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Farmers Protest In India: Violence Inevitable If Situation Not Contained

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A meeting was held in Vigyan Bhawan, Delhi on Tuesday between the representatives of 35 farmers organisations and Ministers representing the Central government. Despite several hours of talks they were inconclusive, and the next talks have been fixed for tomorrow, December 3.

The agitating farmers are demanding repeal of the three recent laws relating to farmers, but the government seems unwilling to agree, resulting in an impasse.
I submit that a reasonable via media can be that both parties agree that the laws remain on the statute book, but will not be enforced till the parties, after wide negotiations, agree to some compromise formula.
For this purpose, the government can issue an Ordinance amending the three laws and stating that they will come into effect only when they are notified in the official gazette. Ordinarily a law comes into effect as soon as the Bill which has been passed by both Houses of Parliament receives the assent of the President (or the Governor, in case of a state Bill). But some laws specifically state that they will come into effect only when notified in the Official Gazette, or on the happening of some other contingency. These are known as conditional legislation. So the suggestion I am making is that the Central government should by an Ordinance convert the three farmers laws into conditional legislation. This will be face saving for the government, as well as for the farmers, who can both claim partial success. The government can claim that it has not repealed the laws, while the farmers can claim that the laws are not being enforced. The alternative is violence, which seems inevitable if the present confrontation continues.
The government must realise that if it does not partially relent and agree to this suggestion it will lose a large number of farmers votes in future elections (farmers are 60-65% of India’s population).
On the other hand, farmers must not insist on a measure (i.e. repeal of the three laws), which will be a total loss of face for the government. In negotiations both sides need to bend a bit, and not be too rigid and intransigent, if there is to be a successful outcome.
The farmers must realise that there is a principle of administration that the government must not surrender before pressure, because if it does, it will create an impression that it is weak, and then more demands and pressures will come. Presently the farmers are blocking many roads leading into Delhi, and some are calling for total blockade of Delhi. If in this situation the government agrees to repeal of the three laws it will be a surrender to pressure. No government can agree to this, and if this imbroglio continues I fear there may be violence, as it happened on Bloody Sunday in St Petersburg in January 1905 when the Czarist troops fired on a mob led by Father Gapon (who was later revealed to be a police agent), or in Paris during Vendemiarie in October 1795 when the mob was dispersed by a ‘whiff of grapeshot’ by Napoleon’s cannons.
Hence I am suggesting a via media which will avoid violence, and by which both sides can claim partial success.

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2 Comments

  1. K S Bassi Advocate December 3, 2020

    Only Dead live with the past, while fools relish the future wisdom lies in living with the present. I hope Your lordship does not mean any kind of instigation by means of raising prestigious issue on both sides. We are living in an era where democratically elected Governments are fully aware of political fall out of any kind stringent administrative action on the peaceful agitation of farmers in whom too, the right to protest is vested. No doubt, absolutely majority in democracy to a particular section or ideology leads to theocracy but then, opposition stems from inside as hunger for power is always immense and insatiable like like sand which never fills up with any amount of rain.

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  2. Maj Gen VK Singh December 5, 2020

    I think Justice Katju has made a sensible and workable recommendation. There is merit in the solution which should satisfy both sides and defuse the tension.

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