2020 Indian farmers' protest
|2020 Indian farmers' protest|
|Date||9 August 2020 – present|
(1 year, 3 months, 2 weeks and 4 days)
|Parties to the civil conflict|
The 2020 Indian farmers' protest is an ongoing protest against the three farm acts which were passed by the Parliament of India in September 2020. The acts have been described as "anti-farmer laws" by many farmer unions, and farmer unions and politicians from the opposition also say it would leave farmers at the "mercy of corporates". The government, however, maintains that they will make it effortless for farmers to sell their produce directly to big buyers, and stated that the protests are based on misinformation.
Soon after the acts were introduced, unions began holding local protests, mostly in Punjab. After two months of protests, farmer unions— notably from Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana— began a movement named 'Dilli Chalo' (transl. Let's go to Delhi), in which tens of thousands of farmer unions marched towards the nation's capital. The Indian government ordered the police and law enforcement of various states to attack the farmer unions using water cannons, batons, tear gas and rocks in an effort to prevent the farmer unions from entering into Haryana first and then Delhi. On 26 November, a nationwide general strike that, according to unions, involved approximately 250 million people took place in support of the farmer unions. On 30 November, India Today estimated that between 200,000 and 300,000 farmers were converging at various border points on the way to Delhi.
Over 50 farmer unions have been protesting, whereas the Indian Government claims some farm unions have come out in support of the farm laws. Transport unions representing over 14 million trucker drivers have come out in support of the farmer unions, threatening to halt movement of supplies in certain states. After the government did not accept the farmer unions' demands during talks on 4 December, the farmer unions planned to escalate the action to another India-wide strike on 8 December 2020. The government offered some amendments in laws, but unions are asking to repeal the laws. From 12 December, farmer unions took over highway toll plazas in Haryana and allowed free movement of vehicles. By mid December, the Supreme Court of India had received a batch of petitions related to removing blockades created by protestors around Delhi. The court also intends to take forward the negotiations with the various bodies of protesting farmer unions. The court also asked the government to put the laws on hold, which they refused.
Background[edit source | edit]
Template:Main articles In 2017, the central government released the Model Farming Acts. However, after a certain period of time, it was found that a number of the reforms suggested in the acts had not been implemented by the states. A committee consisting of seven Chief Ministers was set up in July 2019 to discuss the implementation. Accordingly, the central Government of India promulgated three ordinances (or temporary laws) in the first week of June 2020, which dealt with agricultural produce, their sale, hoarding, agricultural marketing and contract farming reforms among other things. These ordinances were introduced as bills and passed by the Lok Sabha on 15 and 18 September 2020. Later, on 20th and 22 September, the three bills were passed by the Rajya Sabha, where the government is in a minority, via a voice vote - ignoring the requests of the opposition for a full vote. The President of India gave his assent by signing the bills on 28 September, thus converting them into acts.
These acts areas are:
- Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act : expands the scope of trade areas of farmers produce from select areas to "any place of production, collection, and aggregation." Allows electronic trading and e-commerce of scheduled farmers' produce. Prohibits state governments from levying any market fee, cess or levy on farmers, traders, and electronic trading platforms for a trade of farmers’ produce conducted in an 'outside trade area'.
- Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act : creates a framework for contract farming through an agreement between a farmer and a buyer before the production or rearing of any farm produces. It provides for a three-level dispute settlement mechanism: the conciliation board, Sub-Divisional Magistrate, and Appellate Authority.'
- Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act : allows for the center to regulate certain food items in the course of extraordinary situations like war or famine. Requires that imposition of any stock limit on agricultural produce be based on price rise.
Farmers' suicides[edit source | edit]
According to The Economic Times, farmers have long felt targeted and exploited in India. Between 1995 and 2019, the National Crime Records Bureau of India reported that a total 296,438 Indian farmers had committed suicide since 1995.
It has been noted that in 2019, 10,281 people who work in the farming sector have committed suicide. This is largely due to rising debt levels and low income. The states of Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh have the highest farmer suicide rates in the country. These suicide numbers seem to be rising annually: NCRB data shows 42,563 farmers and daily wagers died by suicide in 2019 alone.
Farmer unions' demands[edit source | edit]
The farmer unions believe that the laws will open the sale and marketing of agricultural products outside the notified Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis for farmers. Further, the laws will allow inter-state trade and encourage voluntary electronic trading of agricultural produce. The new laws prevent the state governments from collecting a market fee, cess or levy for trade outside the APMC markets; this has led the farmers to believe the laws will "gradually end the mandi system" and "leave farmers at the mercy of corporates". Further, the farmers believe that the laws will end their existing relationship with artisans (commission agents who act as middlemen by providing financial loans, ensuring timely procurement, and promising adequate prices for their crop).
