ON Sunday, tens of thousands of farmers gathered in Uttar Pradesh to protest against new agriculture laws, introduced in September last year. An estimate put the number at more than a million. The rally was billed as the biggest protest since their movement began last November. The farmers poured into the city of Muzaffarnagar in buses and tractors. Speaking at the protest, the farmer leader Rakesh Tikait said they will intensify their protest by going to every single city and town of Uttar Pradesh to convey the message that Modi’s government is anti-farmer. This was a significant statement considering Uttar Pradesh is going to elections early next year. The farmers also called for a nationwide strike on September 27 to protest against the laws. The Muzaffarnagar protest was followed by one at a grain market outside New Delhi.
After remaining out of news for several months due to the eruption of the second Covid-19 wave, the farmer agitation is back in the news. Early this year, the farmers’ protest got some more international attention with global pop star Rihanna tweeting in their support. Similarly, environment activist Greta Thunberg also extended her support. Other personalities who spoke for farmers included the niece of US vice president Kamala Harris who, in a statement said that “the most populous democracy is under assault”. She also drew attention towards contentious farm laws. This led to a heavy social media trolling of these celebrities and individuals in India. Also, the ministry of external affairs had then slammed foreign individuals and entities for comments on the farmer protests, saying it was “unfortunate to see vested interest groups trying to enforce their agenda on these protests, and derail them.”
The farmers’ protest has since not only sustained but is now intensifying too. The government’s attempt to delegitimize it hasn’t succeeded. Along the way, the agitation has witnessed the rise of a new farmer leader Rakesh Tikait. If anything, it shows the protests are only going to gather further momentum in the near future. With the farmers from Uttar Pradesh also joining the protest in a big way, pressure on the government is only going to increase.
But the government, on the other hand, is showing no signs of backing down. Farmers want nothing short of the repeal of the laws. It remains to be seen how the government responds to the mounting protests. More so, with the protests drawing wider popular support. It would be great if the government shelves the laws and then engages farmers in a discussion on them to mobilize support for their enactment in future.
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