A Jalianwala Bagh Seems Inevitable In India
The agitating farmers are adamant that the 3 farmers laws must be repealed, while the government seems adamant they will not be. So what is likely to be the upshot?
The farmers have besieged Delhi, and one of their leaders, Rakesh Tikait, has announced they will join the Republic Day parade on Rajpath with their tractors on 26th January. Already they are taking out tractor rallies, though presently all on the outskirts of Delhi. But when they try to enter Delhi from outside it is very likely they will be stopped by water cannon and tear gas, and if that does not work, by lathi charge and bullets. To allow a mob of a hundred thousand farmers to storm into Delhi and join an army parade means surrendering authority, and no government will allow that.
So much as one may wish that does not happen, a Jalianwala Bagh or Bloody Sunday (as in St Petersburg in January 1905) or Vendemiarie (as in Paris in October 1795) seems inevitable, and sooner or later the farmers will be dispersed by a ‘whiff of grapeshot’, as was done by Napoleon’s cannons.
But what after that? Soon after such an incident of use of force, the Punjab, Haryana and western UP will be plunged in turmoil.
By their long agitation the farmers have ensured that the 3 laws, though on the statute book, cannot be implemented on the ground, because the atmosphere is so emotionally surcharged in Punjab, Haryana, western UP, and also in some other states, that this is now practically impossible. One would not be surprised if the grain silos built by some corporates are soon attacked, like the 1500 mobile towers in the state. There are about 750 million farmers in the country, and almost all have sympathy with the agitating farmers (though obviously all cannot reach Delhi). Also, many industrial workers, lawyers, intellectuals, sportsmen, Bollywood actors, ex servicemen, etc are supporting the farmers agitation. Even army soldiers and policemen would largely be sympathetic, as a soldier or policeman is a peasant in uniform, or son of a peasant (though being a member of a disciplined force he cannot express his sympathy openly).
And what about the farmers’ votes? Till now our politicians had been successful in keeping our farmers divided on the basis of caste and religion, but this agitation has united them. So how will that affect the next elections in Bengal, Tamilnadu and Assam this year (and in UP, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat next year)? Most of the voters in these states are farmers. This is the real nightmare for the ruling party today.
The real achievement of the farmers agitation is that it has united the people of India, who were till now divided on caste and communal basis, and this was exploited by our crafty politicians..
I submit the farmers agitation is a milestone in our country’s history, and will lead upto a mighty, united people’s struggle which may last for 10-15 years, but will result in creating a political and social order under which India rapidly industrialises, gets totally transformed from an underdeveloped to a highly developed, prosperous country, which ensures a high standard of living and decent lives for all our citizens.
Markandey Katju is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was also the Chairman of the Press Council of India.