Additionally, protesting farmers believe dismantling the APMC mandis will encourage abolishing the purchase of their crops at the minimum support price. They are therefore demanding the minimum support prices to be guaranteed by the government.
- Convene a special Parliament session to repeal the farm laws
- Make minimum support price (MSP) and state procurement of crops a legal right
- Assurances that conventional procurement system will remain
- Implement Swaminathan Panel Report and peg MSP at least 50% more than weighted average cost of production
- Cut diesel prices for agricultural use by 50%
- Repeal of Commission on Air Quality Management in NCR and the adjoining Ordinance 2020 and removal of punishment and fine for stubble burning
- Release of farmers arrested for burning paddy stubble in Punjab
- Abolishing the Electricity Ordinance 2020
- Centre should not interfere in state subjects, decentralization in practice
- Withdrawal of all cases against and release of farmer leaders
Protests[edit source | edit]
In Punjab, small-scale protests had started in August 2020 when the farm bills were made public. It was only after the passage of the acts that more farmers and farm unions across India joined the protests against the reforms. On 25 September 2020 farm unions all over India called for a Bharat Bandh (lit.transl. nation-wide shutting down) to protest against these farm laws. The most widespread protests took place in Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh but demonstrations were also reported in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Kerala and other states. Railway services have remained suspended in Punjab for more than two months due to the protests, starting from October. Following this, farmers from different states then marched to Delhi to protest against the laws. Farmers also criticized the national media for misrepresenting the protest. Farmers' groups said that in the first 22 days of protests, more than 20 farmers had died protesting; some due to hypothermia caused by cold weather.
Farm unions[edit source | edit]
- Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan, Sidhupur, Rajewal, Chaduni, Dakaunda)
- Jai Kisan Andolan
- All India Kisan Sabha
- Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha
- National Alliance for People's Movements
- Lok Sangharsh Morcha
- All India Kisan Khet Majdoor Sangathan
- Kissan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee
- Rashtriya Kisan Majdoor Sangathan
- All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha
- Krantikari Kisan Union
- ASHA-Kisan Swaraj
- National Alliance for People's Movements
- Lok Sangharsh Morcha
- All India Kisan Mahasabha
- Punjab Kisan Union
- Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana
- Sangtin Kisan Mazdoor Sanghatan
- Jamhoori Kisan Sabha
- Kisan Sangharsh Samiti
- Terai Kisan Sabha
Transport bodies such as the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), representing about 9.5 million truckers and 5 million bus and taxi drivers, have threatened to halt the movement of supplies in the northern states, further adding that "We will then escalate it to the entire country if the government fails to address (the farmer's) issues." After a meeting with government officials and 30 union representatives, "the farmers have rejected the government's proposals," Darshan Pal, president of the Krantikari Kisan Union told the press on 8 December 2020.
Rail Roko[edit source | edit]
On 24 September 2020, farmers started a "Rail Roko" (transl. "stop the trains") campaign, following which train services to and from Punjab were affected. Farmers extended the campaign into October. On 23 October, some farmer unions decided to call off the campaign, as supplies of fertilizer and other goods in the state were starting to run short.
Dilli Chalo[edit source | edit]
After failing to get the support of their respective state governments, the farmers decided to pressure the Central Government by marching to Delhi. On 25 November 2020, protestors from the Dilli Chalo (transl. "let us go to Delhi") campaign were met by police at the borders of the city. The police employed the use of tear gas and water cannons, dug up roads, and used layers of barricades and sand barriers to stop the protestors, leading to at least three farmer casualties. Amidst the clashes, on 27 November, media highlighted the actions of a youth who jumped onto a police water cannon targeting protesting farmers and turned it off. He was later charged with attempted murder.
Between 28 November and 3 December, the number of farmers blocking Delhi in the Delhi Chalo was estimated at 150 to 300 thousand.
The Central Government Of India announced they would for discussing the future of the new farm laws on 3 December 2020, despite the protesters' demands that the talks took place immediately. It was decided that the government would only talk to a select group of farmer unions. The Prime Minister would be absent in this meeting. The KSMC, a leading kissan jatha (transl. farmer organisation) refused to join this meeting for these reasons. While the Center wanted the farmers to move away from Delhi to a protest site in Burari the farmers preferred to stay at the borders and instead put forward a proposal of protesting at Jantar Mantar in central Delhi.
