Supreme Court had directed farmers’ organisations to remove their tents and other paraphernalia to ensure smooth flow of traffic on highways. But on Friday, there was no sign of farmers removing their tents. They continue to occupy large portions of the highway obstructing traffic.

Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait said, their protest at the site would continue. He claimed, Delhi Police was removing the barricades on Supreme Court’s orders, because “we had told the court that it was the police which had blocked the highways, not us.” Tikait went to the extent of issuing a threat. He said, farmers would now be free to enter the capital on tractors and they would sell paddy outside Parliament.

Delhi Police had installed barricades at the three major entry points of the capital in November last year. After farmers resorted to violence on January 26 Republic Day at the Red Fort, ITO and other places by using their tractors, police put barbed wires, nails, huge containerswe3 and concrete boulders to prevent farmers from entering Delhi. The impasse continues. There were 12 layers of barricades at Ghazipur, all of which were removed by police on Friday. Cranes, JCB machines and workers were brought to remove the barricades.

While Delhi Police claimed that the barricades at Ghazipur and Tikri border points have been removed, the fact remains that traffic is yet to reopen on NH9. Tents belonging to farmers are still there on two lines of the highway. The dais erected for farmer leaders is still there, bang in the middle of the highway. Farmers have erected a concrete wall near their dais. There is a large number of vehicles and tractors at the site.

A similar situation exists at the Delhi-Haryana border point at Tikri. Farmers have not removed their tents and tractors, while Delhi Police has removed all barricades, boulders and barbed wires.

In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Friday night, I asked Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana what was the reason for suddenly removing all the barricades. He replied that Delhi Police had been speaking to farmer leaders and the police of two neighbouring states for the last several weeks for removing the barricades to ensure smooth flow of traffic. “We wanted to give a positive message to tell that police is ready to facilitate smooth flow of traffic”, he added.

On Rakesh Tikait’s threat about entering Delhi and sell paddy outside Parliament, Rakesh Asthana said, “if a law and order situation develops, we will handle it accordingly and appropriately.” On farmer leaders refusing to remove their tents and dais, the police chief said, “the tents and dais have been erected on the side of Uttar Pradesh. UP police and administration will have to decide, and we will coordinate with them. I still hope there will be a way out to facilitate people for moving freely.”

On Rakesh Tikait’s confrontationist mood, Delhi Police chief Asthana said, “I still hope there would be no confrontation. For us, maintenance of law and order is the topmost priority. We will handle the situation as and when it develops.”

On the question of removal of barricades from Singhu border, Rakesh Asthana said, “we have taken up Tikri and Ghazipur border points as test case. If traffic resumes smoothly, we will also remove barricades from Singhu border too. Basically, we want to tell everybody that there is positivity from our side so that traffic resumes and life becomes normal for the common man.”

While on one hand, Delhi Police is showing positivity, BKU leader Rakesh Tikait, on the other hand, has said: “Now that the borders are open, farmers will now enter Delhi, and since the Centre has brought a law allowing farmers to sell their produce anywhere, farmers will go to Parliament and sell paddy. For last 11 months, police stopped us from entering the capital. The question is not about reopening roads. The basic question is about MSP and the three farm laws. We have given time to the government till November 26. If the Centre does not agree to our demand (to repeal farm laws), then we will change our tents.” Pro-Left Kisan Sabha leader Hannan Mollah agreed with Tikait and said that farmers would not try to enter the capital.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, on Friday night, issued a statement saying that the tents will not be removed, nor the farmers will go home. The Morcha said the agitation will not be called off. The Morcha appealed to all farmers of neighbouring states to reach the border entry points immediately.

Eleven months have elapsed since the farmers began their protests. The Centre did not bow to pressures from farmer leaders. The reason is simple: the Centre did not bow because people at large are supporting the government’s stand on farm laws. In a democracy, governments take decisions by judging the popular mood. It bows when there is tremendous pressure from the public. The major drawback in this farmers’ agitation is that, Rakesh Tikait and other farmer leaders do not enjoy the support of the public at large.

While people have full sympathy with the farmers, they do not trust their leaders. Thousands of farmers came from Punjab and Haryana when the agitation began last year. When farmers and their family members sat on dharna in biting winter, people had sympathy for their cause. People provided blankets, fruits, milk, vegetables, groceries to the farmers sitting on dharna. People were unhappy when they saw farmers braving unseasonal winter rain.

At that point of time, anti-national elements infiltrated among the protesters, and a political touch was given to the protests. Anti-national posters were shown and anti-Indian slogans were raised. When anti-national elements forcibly entered the Red Fort and insulted the national flag, people’s sympathy for the farmers waned. People started realizing that these were not farmers, but anti-national elements posing as farmers.

People also noticed that the police and the administration did not use force to evict the farmers from the protest sites. During the last six months, we sent our reporters to the protest sites several times, and found most of the tents empty. There was no sign of farmer leaders. Only a few activists of Samyukta Kisan Morcha were seen.

Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait is busy campaigning against the BJP in states like UP and Haryana. Farmer leader Gurnam Singh Charuni, who was suspended by the Morcha, is busy posing as a political leader. Another leader Yogendra Yadav, who had gone to Lakhimpur Kheri was suspended by the Morcha. Hannan Mollah is staying in his residence, while other leaders like Shivkumar Kakkaji, Darshan Pal Singh, Joginder Singh Ugrahan, Balbir Singh Rajewal and Yudhvir Singh have vanished from public view. And yet, Rakesh Tikait is threatening that farmers will enter Delhi and sell paddy outside Parliament.

People have started realizing that this agitation is not aimed at betterment of farmers, but for the sole purpose of removal of BJP from power. That is why people have stopped supporting this agitation. This, in a nutshell, is the reason why the farmers’ agitation has now become weak.

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