Umm Muhammed Umar
The farmers protest in India, now in its 10th month, has been putting pressure on the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Nivedita Khandekar, associate editor at IANS, India’s largest private news agency, spoke to Radio Islam about the laws that the Modi government had passed that had resulted in the farmers having protested for 10 months now.
The Indian government has put in place three sets of so called ‘reform laws’, where it has fundamentally changed the operations of farmers. These include the farming, the sale of the produce and the prices at which produce is sold. The Indian government claims that this will be beneficial to the farmers, while the previous system was more of benefit to the middleman. The farmers, meanwhile, believe that actual operations on ground would be different.
India’s farmers had earlier in the protest been sitting at different spots, with one particular spot in Delhi having metamorphized into a residential camp. However, there have been regular large meetings (Maha Panchayat) at different spots as well. Khandekar said, “And after Western Uttar Pradesh Maha Panchayat, they went to Haryana, and now they are focusing on Haryana rather than Punjab, which was the location for these large-scale protests last year.” The protests, however, continue at the borders of Delhi.
Regarding the sustainability of long-term protests, Khandekar said that there were two classes of farmers, with the majority being owners of small holdings. These are unable to stay away from their farms for long periods of time, as they have to take care of their own farming. The second set of farmers have large land holdings, and can afford to stay away from their homes, because they have people to take care of their farms. She said that even more important than their financial situations, it would be good to see whether their differences would allow them to continue to protest. Its yet to be seen for how long this unity of a diverse set of people would continue. While farm laws had proven to be common ground held by all, there are other factors that could affect the unity of the farmers, for instance, the upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Although there were suggestions that the courts were in favour of the farmers, Khandekar said that those issues were not directly related to the laws that the government had changed. Rather, the issues related indirectly, addressing whether the farmers should even be allowed to protest in a democracy, and other related issues.