The farmers' unions announced that on 4 December they would burn effigies of PM Modi and leaders of corporations. Prominent personalities began announcing their plans to return their awards and medals received from the Central Government. On 7 December, farmers announced their plan to organize a Bharat Bandh (national strike) on 8 December. After talks with the central government failed to find a solution on 5 December, farmers confirmed their plans for a national strike on 8 December. Further talks were planned for 9 December.
On 9 December 2020, the farmers' unions rejected the government's proposals for changes in-laws, even as the Centre in a written proposal assured the minimum support price for crops. The farmers also said they will block the Delhi-Jaipur highway on 12 December and nationwide dharnas will be called on 14 December. On 13 December, Rewari police barricaded Rajasthan-Haryana border to stop farmers from marching to Delhi, and the farmers responded by sitting on the road and blocking the Delhi-Jaipur highway in protest.
Blocked border and roads[edit source | edit]
A number of borders, including the Dhansa border, Jharoda Kalan border, Tikri border, Singhu border, Kalindi Kunj border, Chilla border, Bahadurgarh border and Faridabad border, were blocked by protestors during the protests. On 29 November, the protestors announced that they would block five further points of entry into Delhi, namely Ghaziabad-Hapur, Rohtak, Sonipat, Jaipur and Mathura.
Other[edit source | edit]
Provisions and funds[edit source | edit]
Various provisions of tents and other facilities like medical stalls, laundry, library, dental camp, temple were made available at various locations for protesting farmers. The dental camps were providing tooth retraction, cleaning, filling, and scaling treatments. Solar-powered mobile charging points have been made. For provisions of food, roti makers which make 1000 rotis an hour are provided in langars. Activists of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) started langar of pizzas at the Singhu border to boost the morale of the protesting farmers. The pizza langar attracted crowds. Various NRIs have provided aid and also food; like "almond langar" of 20 quintals was also provided, along with other dry-fruits like cashews and raisins. UK based NGO Khalsa Aid also provided foot massage chairs for elderly protesters.
Response and reactions[edit source | edit]
Domestic[edit source | edit]
On 17 September, the Food Processing Industries Union Minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal of Shiromani Akali Dal, resigned from her post in protest against the bills. On 26 September, Shiromani Akali Dal left the National Democratic Alliance. On 30 November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised concerns over the issue of misled and radicalized farmers. He stated that "the farmers are being deceived on these historic agriculture reform laws by the same people who have misled them for decades", citing numerous times opposition members were convicted of spreading lies. Modi added that the old system was not being replaced, but instead that new options were being put forward for the farmers. Several Union Ministers also made statements to this effect.
On 1 December, Independent MLA Somveer Sangwan withdrew support from the Bharatiya Janata Party government in the Haryana Assembly. The BJP's ally, the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) also asked the central government to consider giving a "written assurance of the continuation of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops." On 17 December, the Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare wrote an open letter to farmers over the new laws.
All-India Bandh[edit source | edit]
On 4 December, the farmers protesting on the outskirts of Delhi against the center's new agricultural laws called a nationwide strike on Tuesday, December 8, saying they will block all roads to the capital, amid a stand-off with the government. A day before the strike, the farmer's union announced that it would hold the strike between 11 A.M and 3 P.M alone to avoid inconveniencing the public.
Incidents of fake news[edit source | edit]
Several politicians and public figures have raised allegations of separatism, sedition, and 'anti-national' activities concerning the farmers' protests. The general secretary of the BJP, Dushyant Kumar Gautam, alleged slogans of "Khalistan Zindabad" and "Pakistan Zindabad" being used during the protests. On 28 November, the Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said that "unwanted elements" like radical Khalistan sympathizers have been seen among the peacefully and democratically protesting farmers. These allegations were supported by news outlet, Times Now. However, fact checks conducted by news outlet India Today as well as non-profit fact checking website, Alt News, both indicated that old images from a 2013 protest were being used to make false claims about Khalistani separatism during the farmers protests. Protestors also have accused the national media of not telling the truth in relation to the laws. A protestor told Scroll.in that "The Modi media is calling us Khalistanis [...] We have been sitting peacefully for one month, however recently violent. That make us terrorists." Commentators have said that the Khalistan angle is being used to defame the protests. The Editors Guild of India asked the media not label protesting farmers as "Khalistanis" or "anti-nationals" saying that "This goes against the tenets of responsible and ethical journalism. Such actions compromise the credibility of the media."
