Farmers protest: Who’s graph on stake 

New Delhi (IANS) Hundreds of Punjab farmers who have been trying to swarm the national capital for the past week have failed to recreate the 2020-2021 sensation. Their agitation this time is increasingly proving to be an activism for a political case, the target of which seems to be Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP.

Statements of some farmer leaders, videos of the protesters resorting to violence and raising anti-country slogans have exposed the intention.

“Modi’s popularity graph has risen due to the Mandir… we must find a way to lower his graph. He will not do anything till his graph is high…,” farmer leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal said in a video on February 14 which went viral.

Dallewal’s public submission, perhaps, has given away the plot and the BJP was quick enough to accuse the farmers of having a political agenda. The farmer leader later tried to offer clarification, but there are others who are brazenly revealing the agenda.

Many of those at the protesting sites are not shying away from even making violent statements, like “will attack Modi, will punch him hard”.

Some protesters have been seen flaunting Bhindranwale T-shirts, and raising slogans like — “Bhindranwale Zindabad”, “Deep Sidhu Zindabaad”, “Amritpal Zindabad”.

In a viral video a group of elderly protesters are heard talking about the need to “break away”. Some even can be heard saying, “set Punjab free… we can have an accord with Pakistan”.

Raising a red flag for the agencies, gangster-turned-pro-Khalistan activist Lakha Sidhana was reportedly seen at a farmers’ protest site encouraging protesters to resort to violence. The video also went viral. Sidhana was involved with the 2020-21 farmers protest during which a mob stormed the Red Fort on Republic Day and erected a religious flag.

Also jumping into the ring is the US-based Sikh terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who has also released a video urging “pro-Khalistani elements to infiltrate the ongoing farmers protest” and “raise Khalistani flags”.

While the farmer leaders are claiming that their agenda is to raise concerns about the MSP, etc., their supporters on the roads are following an entirely different course.

The protesters at some spots have been attacking the police and trying to remove the barricades. Armed with modified trucks and carrying various tools and weapons too, these protesters this time seem more violent and ready to take on the security personnel unlike the 2020-2021 protest.

The Haryana Police even shared a video on February 16 showing a group of farmers pelting stones and trying to provoke the security personnel. The police posted on X in Hindi, “Violence cannot be allowed to spread under the guise of farmers’ movement, protesters should not disrupt law and order and demonstrate peacefully.”

The question is: If the protest is about the rights of the farmers, then why say the graph of PM Modi has to be lowered? And, also why slogans of Bhindranwale or Amritpal, why pelt stones or threaten to swarm Delhi at all?

As the timing and the colour of the latest protest is coming under scrutiny, common people in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and National Capital Region (NCR) are once again reeling under the impact, including blockade of roads and rail traffic, impact on local economy and overall feeling of uncertainty. The common man is not liking this at all.

There is also the question, why are the farmers from Punjab always involved in this? They may as well protest against their own state government and force their chosen leaders to change their policies.

Agriculture is a state subject as it forms a part of the state list of the Constitution. This means that states should address all the issues related to the state subject. Then why is not the Punjab government doing its own bit. Perhaps, politics here is heavily lopsided.

The Aam Aadmi Party after winning a huge mandate in the state has failed to address the genuine problems of its farmers, and has pushed all the burden to the central government.

With the Lok Sabha elections near, the unrest on the Delhi borders and the image of an unhappy farmer can affect the BJP’s image and performance, that is what the opposition may be believing. But, far from the toolkit theory, this time the plot is too obvious and stark.

This time the list of demands by the farmers is long — enactment of a law guaranteeing a minimum support price (MSP) for crops, repeal of the Electricity Act 2020, compensation for farmers killed in Lakhimpur Kheri, and the withdrawal of cases against those involved in the farmers’ movement, pension of Rs 10,000 a month, or Rs 1.2 lakh a year, to all farmers and farm labour aged 60 or older, etc.

The demands are too many and some of these are difficult for any government. The strikers know this. And, perhaps, this is what the farmers are aiming at. By making a long and difficult list, they want to impact the graph of Modi-led Centre as said by Dallewal.

In 2021, the Modi government retracted the three farm laws against which various farmer unions held a year-long agitation. Obviously, emboldened by the Centre’s climb down, the unions this time are believing that they can repeat a similar situation again.

But this time the government is playing cautious. Three ministers are involved in talks right from the day one of the protest 2.0, and the government is willing to stretch. The onus is on the unions to shun their rigidness. It is their graph which is now increasingly appearing to be declining.

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