New Delhi, Nov 19: The protests against farm laws saw a fair share of controversies as well with climate activist Greta Thunberg and pop sensation Rihanna making their way to India’s prime time debates and terms such as ‘toolkit’ and ‘andolanjeevi’ entering the Indian political lexicon.
As farmers protested the enactment of the three farm laws and set up camp at entry points into the national capital since November 28 last year, it was controversies galore but the resolve of tillers to ensure repeal of the legislations, which they said would leave them at the mercy of corporations, remained unshakable.
The protests witnessed many dramatic moments from farmers facing water cannons, road blockades to the violence on Republic Day and alleged mowing down of farmers. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday announced a rollback of the three agri laws at the centre of protests by farmers for the past year.
The three farm laws at the centre of emotive protests and debates are the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. Weeks after the farmers set up camps at Delhi’s borders demanding repeal of the laws, the national capital witnessed unprecedented scenes as farmers protesting against the farm laws clashed with the police during a tractor rally on Republic Day called by farmer unions to highlight their demand for the repeal of the legislation.
Many of the protesters reached the Red Fort and entered the monument. Some of them even hoisted religious flags on its domes and the flagstaff at the ramparts. Hundreds of people, including security personnel, were injured and one protestor died after his tractor overturned.
Soon after the Republic Day violence, teen climate activist Thunberg and pop star Rihanna made an entry into prime time debates after they expressed support against the Centre’s agriculture laws.
India reacted sharply to the comments by the foreign celebrities and others, saying a very small section of farmers in parts of the country had some reservations about the farm reforms and a proper understanding of the issue was needed before rushing to comment on the agitation.
Thunberg had also shared “a toolkit for those who want to help” and soon the “toolkit” issue spiralled into a massive controversy with the Delhi Police later registering FIRs against several people for allegedly trying to tarnish India’s image.
Climate activist Disha Ravi was arrested for allegedly being involved in sharing the “toolkit” on social media related to the farmers’ protest. She was later granted bail. Toolkit soon emerged as a new word for protest planning with the ruling BJP also accusing the Opposition parties of conspiring to malign India’s image and the the Opposition slamming the Centre.
Also in February, Prime Minister Modi, while speaking in Parliament, had hit out at those behind the protests, saying a new “breed” of agitators called “andolanjeevi” has emerged in the country who cannot live without an agitation and the nation should guard against them.
The Congress had hit back at PM Modi for his “andolanjeevi” remark and called him “jumla jeevi”.
In March, gunshots were fired near the Singhu border protest site. No one was injured. Another controversy related to the protests had played put after a video of Ayush Sinha, an IAS officer of the Haryana cadre, had gone viral on social media in which he allegedly instructed policemen to beat protesting farmers.
Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had admitted that the choice of words by Ayush Sinha was wrong but had defended the police action. A massive controversy related to the farmers’ protests erupted when four farmers were killed in Tikonia area of Lakhimpur Kheri district, the native place of Union minister Ajay Mishra, in Uttar Pradesh on October 3 after they were allegedly mowed down by an SUV. Later, the crowd lynched four other people, including BJP workers.
Over a dozen people, including Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra, have been arrested so far by a special investigation team (SIT) which is probing the case. The latest incident took place on October 15 when Dalit labourer Lakhbir Singh was brutally killed and his body strung to a barricade at the farmers’ protest site at Singhu border with a hand chopped off and multiple wounds caused by sharp-edged weapons.
Four Nihang Sikhs were arrested in connection with the lynching of the Dalit labourer. The accused Nihangs had maintained that Lakhbir, who hailed from a village in Punjab’s Tarn Taran, was “punished” for alleged desecration of a holy book. With the announcement of the rollback of the farm laws, it seems the controversies surrounding the protests would come to an end, but the debates and legal processes related to the ones already created would continue.