In December 2020, Bharatiya Janata Party IT Cell's head, Amit Malviya, shared a misleading and fake video regarding the farmers' protests, claiming that there had been no police violence, in response to evidence of police violence shared by Congress politician Rahul Gandhi. Twitter flagged Malviya's video as 'manipulated media', placing a warning below the tweet to indicate that the content shared by Malviya was "deceptively altered or fabricated" with the intention of misleading people. Several BJP politicians, including Union Minister Giriraj Singh, shared a video of police officials removing the turban of a Sikh protestor, and falsely claimed that the protestor was not Sikh but was in fact Muslim, and further claimed that this was evidence of Muslims instigating protests. This video had previously been shared during the 2019 Citizenship Act protests and was debunked as fake then, despite which it was shared again during the 2020 farmers' protests to raise allegations against Muslim citizens.
Conspiracy theories[edit source | edit]
Several BJP leaders have claimed without evidence that the protests are the result of a conspiracy, launched by what they have described as "anti-national" persons. The Union Minister for Food, Railway and Consumer Affairs, Piyush Goyal has described the protesting farmers as "Leftist and Maoist" and being "hijacked" by unknown conspirators. Former Rajya Sabha MP and vice-president of BJP in Himachal Pradesh, Kripal Parmar stated, "The protest is driven by vested interest of few anti-national elements." Union Minister and BJP politician Raosaheb Danve has alleged an international conspiracy, claiming that China and Pakistan are behind the ongoing protests by farmers. BJP MLA Surendra Singh said, "....this is a sponsored agitation by anti-national forces and has foreign funding." BJP Uttarakhand chief Dushyant Kumar Gautam stated that the protests had been 'hijacked' by "terrorists" and "anti-national" forces. Several BJP leaders have blamed what they have called the 'Tukde Tukde Gang' - an undefined term - as instigating the protests,and linked them to previous protests in relation to India's citizenship laws. Delhi BJP MP Manoj Tiwari has accused such unnamed conspirators of instigating the protests, as has Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. In reponse to the BJP's claims, Sukhbir Singh Badal, former Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab, claimed that the BJP was the real 'Tukde Tukde Gang' and trying to divide Punjab.
Opposition to the claims of conspiracy has been voiced from within the BJP and outside it. BJP leader Surjit Singh Jyani, who was part of a committee that negotiated with several farmers unions, vocally opposed the claims, stating, "This type of language should be avoided. We know there are many farmers groups that are Left-leaning but branding them tukde tukde gang and anti-national will not end the deadlock." Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena leader, Uddhav Thackeray has voiced opposition to the labelling of protestors as "anti-national", pointing to some confusion amongst BJP leaders about the source of the allegations of conspiracy. He stated, "BJP leaders should decide who farmers are – are they Leftist, Pakistani, or they have come from China." The conspiracy claims have also been opposed by Rajasthan Chief Minister and Congress politician, Ashok Gehlot, who urged the government to come to an "amicable solution" with protesting farmers "...instead of blaming gangs, anti-national elements for these protests."
West and Pakistan[edit source | edit]
- Australia: Victoria Member of Parliament Rob Mitchell and Russell Wortley were among the Labour leaders who spoke in support of the farmers' protests, with Mitchell addressing the Victorian parliament on the subject after several protests were held in Australia by citizens.
- Canada: Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada expressed concerns about the supposed mishandling of protests by the Indian government. Trudeau stated that "Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protestors" and expressed support for "the process of dialogue." In response, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs summoned the Canadian High Commissioner to India, Nadir Patel, and issued a démarche, stating that Trudeau's comments were "an unacceptable interference in our internal affairs". Trudeau reiterated his statement despite the Indian Government's warning that his comments threatened diplomatic relations between the two countries. On Saturday, 5 December, hundreds of supporters protested in downtown Toronto and Vancouver, gathering in front of the Indian consulate in both cities to show their support. Organized by members of the Sikh community, the demonstrators stood in solidarity with the farmers and their right to peacefully protest.
- Italy: Indian Ambassador to Italy Neena Malhotra visited a gurudwara in Rome in December as part of an outreach effort by the Indian government to Sikhs amid the farm protests. Malhotra received backlash on social media when the Embassy claimed she had been well received during the visit. However, Malhotra was heckled by members of the gurudwara management committee while she spoke in favor of the new farm laws.
- New Zealand: In early December 2020, 1,500 Indian New Zealanders protested in Auckland's Aotea Square against the new agricultural laws.
- Pakistan: Federal minister Fawad Chaudhry from Punjab, Pakistan called out the Indian government's behavior with Punjabi farmers and termed it "shameful". He further stated that Modi's policies were "threats for regional peace".
- United Kingdom: Several Labour MPs in the United Kingdom expressed support for the protests and raised concerns about the government response to protestors, including Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Preet Kaur Gill and John McDonnell. A few British MPs and cricketer Monty Panesar also tweeted in support of farmers. In December 2020, a group of 36 British MPs from the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party asked the British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, to raise their concerns with the Indian government. The British prime minister Boris Johnson, after being confronted with the issue, confused it with the India–Pakistan conflict, drawing criticism domestically and in India.
- United States: Several Indian-American protests were held in support of the farmers, with rallies being held outside Indian consulates in San Francisco, Chicago, Indianapolis, New York, Houston, Michigan, Atlanta, and Washington, DC. Several American Congressmen from both the Republican and Democratic parties voiced support for these protests, including Josh Harder, TJ Cox, Doug LaMalfa, and Andy Levin. In December 2020, seven Congresspersons wrote to the Secretary of State, asking him raise the issue of the farmers' protests with India.
Organisations[edit source | edit]
United Nations: António Guterres, secretary-general, called on the Indian government to allow the protests, affirming the right to voice opposition to the government, stating “...People have a right to demonstrate peacefully and authorities need to let them do so.”
Academics[edit source | edit]
Milind Sathye, a professor at the University of Canberra asserts that the new laws will "enable farmers to act together and join hands with the private sector and that the previous system had led to growing farm debt and farmers suicides, among other problems".
Rajshri Jayaraman, Associate Economics Professor at the University of Toronto, states that "the bills are confusing and to pass legislation like this affects the largest single sector of the economy and the poorest people in an already poor country during a pandemic."
Repudiation of awards[edit source | edit]
Former Chief Minister of Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal returned his Padma Vibhushan award to the President of India on 3 December 2020, in his support of the farmers' protest. On 4 December 2020, environmentalist Baba Sewa Singh returned his Padma Shri Award. Punjabi folk singer Harbhajan Mann refused to accept the Shiromani Punjabi Award by the Punjab Languages Department of the Government of Punjab, India in support of the protests.
Social media[edit source | edit]
Videos and images of the protests have helped bring awareness to the farmers cause and many have gone viral including one of a police officer with baton raised in hand towards an elderly Sikh man, Sukhdev Singh, which has been shared on social media. Mr. Singh was interviewed and reported that he sustained injuries however, some people think that the image is being used for propaganda.
Hashtags are also being used by youth to show their support and ensure that their hashtags like #FarmersProtest, #standwithfarmerschallenge, #SpeakUpForFarmers, #iamwithfarmers, #kisanektazindabaad, #tractor2twitter, #isupportfarmersare trending to keep the subject relevant on the various social media platforms. Another purpose for the youth posting on social media is to counter the negative posts. These posts also benefit the unions and helps them to reach the public about their issues and concerns.
Supreme Court of India involvement[edit source | edit]
The Supreme Court of India has received numerous petitions seeking direction to remove protesting farmers from blocking access routes to the capital. The Supreme Court has also conveyed to the central government that it intends to set up a body for taking forward the negotiations. On 17 December, the Supreme Court acknowledged the right to peaceful protest but added, "you (farmers) have a purpose also and that purpose is served only if you talk, discuss and reach a conclusion". The central government opposed the courts recommendation of putting on hold the implementation of the farm laws. Agitating farmer unions have decided to consult Prashant Bhushan, Dushyant Dave, HS Phoolka and Colin Gonsalves as far as the Supreme Court proceedings go.
In music and popular media[edit source | edit]
Since the beginning of protests many songs have been released by singers, songwriters describing the protest and showing unity and solidarity. Several clips of the protest featured in an international collaboration "Ek Din" by Bohemia, The Game and Karan Aujla. Canadian rapper Nav also came out in support of the farmers. Kanwar Grewal who has been involved in gathering support for the protests since the beginning said "Wherever Punjabis are settled in the world, they will always be connected to their roots, their land, and their community", and praised the support of those who were living abroad.
Gallery[edit source | edit]
Footnotes[edit source | edit]
References[edit source | edit]
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Further reading[edit source | edit]
- Shekhar Gupta (28 November 2020). Shambles over farmers’ protest shows Modi-Shah BJP needs a Punjab tutorial. The Print
- Captain Amarinder Singh (23 September 2020). Farm bills, silent on MSP, will throw small farmers to big sharks. The Indian Express
- Gurcharan Das (2 December 2020). Don’t kill 2nd green revolution: Rolling back farm reforms would privilege a small but vociferous group over the silent majority. TOI Opinion
- A Day at the Farmers' Protest ft. Samdish. 4 December 2020. ScoopWhoop Unscripted
- The Real reason behind the Farmer issue no one is telling | AKTK 7 December 2020.
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